Concert Review: Beast Coast at Echo Beach in Toronto

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Beast Coast at Echo Beach in Toronto Aug. 2019

The Beast Coast crew have individually been taking the underground Hip-Hop world by storm over the past several years, and now they’ve finally united as a supergroup to release their first album as a collective, Escape From New York. The all-Brooklyn squad consists of standout star Joey Bada$$, members of his Pro Era crew including Kirk Knight, Nyck Caution, Powers Pleasant and CJ Fly, as well as the trio of Flatbush Zombies (Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice & Erick Arc Elliott) and the duo The Underachievers (AK & Issa Gold). Separately, they’ve all been known for their style of renaissance rap, showcasing an appreciation for traditional Hip-Hop, and together are building on the foundations supergroups like The Wu-Tang Clan, Hieroglyphics and Boot Camp Clik established before them.

While the new album sees them try to escape the boxed-in boom-bap sound New York is known for, they’ve still proven worthy to carry on the torch, standing out from other modern Hip-Hop groups by making moves for the culture such as bringing Big Tigger out of retirement for a special throwback Rap City: The Basement freestyle session. It’s moves like this that bridges the gap between traditional Hip-Hop heads and the younger new-age fans, something that’s tough to achieve in modern Hip-Hop. From their older releases as separate groups and solo artists to the rollout of this new album as a united force, they’ve been building up to this moment in 2019, and are now on one of the hottest concert tours of the year with The Escape From New York Tour.

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The Escape From New York stage design

Just over halfway through the tour, the Toronto stop would take place at Echo Beach on a warm but rainy day. We would arrive early and check out the merch booth, which had some fly Beast Coast/Flatbush Zombies/Joey Bada$$ t-shirts mimicking the artwork from some of New York and Brooklyn’s major sports teams, before a rowdy, all-ages crowd filled up the entire beach. The crowd eagerly waited for the show to get started, and it was exciting just taking in the stage design, loosely based on the 1981 film Escape From New York with the head of the Statue of Liberty covered in graffiti. Before Beast Coast would hit the stage as a unit, they would take turns performing individual solo sets, starting with Pro Era’s CJ Fly.

CJ Fly would get the Toronto crowd warmed up, shouting out the NBA Champion Toronto Raptors and his personal second home, Brampton, between performing songs off his 2016 debut album FlytrapAlong with standouts like “DOPE” and “Now You Know,” he also previewed a new song that will be on an upcoming solo album produced entirely by Statik Selektah, possibly called “Rudeboi.” To close out his set, CJ Fly took it back to his Jamaican roots and gave the Toronto crowd a post-Caribana celebration with a little dancehall type chune. The crowd was energized, but it would only get more hype from here.

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Next up would be Nyck Caution of Pro Era, getting his set started with his 2016 single “What’s Understood.” Right away he would get the crowd to set off the first of several organized mosh pits throughout the night, waiting for them to open up the circle before performing a couple songs off of his 2017 Nyck @ Knight album. The rain would start as he performed songs like “Perfect Murder” and “Off The Wall,” and Nyck himself would declare “fuck the rain!” as he joined the crowd and performed his last song while being carried by fans.

Nyck’s hype solo set would transition smoothly into Kirk Knight’s set, as the duo performed another Nyck @ Knight track together with “Dial Up” before Kirk got the stage to himself. Kirk Knight’s solo set would lean a bit more towards his 2018 It Is What It Is album, as he’d open up more mosh pits while performing the song “M.O.” twice back to back. The mosh pits felt a bit forced at this point, as the circles opened up but not many people wanted to jump in and get pushed around. Kirk would rock a couple more IIWII songs with “Downtime” before closing out his set with the hyped “Run It Back,” with him and his DJ both stage diving into the crowd at the end.

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With most of the Pro Era squad having rocked the stage, next up would be The Underachievers. While AK & Issa Gold didn’t force any mosh pits or stage dive into the crowd, they brought a ton of energy to the stage, just straight up killing their verses. The on-and-off rain would go the hardest during their set, but the crowd was unfazed, still getting hyped as The Underachievers ran through a six-song setlist. Besides their first song, “Allusions,” I didn’t recognize anything they performed, as they seemed to lean heavily towards their mixtapes rather than their albums (I know, I’m sleeping on the Lords of Flatbush series). Even without knowing the songs, The Underachievers’ set was still hype.

