Toronto Hip-Hop heads had a tough choice to make this past Saturday, as there were two major events happening in the city for fans of rap music. On one hand, you had legendary Brooklyn duo M.O.P. performing at the new Stadium Nightclub, and on the other, you had the final round of a tournament showcasing Toronto’s best up-and-coming emcees on a yacht. It’s not often M.O.P. comes to town to mash out a new venue, but it’s also rare to see a rap show out on a yacht in Lake Ontario. Ultimately, we decided to support the local scene and check out the tournament that’s been connecting Toronto artists all summer, Connect The Dot (shoutouts to Stacee Brizzle on the decision).
SYpherSights started the year off with its introduction to Connect The Dot, a local Hip-Hop tournament gathering emcees from across Ontario and the GTA to compete by performing songs in front of Canadian Hip-Hop icons. We caught their 2017 Championship round at Revival Bar back in January, and the brand has only grown since then. For the 2018 tournament, they had Toronto legend Saukrates joining them on tour to judge all the showcases, along with Juno award-winner Adam Bomb and 2017 Connect The Dot Champion Saipher Soze performing on tour. After a six-city tour around the GTA, including an Oakville showcase we caught in May, the tournament has culminated in this Championship event.
The 2018 Championship round would be the biggest event Connect The Dot has had yet. The tournament would feature showcase finalists from North Bay, Newmarket, Oakville, London, Toronto and Ottawa, and judging them would not only be Saukrates, but also co-founder of the battle rap league King Of The Dot, Organik. Canadian Hip-Hop pioneer Maestro Fresh Wes was also supposed to join the panel of judges but was unable to make the show last minute; he would be replaced by Saukrates’ wife Alana. Another thing making this the biggest Connect The Dot event yet was the location, as it would be hosted on a three-level yacht, The Empress Of Canada. They dubbed the show Connect The Dot On A Yacht; rolls off the tongue nicely.
It would take a while for everyone to board the boat and for things to get started. The main level had a DJ blasting trap music, but everyone headed up to the top deck, where it was colder but they had nothing but old school Biggie, Bad Boy Records, and Roc-A-Fella Records playing. When the boat got moving, things got started with a 15-minute set by Taktikz representing the group Muskoka Nostra. He would later compete in the actual tournament, but earned this 15-minute time slot by selling the most tickets and bringing the biggest crowd. After rocking some hardcore tracks, including one produced by C-Lance, Taktikz passed the mic to hosts Dan Barker and Mic Gutz, who introduced the panel of judges and got the tournament started.
First up was London MC Typo, who set the bar high with some sharp rhymes and crisp flows, perfectly in-pocket over some certified head-nodders. Rapping every word to his songs, he got the crowd surrounding him to chant along to his hook on the song “Big Mouth.” Keeping it London, up next was Tempomental, who had more mellow and soulful vocals, rapping and singing over a J Dilla beat. They would be followed by Toronto’s own Yonge Drama, who had a thick Scarborough accent. Drama had to restart his tracks a couple times, but he put on for the ladies with some RnB and trap flavours to his music, with a heavy Drake influence.
Next up would be the winner of the Ottawa showcase, Kingcon, and he brought all the hype. With a booming voice sounding like a fusion of Madchild and Vinnie Paz, Kingcon got right up into the crowd and absolutely slayed the first verse to his song “Do It Right.” Bringing all kinds of energy to the floor and getting the crowd hyped, he immediately stood out as a contender to win this thing. Following him would be Oakville runner-up, Phillie Mafia, who even acknowledged that Kingcon was a tough act to follow. Phillie did his thing though, bringing the hype to an up-tempo trap flow.
After Oakville’s runner-up would be Ottawa’s runner-up, Syn, who spit some rapid-fire flows and had some stand-out bars. He would be followed by the only contender able to make it from the Newmarket showcase, DLow, who had a dope track called “Old Habit.” Following them would be arguably the most famous competitor in the tournament, Young Stitch.
