Over many years, Robbie G has built the local Hip-Hop scene in his hometown Guelph, Ontario from the ground up. He’s brought international artists to his city ranging from T.I. to The L.O.X. to Akon, creating a platform for local artists to showcase their talent, and has also made an impact on Canadian Hip-Hop with his own music. His music has taken him on tours all over the world, and currently he’s on a 35-city tour across Canada to promote his upcoming album Boom Bap, set to be released on September 25, 2017. While I’ve previously seen him open for artists like Tech N9ne and Rakim, this would be my first time seeing him headline his own show.
Robbie G of course performed in big cities like Toronto and Montreal on his Boom Bap Tour, but he’s also hitting several smaller markets like Oakville, which is a small town that was more convenient for me than T-Dot. While it’s my first time reviewing a show at Less Than Level, I’ve actually been to this venue several times over the years, usually for open mic nights. It’s as close as Oakville can get to having a dive bar, complete with pool and ping-pong tables, lounge chairs, and an open space for live shows. I’ve never seen a crowd of more than 50 people at this bar, and that remains true to this day.
By the time I showed up to the bar, my favourite openers were already on stage, the all-lady duo Brizzle & X-Plycit. I’ve seen Stacee Brizzle humbly host shows for dozens of other high-profile artists over the years (including Havoc earlier this week), but here she went back to her King Of The Dot roots and spit some sharp rhymes alongside Nova Scotia emcee X-Plycit. The newly formed duo went through several of X-Plycit’s songs, and Stacee flowed well on her collab verses even while fighting through some flu symptoms.
Next up was a Montreal artist named Providence The Poet. He had some deep songs about mental health issues, and the emotion he put into his vocals made him stand out. While all the openers up to this point were raw spitters who showcased their vocal abilities, several of the artists following them would simply have the DJ play their songs, and would have their live vocals drowned out by the pre-recorded ones being played.
There was a rapper named M.O.D. and his group Overrated, who had some high-energy trap-flavoured songs, and a Burlington rapper named Soo Casa, with a late 90’s Eminem-like hairstyle and some dope rapid-fire flows. They showed potential and drew the biggest, most energetic crowds of the night, but they would have been really dope if the pre-recorded vocals were taken off the beats so you could actually hear them rap in person. There were moments when you couldn’t tell if they were rapping or lip syncing, despite the great energy. After them was another Burlington emcee, Scence, who took it back to the raw rapping (without a pre-recorded vocal track) and a focus on lyricism, slowly shifting the vibe back to that authentic Hip-Hop our headliner is known for.
While Robbie G’s Boom Bap album wouldn’t officially be released for another week and a half, he had the CD along with a ton of gear for sale at the merch booth. It turns out the first song he performed to start off his set would be the first track off the new album “Rope-a-Dope,” followed by another song off the album, “I Want More.” His approach to Boom Bap was to just have one emcee, one DJ and one producer, but on previous albums he’s had some high-profile collaborations with award-winning artists, and he’d perform some of those songs next.
Summer may be nearing its end, but Robbie G brought those warm vibes back with his song “Koolin'” featuring a hook from Moka Only, who happens to be the first Hip-Hop artist to ever headline a show at Less Than Level. He also performed his Snak The Ripper collaboration “The Homies,” while handing out a “Homies” toque to a fan in the crowd. Robbie G rocked several tracks off his 2016 album Inner Outer Space, performing “Mind Made Up,” “Make My Life Better,” and my personal favourite, his Swollen Members collaboration “Fun House.” He showed the crowd how a Hip-Hop show is supposed to be done, spitting every word of every verse, and only using pre-recorded vocals for some of the hooks.
Next, he’d go on to perform his collab with Classified, “Famous,” afterwards giving an inspiring speech about how being incarcerated in Milton, near one of Classified’s concerts, made him focus on turning his life around. He then really showcased his skills by spitting a freestyle verse, rhyming about different words the audience gave him, as DJ Donahue went through a fluid medley of famous instrumentals. His flow stayed in-pocket even while going off-the-top. To close out the show, he performed the song from his newest music video, “Do What You Do,” followed by the unreleased “Back To The Rap,” which has him rapping over an up-tempo EDM track.
Overall, this was a fun little show, although it felt more like small groups of friends just hanging out, listening to their homies rap, rather than an actual concert. I’ve seen Robbie G perform in front of crowds with over a thousand people before, and he adapted well to performing in front of a couple dozen, interacting more with the people and focusing on his sharp delivery. He showed his diversity as an artist with all the different styles of beats he rapped over, ranging from old school boom-bap to new wave EDM, and his veteran experience as an emcee made his performance stand out amongst the other local artists.
The Boom Bap Tour continues all throughout Ontario this fall and will see Robbie G make his way out west next month. He’ll return to Toronto on Sept. 24 to open for Tech N9ne on the Strange Reign Tour. (UPDATE: read our review of the Tech N9ne show here!)
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