Rather than continue with each individual group and solo artist getting their own set (Flatbush Zombies and Joey Bada$$ were still left), the entire Beast Coast squad would go up next. To give them time to prepare, Powers Pleasant would get on and rock a short DJ set. He’d spin a lot of hype trap-flavoured songs, with a little Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole/Dreamville and Kanye West/G.O.O.D. Music sprinkled in. The rain would finally stop, and pretty soon they’d simulate a helicopter search with some dope lighting effects, similar to their appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon but more extravagent, and the crowd went nuts when the beat for “Left Hand” dropped.

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Left to right: Meechy Darko, Joey Bada$$, Kirk Knight, Erick Arc Elliott, Nyck Caution, AK

The Beast Coast crew came out one by one while performing their lead single “Left Hand,” with Flatbush Zombies’ own Meechy Darko appearing on a platform at the top of the stage to start the hook. Nyck Caution and CJ Fly rushed the bottom part of the stage again for their verses, and the crowd erupted when Erick Arc Elliott made his first appearance on stage with them. Zombie Juice would get the same treatment when he appeared on a mid-level platform during the next round of verses, along with Kirk Knight and AK, and the crowd turned up 110% to shout the lyrics “I don’t give a fuck!” during Meechy’s bridge. The big star of the crew Joey Bada$$ of course appears next on the song, however they abruptly cut it off and turned off all the lights – only turning them on to reveal an empty stage except for the Badmon himself standing solo at the top platform.

Joey Bada$$ would set off the next song, “Distance,” as the rest of Beast Coast joined him on stage. They would follow with an extra hype performance of “Rubberband” that involved Joey, Meechy, and Zombie Juice hooking up to bungee cables that would hang them from the roof of the stage and make them float as they rapped. Throughout the night different members of the crew would use the cables to float, bringing added energy that you don’t always see at rap shows.

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Meechy Darko, Joey Bada$$, Erick Arc Elliott, Zombie Juice

Rather than perform the entire Escape From New York album, the Beast Coast members would take breaks and allow Flatbush Zombies and Joey Bada$$ to alternate between songs from their individual discographies. The Zombies would bring mosh pit vibes and Joey would rock certified head-nodders as they went from performing FBZ’s “Bounce,” Joey’s “Paper Trail$,” FBZ’s “Headstone,” and Joey’s “Christ Conscious.” The simple A-B-A-B approach wouldn’t continue for long though, as the Flatbush Zombies performed a couple tracks in a row, including Meechy going acapella and killing it by himself for an entire verse. They would also perform “Vacation,” bringing Joey back out for his guest feature, before giving up the stage again to Joey Bada$$.

Joey would perform a couple songs off of his All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$ album, including the hype “Rockabye Baby,” and an epic version of “Ring The Alarm” that involved Meechy Darko coming back out to perform the hook, and Kirk Knight & Nyck Caution returning for their guest verses. With half of the Beast Coast crew now back on stage, the rest of the squad returned to perform another Escape From New York track with “Bones,” with the crowd breaking out in a few more mosh pits and Nyck Caution getting a turn on the bungee cables to float during his verse. The crowd would stay hyped as the Flatbush Zombies took over the stage again, performing songs that were old, new, and yet to be released.

Flatbush Zombies performed “M. Bison” off of their latest album, 2018’s Vacation In Hell, with Erick Arc Elliott and Zombie Juice both going acapella and speeding up their verses to triple-time. The crowd cheered as Juice went absolutely berserk on the mic – for me it was mind-blowing hearing his and Meechy’s vocal range in person for the first time. FBZ would then also preview a new song to be released on an upcoming album, possibly called “Catch The Vibe,” with Meechy and Juice both flying up with the bungee cables again. Pleasing both old fans and new, they’d also rock the aggressive throwback “Bliss,” breaking out a few more mosh pits before giving up the stage to Joey Bada$$ again.

