Concert Review: Murs at The Drake Hotel in Toronto

To kick off the final month of 2018, Toronto Hip-Hop heads were in for a treat with a rare performance north of the border by underground legend Murs. Having a lengthy career where he’s represented indie labels like Definitive Jux, Rhymesayers Entertainment, Jamla Records, and most recently Strange Music, Murs has been holding it down for the underground for decades. It’s been years since he last performed in Toronto, this time wrapping up a quick one-week, five stop tour across Canada. It’s only right that his first T-Dot performance in years be at the cozy Drake Underground, located underneath The Drake Hotel.

The intimate venue perfectly fits the humble personality of the Los Angeles emcee. Fans who showed up early to the show could catch Murs himself casually having a drink at the bar among everyone else. He’d chop it up with the fans and take photos – my personal meet & greet involved us talking about Canadian Hip-Hop and new albums, to which he revealed he doesn’t listen to any new music while he’s working on his own albums. Yes, that’s a hint that a new Murs album is in the works, despite him recently releasing his third album on Strange Music, A Strange Journey Into The Unimaginable

Murs would join the fans in the crowd as the show got started with his opening acts, all from Toronto. DJ Fresh Kils would set it off with a quick routine on his MPC, and would bring out Ice Tha One to spit some raps. The room was still slowly filling up as Ice Tha One performed, but she got everyone vibing well to her tracks, jumping down from the stage to rap among the crowd. She rocked a solid 20-minute set, performing songs off her album In The Paint, and soon enough it was time for Murs.

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The crowd gathered by the stage as Murs got up there with nothing but a microphone and a laptop. In a very straightforward set, he’d pick out his beats to play from the laptop and would spit his raps, starting off with the 2018 single “Same Way.” Getting the crowd pumped right away, he’d continue the feel good vibes with some older tracks, going back to 2008 with “Better Than The Best” and “Lookin’ Fly,” and getting the crowd to chant along to his 2011 track “Fresh Kicks.”

After performing one of his many 9th Wonder collaborations with “I Used To Luv H.E.R. (Again),” Murs asked the crowd which version of him they liked the most, as he’s gone through so many eras in his career. Between the Rhymesayers Murs, Strange Murs, and 9th Wonder Murs, the fans made the most noise to hear some more 9th Wonder-produced tracks, and so Murs took it all the way back to 2003 with his Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition album. The crowd got hyped as he performed some fan favourites off that album like “Bad Man!” and “H-U-S-T-L-E” before giving a taste of those other eras he mentioned. Alternating between his more recent Strange Music releases and his Rhymesayers days as part of the group Felt, he let his sense of humour shine on “Pussy & Pizza” before getting the crowd to sing along to “Dirty Girl” and “The Worst.”

In a cool moment for the classic Hip-Hop heads, Murs next performed “Break Up (The OJ Song),” but had the beat switch midway through to The Pharcyde’s “Passin’ Me By,” a certified head-nodder that got the crowd vibing. Noting the rarity of his tours up in Canada, Murs took the time to take some fan requests, getting the crowd to shout song titles at him. He then got into a medley of some deep album cuts and throwbacks the fans wanted to hear, going back to his early work with 9th Wonder with “Dark Skinned White Girls” and “Walk Like A Man,” effortlessly nailing every word to every verse and feeling every bar that he spit. He also performed “1st Love” and “Silly Girl” before reverting back to more of his most recent work with Strange Music. He got the crowd moving with “G Lollipops” and everyone chanted along to “Two Step” and “Okey Dog” before he closed out with “Melancholy.”

After sweating it out for an hour on stage, Murs came down to the floor and spent extra time taking pics and signing autographs with the fans. He could be found by the bar chopping it up with fans and artists alike – Canada’s own Shad made an appearance to meet Murs (we’ll be seeing him perform in a couple weeks). Making sure every fan left having a great experience, Murs proved to be one of the most humble artists you can find. Everyone was all smiles during the performance, as Murs took us through every era in his multi-decade career and performed all the favourites we’ve waited years to see live on stage. He connected with the crowd and got everyone to follow along to the stories in his songs. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another 5+ years to see Murs return to Toronto.

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