Concert Review: Nitty Scott, MC at Blank Canvas Gallery in Toronto

One of my favourite ladies in Hip-Hop, Nitty Scott, MC has returned to Toronto!  Every time she has been here, she has headlined her own shows, and has done so in support of noble causes.  Her first ever show in Canada was at Lee’s Palace in 2015 to support Can I Live Charity, and she returned earlier this year to headline an International Women’s Day showcase with all female artists, which I unfortunately had to miss.  This would be her third time in Toronto, and while the show was organized by some of the same people behind Can I Live, this time would simply be about enjoying some Hip-Hop along with our last days of barbeque weather before winter hits.  The cancer patient formerly supported by the charity has since finished chemotherapy, and no longer needs to raise funds.

Since the last time she was here, Nitty has been working on her upcoming sophomore album, Creature, releasing a couple singles this year.  In the meantime though, she formed a group called No Panty with fellow New York MCs Joell Ortiz and Bodega BAMZ, along with producer Salaam Remi, and released a surprise (free) album called WestSide Highway Story in August.  With all three MCs having some Puerto Rican blood in them, the album is filled with Spanish and Latino flavour, and Nitty sounds like she’s having more fun than ever on this project.

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This would be my first time at Blank Canvas Gallery, which is essentially a small art gallery that can be repurposed for almost any kind of event.  It had to be one of the smallest venues I’ve ever been to, as it felt more like a neighbourhood cypher than a concert.  There was no stage; the artists performed in the center of the room with the crowd surrounding them.  Beer was served out of a cooler in the corner, and there was a barbeque going on behind the building.

The show started a few hours late, and so all the artists seemed to have shortened sets.  Local artists Scott Ramirez, TheMedicis (who was also hosting the show) and Just John got the show started, each performing a handful of songs and getting a good reaction from the crowd.  Just John had actually opened for Nitty at her first Canadian show at Lee’s Palace last year, and this time he had some new material to perform.  He also happens to be the curator for the art gallery, putting on several events here every week.

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I stood atop a bench near the entrance to get a view of the entire crowd, as the next opener Sydanie rocked the mic.  There were some technical difficulties, and so she got the crowd to clap a beat for her to rap to for the first song.  With her confidence, she immediately had the crowd in the palm of her hand, and it only got better once the DJ was able to actually play her beats.  I didn’t know it at the time, but the next opener, Erik Flowchild, was standing right next to me on the bench.  After Sydanie wrapped up her set, Flowchild (seemingly at random) started yelling out a freestyle verse from atop the bench, getting everyone’s attention without even being near the microphone!  He spat a dope verse, then jumped down and made his way to the mic, where he would rock a pretty hype set.

Flowchild killed it with some rapid-fire flows, and next up was the final opener, DillanPonders.  DP rocked about five songs, and even had an encore of one chune that had the crowd chanting “whagwan with the man dems?!” on the hook.  His trap-flavoured beats had the crowd jumping and the room shaking.  It was my first time seeing most of these openers perform, and they effectively got the crowd turned up and ready for the headliner herself, Nitty Scott.

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Nitty’s set also seemed to be shortened too, but it was full of energy.  She started with the familiar single “Flower Child,” even rapping Kendrick Lamar’s verse on the song, and also did the Art of Chill single “Feng Shui.”  With the familiar out of the way, it was time to shock, as she did an accapella freestyle verse (which was actually recycled from a 2014 RAW Cypher she was featured in).  She had a punchline like “I serve ’em supper like a rubber in your mother’s eye” that had the crowd losing their minds, and she even had to pause the verse for a minute so the crowd could calm down again.

The rest of Nitty’s entire set was all new material, presumably off the upcoming Creature album.  She had a song called “Pussy Power” that had a fast tempo to get the crowd moving.  She also did the previously released single “Negrita,” which is a certified head-nodder.  There were a couple more songs I was unfamiliar with, but she performed them so the lyrics were easy to follow and the crowd could chant along with the hooks.  Based on the hooks, I’m guessing they were called “How I Feel” and “Just A Girl.”  After briefly walking away from the mic, the crowd chanted for an encore, and so Nitty came back and rocked her verse off the No Panty song “Hola,” accapella.

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Overall, this was a fun time.  The intimate setting made it a lot more interactive and personal; fans were even able to meet Nitty right on the sidewalk outside after the show.  While she didn’t perform a lot of the dope songs that her reputation is built on, or much of the new No Panty album, the new, unreleased material she did sounded like it could potentially become her most successful work yet.  The idea behind Creature is that we can’t be labelled and put into a box (in Nitty’s case, terms like female rapper, bisexual rapper, Latin rapper, or even just rapper), and Nitty embodied that with her performance.  In recent interviews she’s talked about the struggle of an artist having sex appeal and an important message at the same time, and while she did wear a revealing top, the crowd reacted most to her lyrics.

Blank Canvas is an unconventional venue for concerts, but it still makes for a fun setting with the vibes of a house party.  With the pocket of open space that can be used for various creative displays and performances, attending a rap show here takes you back to the days before Hip-Hop was about extravagance and flash.  It takes you back to when stars weren’t above you, they were in the party with you.  The good vibes really depend on the people around you, and this crowd was all positive all night.

 

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