A Review of NXNE from a Hip Hop Perspective: The Quest for Glory

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All Photos Shot by Tse Daniel

While everyone always raves around SXSW, its sister festival NXNE is still not well known – even after more than two decades. The festival, which takes place in Toronto annually, seemingly cut down on it’s schedule this year, which was most noticeable in it’s lack of conference. (Note: Please bring this back!) Not to mention NXNE’s fight with local (and not so local) petitioners who gathers over 33K signatures to remove Action Bronson from the public Yonge-Dundas Square based on his content, but those same petitioners failed to actually be knowledgeable and Ty Dolla Sign swooped under their radar to perform on the same stage.

NXNE kicked off with ecletic Frech-Cuban sister duo Ibeyi at Mod Club, while local acts DillanPonders and a l l i e, as well as UK artist Kate Tempest, Tink and Bishop Nehru taking the stage at Adelaide Hall. Day 1 smoothly transitioned into Day 2 with a second performance by Tink, as well as Vince Staples at the not-so-organized Pitchfork / House of Vans showcase. Perhaps not organized isn’t the word, however, when you have a local legend like Kardinal Offishall being disrespected by the NXNE social media account and security not allowing him in, as well as having media wait over an hour to get into a venue that wasn’t full yet, there’s an issue. Regardless, Tink came even harder than her first set and Vince killed his. On the other side of town, fans of Willow Smith were absolutely disappointed when she played a 20-minute headlining set before leaving the stage, but at least we can say Harrison and BizzArh held down The Danforth Music Hall. Locals CRSB and Sean Leon shut down Day 2 at the NXNE hub, causing some chaos via a mosh pit, while an unrelated party down the street housed most of the performing local hip hop acts and their managers.

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Day 3 was a little quieter for NXNE hip hop, but local OG Saukrates joined a line of American newcomers like Jeary Svylves, J. Keys, Nufeel and Dex Kwasi, as well as Northern Ontario group KIDS at Coalition. It was definitely quiet, but a great new venue to add to the NXNE festival, and Nufeel and Dex were great finds. At the end of the night, and as a part of Yonge-Dundas first concert of the weekend, NXNE announced a Budwiser party in a sweaty basement headlined by Toronto’s next-up, Jazz Cartier.

The FADER’s Andy Cohn and Ty Dolla $ign took the Saturday afternoon to talk candidly about Ty’s career and parenthood, but quickly got sidetracked by a number of useless questions during a Q&A and a few groupies. I can’t necessarily say I learned anything new about Ty $, but The FADER happens to be launching a FADER Canada – and as Ty $ promised, new music was released last week. Back at Coalition in the night time, promising duo OSIYM took the stage alongside Neo Tempus, and across the city, Jazz Cartier and Rae Sremmurd got lit – rather, lit like bic. Between the stage diving and condoms tossed during “Safe Sex & Paychecks,” it may have been the most exciting set I’d seen all week.

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Closing out the weekend, local journalists Anupa Mistry, Liisa Ladouceur and Dalton Higgins discussed misogyny in music, which ultimately served as NXNE’s (not necessary) apology to booking Action Bronson. Was anything accomplished in the talk? Probably not, primarily because again, those 30K signatures still let Ty $ take the stage later that night, where he brought up a few women on stage, cussed loudly and yelled how it was bullshit Bronson wasn’t there with him. Regardless, he delivered a great set that was prefaced by Toronto newcomer NUE and Casey Veggies. Shad, who replaced Bronson last minute, closed out NXNE with a live band, features from Saukrates and Eternia, and a whole lot of talent.

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At the end of the day, NXNE may have been a little lackluster this year in comparison to previous years, and there definitely wasn’t enough hip hop or R&B represented throughout the four days, but perhaps this year can be served as a learning curve between wanting to appease the public and sticking to the demands of the music lovers who attend.

 

The views of our contributors are their own, and not necessarily those of Boi-1da.