The last time Rittz performed in Toronto, he was very adamant with a club full of Strange Music fans about his plans to leave the label once his contract was up. In the year and a half that’s gone by, he’s since followed through with what he said he’d do, leaving the indie powerhouse he had released four albums with to pursue running his own independent label, CNT Records. It would be the very same Friday as this particular concert that he would release his first album on his own label, Put A Crown On It.
Before even dropping the album, Rittz had already embarked on The Winner’s Circle Tour, joined by fellow indie artists Dizzy Wright, Ekoh, and Whitney Peyton. He released his new music video for the single “Twin Lakes” while on the road, and would have his album release day while making the only tour stop in Canada. Rather than having local artists open for them on the road, The Winner’s Circle Tour would simply be a showcase of the four emcees on the poster, and this Toronto show would be a quick, early one, with it all being wrapped up before 11pm. We got to Adelaide Hall just as Whitney Peyton was finishing her set, and got to see Ekoh perform in front of a modestly sized crowd.
Hailing from Las Vegas, this would be Ekoh’s first performance outside of USA. While the crowd that came to see him wasn’t that big, it was an energetic, passionate crowd that was with him all the way. The fans knew the songs, one even showing up in a Rick and Morty “Pickle Rick” shirt, referencing Ekoh’s song of the same name. Being humbled to see the fans this passionate about his music, Ekoh put everything into nailing all his rapid-fire verses.
Ekoh definitely had the most interactive performance of the night, jumping down into the crowd at one point and performing his song “F/W/M” while surrounded by jumping fans. With it being Black Friday, another highlight of his set was the song “Freeverse 3,” as he spit the lyrics “fuck a pair of Yeezys, I’m just rollin’ in these Vans,” with the new Yeezy Boost 350 V2 jet black colourway dropping for a ridiculous $300 this same day. Ekoh would cap off his set by spitting his reference-heavy “Avengers End Game Rap” acapella, and then running it back with the beat sampling the theme from the movie getting the crowd to turn up. He would hang by his merch booth to sign autographs and take pictures, and took much of the crowd with him even as Dizzy Wright’s DJ was getting set up.
Also hailing from Las Vegas would be Dizzy Wright performing next. A much more seasoned emcee, Dizzy Wright has a similar history with prominent indie labels as Rittz, having been a big part of the Funk Volume movement in its heyday. Although Funk Volume has been disbanded and dissolved, with Dizzy since following his management to the new label Still Movin, much of Dizzy’s song selection would be from that Funk Volume era of his career. He would lean heavily on his 2013 mixtape The Golden Age, performing songs like “Kill Em With Kindness,” “World Peace,” and “The Flavor.” He would also take it even further back with his 2012 single “Can’t Trust Em.”
The Funk Volume fans in the house got a good showcase of Dizzy’s time with the label, as he performed at least one song from each of his albums, mixtapes and EPs released by them. He would encourage the crowd to dance and groove to his beats, and got everyone bouncing throughout his set. After performing the new single he released just a few weeks ago, “Heavy Handed,” Dizzy would pause for a smoke break, lighting up right on stage. Getting his fellow weed enthusiasts in the crowd to cheer and light up their own joints, Dizzy even stopped a security guard from kicking out one fan for smoking, letting them off with a warning. The fun vibes would continue to roll as Dizzy performed the loose single “Spark Up The Flame,” shouting the lyrics “turn down for what?!”
Dizzy would next perform what he called the first song he made after the Funk Volume breakup, getting into 2016’s “Plotting.” He would rock one more post-FV track, hyping the crowd up with “J.O.B.,” before ending his set with one last throwback for the day-one fans, “Hotel Stripper.” The crowd got hyped, and by now the entire dance floor was filled with fans ready to see Rittz. There would be a bit of a wait before Rittz hit the stage, but host Stacee Brizzle kept everyone hype between performances as usual, getting the crowd to cheer if they were there with her at the last Rittz concert at The Rockpile last year. A few minutes later, she would bring out the man himself.
Similar to Dizzy’s approach, Rittz would lean heavily on his early work with Strange Music throughout his set. He came out performing one of the first songs off his first album with Strange, “My Interview,” and would continue rocking with several songs off of The Life and Times of Jonny Valiant. He would perform “For Real,” “Fuck Swag,” “Like I Am,” and even took it back to his pre-Strange Music days with “Bloody Murdah.” The rapid-fire verses kept the crowd energized, and they stayed engaged with the catchy, familiar hooks.
As with the last couple times I’ve seen Rittz perform, you could tell a lot of his favourite songs to perform are off his second album with Strange Music, 2014’s Next To Nothing. He would squeeze in a few of those joints, gripping the mic stand to sing the hook from “Basket Case” before diving into fan favourites like “Call 911” and “White Rapper.” This is when he’d have some fun with the crowd, getting his DJ to drop Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” and seeing how many of his fans knew the lyrics to rap along.
After going through much of his older work, shouting out Tech N9ne and Yelawolf along the way for having great impact on his career, Rittz was now ready to acknowledge the new chapter in his career. Proudly rocking his CNT chain in place of his old Strange Music chain, Rittz got into a couple songs off of the fresh new album, Put A Crown On It. He spit his rapid-fire flow from the intro track, “Asian Fusion,” and also performed his verse from the standout “Wake Up Call,” which features fellow choppers Yelawolf and Twista. While his lead single “Twin Lakes” may have been too emotional for a party setting like this, these two song choices were great for keeping the crowd hyped up.
Rittz would ask the crowd what they wanted to hear next, and after one fan shouted out “Switch Lanes,” Rittz dove right back into his throwback Strange Music material. He would also perform 2014’s “In My Zone” and 2017’s “Reality Check” before having a standout moment with another throwback off his debut, “Wastin Time.” Slaying his rapid-fire verses as usual, he had the beat flip halfway through “Wastin Time” to the classic “Forgot About Dre,” spitting his verse perfectly in-pocket over that beat. After pausing to take a picture with the crowd for Instagram, Rittz would perform a few more Next To Nothing joints like “Crown Royal” and “Blow,” before closing out his set with one last throwback for the day-ones, “High Five.” Performing the last song while clapping high fives with the fans, he left Adelaide Hall with a ton of energy still in the room.
Overall, it was a fun time celebrating the release of Rittz’ new album with him. He was humbled by all the fans who are still supporting him after his move from Strange Music to go completely independent. His stage presence and ability to nail those speedy flows live remains top notch, and the quality in music based on this new album has not dropped one bit. I would’ve liked to see more songs off the new album get performed, as it felt like a missed opportunity to see Rittz & Dizzy Wright perform their new joint “Paranoid and High” together. It was a night of dope performances all around though; Ekoh had a great first impression with the way he rocked the crowd of a couple dozen as if they were a couple hundred, Dizzy brought the party vibes, and Rittz cranked the energy.
The Winner’s Circle Tour continues through the U.S., hitting the mid-west states on the way to the west coast, and finishing in Dizzy & Ekoh’s hometown Las Vegas.
Remember to check out the SYpherSights Youtube channel for more concert videos.