While Flatbush Zombies had the crowd energized with all the moshing, Joey gave us a break with the more mellow sounds from his All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$ album. He would perform “Land of the Free,” going acapella to kill the third verse, and would fly up with the bungee cables as he performed “For My People.” He’d also take time out to speak on how $1.00 from every ticket sold was being donated to underprivileged youth in Brooklyn through PLUS1 Charity, thanking the fans for coming out for a good cause. With that heartwarming message in mind, he previewed a new, unreleased song called “Ground Zero,” which was especially mellow and soft, and continued on with “Temptation” before bringing back the Flatbush Zombies.

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The Flatbush Zombies cranked up the energy again, performing 2016’s “New Phone, Who Dis?,” except they’d cut the song off before Meechy could perform the second verse. They instead took some time out to celebrate Erick Arc Elliott’s birthday, getting the crowd to sing Happy Birthday to him. He’d perform his Flatbush Zombies solo joint, “222,” which gave the rest of Beast Coast time to bring out the birthday cake and drinks to celebrate with him. Meechy would throw the cake in Erick’s face and give him time to clean up before they’d continue with the music, previewing yet another unreleased song possibly called “Give Me A Reason” and teaching the crowd the hook to sing along. With the crowd hyped off the new music, Flatbush Zombies took it back to 2014 and brought out The Underachievers to perform “LUAM” off their Clockwork Indigo EP together. To close out the set, the rest of Beast Coast would join the squad on stage again to perform the intro off of Escape From New York, “It Ain’t Easy, It Ain’t Easy.”

The crowd was still hyped as hell, and so Beast Coast returned to the stage for an encore. Joey Bada$$ came back out ready to do some throwbacks, and got the crowd to set off several mosh pits by the time the beat dropped to his classic “Survival Tactics.” The rest of the Beast Coast squad along with the crowd helped cover the late Capital STEEZ’ verse on the song, before Joey performed another tribute to a fallen artist, with his feature on XXXTENTACION’s “Infinity 888.” Flatbush Zombies would go next, getting the crowd to go nuts as they performed “Palm Trees,” before Joey hit back with a hyped performance of “Devastated.” A few more mosh pits broke out, and even some fights as the all-ages crowd had high school kids who couldn’t handle being knocked over, but they were broken up quickly and the good energy prevailed.

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Issa Gold, Joey Bada$$, Zombie Juice, CJ Fly, AK

With a hard 11pm curfew imposed on Echo Beach, Beast Coast unified to do one last song off the new album, “Desperado,” before Meechy hyped the crowd up to give them one last message: “open your fucking mind!” Even after that wicked encore performance, the crowd still stayed and chanted for one more song until the stage crew started deflating the Statue of Liberty head.

Overall, this ended up easily being the most energetic concert all year, as the crowd was hyped from beginning to end, and each performer to hit the stage brought a ton of energy. From the time Beast Coast/Flatbush Zombies/Joey Bada$$ took over the stage for the main set, they rocked for a solid two hours and stayed on stage until the very last second of that 11pm cut-off, giving the fans everything they could. The fans got an awesome blend from the extensive discography between each of the individual groups and soloists within Beast Coast, on top of a handful of selections from the new Escape From New York album. I would’ve liked to see a few more Clockwork Indigo joints, as well as some more Underachievers, but it was still an awesome setlist with a good range of projects covered. They did this show right, giving each individual member of the collective their own time to shine, putting fans on to their solo work while also enhancing their voice when going back to listen to the new album again.

Having seen Joey Bada$$ perform a few times in Toronto over the years, we’ve had glimpses of the energy he and his squad can bring to the stage. With Pro Era behind him, he’s been building himself up every time he comes to Toronto, going from nearly stealing the show with his short, mid-level time slots at NXNE and Time Festival, to now headlining with his entire squad at Echo Beach. This Beast Coast concert felt like the epitome of that build-up, as that same energy from the past shows was brought tenfold here, with fans of Pro Era, Flatbush Zombies, and The Underachievers all unifying to celebrate a movement that’s been growing for nearly ten years. Time will tell how often the entire Beast Coast collective reunites going forward, but with all of them being together for this tour, the fans will remember this for years to come.

 

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