Yonge and Dundas square was raring for some ill hip-hop for North by Northeast Festival(NXNE) June 19th, a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Toronto. Hip hop was on display as the headliners for the festival — Pharcyde — were set to take center stage. Many a hip hop head came out to a free show with one of the heavy weights of nineties hip hop aka the golden era. They literally shut down Yonge and blockaded it for what had to be a crowd upwards of five thousand.
Before Pharcyde could melt your ears Digable Planets brought the heavy funk. As per usual they came with the heavy sound boasting a live band and a DJ. It was crisp as ever and for some older heads they showed a surprising amount of bounce in their step. The crew was all there and the crowd ate it up. “Rebirth of Slick(Cool Like Dat)” sent all the heads in the building into a frenzy and was done with out missing a beat. Even with the addition of two local guitarists last minute because of border issues everything went off with out a hitch. It was great to see Toronto local talent being represented properly.
I was excited to see Digable Planets they held it down, New York was in the building, but I came for Pharcyde. That for me was bucket list as seemingly every older head has will continually tell you about how much better music was in the nineties and they were a big part of that. There is no Wu-Tang today, no EPMD but there is Curren$y, there is Brother Ali and there is Mr. Yeezy. It has been said and will continue to be said that there is good music out there it is just not getting the radio love that it once got. Sure you have to delve a bit but often times that can be rewarding.
I was stage left for Pharcyde and was fairly close up. The second they came you could just feel their energy and it was really positive. They played all their hits off their debut album Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde including “Passin’ Me By”, “Ya Mama”, and “Soul Flower”. At the onset it seemed as if Booty Brown’s microphone was rather low. The volume simply was not right for as close as I was or anywhere for that matter. Eventually though they got the levels right and like a true pro he just rocked on and did not miss a beat.
The crowd participation was on point at one time later in the show they invited a plethora of good looking women to come up and shake their tail-feathers. They knew how to rock the crowd giving us collective props and mentioning numerous times how much they enjoyed T-dot. I was impressed with the energy that they still possessed at forty plus. They put a J-Dilla tribute and Nate Dogg tribute together and I was really feeling that. For me the highlight of the night was “Kids With Guns”. The sheer enormity of that track live was almost too much and people lost it. Besides some minor sound issues — it happens it is a concert — it was a dope set. They rocked for over an hour and left it all on the stage.
As far as NXNE went it was an amazing festival. Seeing such hip hop legends live was a dream come true and they lived up to the hype. Bopped all over the stage and had excellent crowd participation. Fatlip did not show but Slimkid3, Bootie Brown, Imani did and all in all it was a very enjoyable set. Digable Planets was amazing as well it was great to see hip hop being represented in a positive light and for free. I left in a better mood than when I came.