Being a former battler in King Of The Dot, and most recently being crowned the BET Freestyle Fridays Champion, Stitch’s reputation preceded him. He’s represented Toronto on an international scale, and he came back to win another championship in his hometown. Although the beat skipped and he had to restart one of his songs, his performance lived up to the hype, as he had bars for days and spit them with perfect execution. Saukrates even got up to the mic to praise Stitch during his set.
Following Stitch would be Toronto’s runner-up, Tony Ranks. He was able to follow Stitch’s raw bars with some comedy, talking shit about not having substance to go with the wordplay in his songs. Ranks performed a party track, getting people to dance, but unfortunately couldn’t do his song protesting gun violence due to the beat missing from his USB drive. Keeping up the party mood would be Oakville’s champion, Tu, who got the crowd jumping and rocked the boat. He would perform a song he produced himself called “Big Dreamer,” getting the crowd to chant the hook with him. With all the jumping going on, he probably got the most energetic reaction out of the crowd all night.
Next would be North Bay’s competitors, starting with BoBo. With the last few performers having a trap vibe to their songs, BoBo was a breath of fresh air as he came with a more boom-bap approach. He got heads nodding again with his anti-drug song, “No Brain,” before Taktikz returned to the stage for a second performance. For the competition, Taktikz came with a storytelling approach as opposed to the raw battle raps from his earlier performance, and had the crowd engaged.
The last competitor of the evening would be the winner of the London showcase, and the only lady in the competition, Lola. She started with a raw accapella verse before getting into her songs. While most performers stayed by the DJ booth and let the crowd surround them, Lola walked through the crowd as she spit her verses. Being the only lady on the docket, she fittingly had a song called “Me, Myself and I,” representing the ladies by herself.
Before the winner would be crowned, there would be extra performances from more established artists. The 2017 Connect The Dot Champion Saipher Soze came out to perform a few songs, including his single “God Body.” He would be followed by Naturally Born Strangers member Adam Bomb, who rocked some familiar joints like “Show & Prove” and “Jameson Ave.” Bomb also performed a new song for the first time, “Wide Open,” and gave some hints at an upcoming second Naturally Born Strangers album to look forward to.
Next up would be all four members of Team OBM, who took turns rocking the one microphone available. Although they were limited by having to share the one mic, they made it work by performing songs only one or two of them appear on. Mic Gutz would then rock a few songs, encouraging the weed smokers to light up, and Dre Specz would perform a few songs as well. Eventually, the judges returned after convening downstairs, and it was time to announce the winners.
With the top two winners already selected, the third place winner was determined by how loud the crowd cheered for them. Saukrates listed off a few names that eventually got narrowed down to just Taktikz and Kingcon. It was a close call, and although Taktikz brought the biggest crowd and had the most fans on the boat, the judges gave the edge to Kingcon, who had Organik’s #1 vote overall. Coming in at second was Oakville’s champion, Tu, for the way he got the entire boat rocking from the crowd jumping. Of course the top winner had to be Stitch, not only for his performance that evening but also for the way he’s put on for Toronto all year. With the boat docking, there was no time for Saukrates to perform, and so he took the time to praise all the artists who competed, as well as Dan Barker for organizing every event on the tour, before saying peace.
Overall, Connect The Dot On A Yacht was very successful. Although it was cold as hell on the top deck, the quality artists making it to the final round kept the crowd entertained for the entire boat ride. With no actual stage, having the artists perform surrounded by the audience gave this a very underground feel. It’s a true test of skill having to spit every word to every verse in your songs, and to spit it clearly enough so it connects with people hearing it for the first time. There is no room for gimmicks at Connect The Dot.
We also have to point out that having the venue on a yacht solved the problem of people showing up late and/or leaving early, not able to have an objective opinion on who the best performers were. With this show, everyone had to show up at a certain time to make sure they got on the boat before it left the dock, and everyone was there to see every single performer rock the mic.
Connect The Dot has succeeded in bringing Toronto’s Hip-Hop community together. It’s great seeing other artists and influencers come out to support, even if they weren’t part of the show themselves. Although not all of these artists have the fan base to go out and tour the country on their own, Connect The Dot has built a foundation for them to gain support from the local scene to eventually get there. We’re looking forward to see what Connect The Dot has in store for 2019.
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