September 22nd – Toronto witnessed one of the greatest cultural gatherings the city of Toronto has ever had. The Manifesto Festival of Community & Culture brought their 4 day weekend to a close with Live at the Square, an initiative that brings community together through food, art, dance and live music. The event emphasized the sacred elements of hip hop and celebrated the arts– an integral part of our city.
This is Manifesto’s seventh year.. Seven.. that’s a huge accomplishment to be doing it this long. A lot of festivals don’t last this long and that’s why I’m here… To give them something back.
– L The 12th Letter, rapper
There were over 20 live performers and the day began with a quick interview with Wolf J. McFarlane. The singer, rapper, and acrobat from Toronto works closely with The Known Unknown — an initiative led by Tika Simone. Being a part of the Manifesto festival this year, in combination with his efforts with The Known Unknown has put in him the right position to work on his EP Live Your Life and dabble into audiovisual endeavors. His live performance was energetic and fun – a testimony to his high charisma and stamina.
I sat down with Blake Carrington, another rapper; “Hi, my name is Blake Carrington and I do porn on Sundays” he jokingly introduces himself. The Toronto native, who is a producer/MC, told me:
It feels great to be a part of Manifesto this year. I’ve been living in LA so to come back and perform to a crowd of people in Toronto…it really reminds me of where I come from.
When he’s not performing in Toronto and across the States, he works extensively with his management group to push their upcoming artistic projects. He also designs clothing for his line, Failure. His live performance at the Square truly reflected his drive as an MC. Carrington stepped off the stage to dive into the crowd and parade his lyrical ability. At one point he rapped into my camera which goes to show just how interactive he is with fans.
Thugli had the entire crowd dancing. The Freedom Writers were hella talented and they referenced my favorite MC of all time, Pharoahe Monch. Raz Fresco and John River were a breath of fresh air. I’m happy and excited for the young MCs and their come up. Unbuttoned was soulful and sweet, everyone around me was singing their hearts out to This Feeling. Sean Leon pulled at our heart strings with his story of homelessness to stardom. You could feel his yearning to be on that stage, performing for us. He whole-heartedly delivered one of the greatest performances of the evening. Notes to Self brought the crowd to life with their expressive lyrics, impressive production and overall stellar performance.
The Ladies First Cypher highlighting DJ Mel Boogie’s 20th Anniversary, included Eternia, Jelly Too Fly, pHoenix Pagliacci and Tara Chase. The legendary Maestro opened their performance by paying homage to women in hip hop. “Ladies in Hip Hop always did it first,” he says. Lest we forget, Toronto’s hip hop Queen, Michie Mee, was the first ever Canadian MC to sign a record deal with a major American label. “Without Michie, there would be no me,” Maestro concludes. This was hands down the best performance of the night. These talented ladies stole the entire show with their high energy, cerebral lyrics and incredible showmanship. Jelly started the cypher off with an acapella verse or two before Phoenix Pagliacci jumped on stage to the instrumental of M.O.P.’s Ante Up. I overheard the guy behind me say “This is what I’ve been waiting for all night!”
Phoenix and Jelly’s energy literally fused into each one of us standing in the crowd. Eternia joined the duo on stage and wasted no time – she dove into crowd and delivered her rap greatness to the horde of people surrounding her. She is undoubtedly a dynamic force not be reckoned with. Tara Chase came out on stage to complete the cypher and get the crowd hype for the surprise guest, Jully Black. Chase is a master of her skill – her expertise was exuberated during the cypher.
Another surprise guest of the evening was the oh-so-great, Shad. Rose Garden started to play and I was completely caught off guard and its no surprise that the humble and extremely talented MC slayed the two tracks he performed with ease. The second he performed was Stylin, a track that was added to Flow 93.5 FM’s rotation this week. Shad appropriately ended his set with, “I grinds for mine man, I don’t need a co-sign, signed truly yours.”
Jhené Aiko looked beautiful on Sunday. The California native brought a little sunshine to Toronto with her sun kissed skin and vibrant ensemble. The R&B singer serenaded the crowd with her idyllic voice and eclectic catalog. Just when I thought this night couldn’t get any better, she performed my favourite track, Bed Peace. Fresh off of the So Much Things To Say: Evolution Summit, Jhene preached non-violence by saying “I don’t believe in war.”
The night came to an end with the celebration of the Souls of Mischief’s 20th anniversary. Hailing from Oakland, California, the legendary 90s group performed back-to-back hits. The Souls of Mischief made us nostalgic of raps better days, and reminded us of why we love this music and culture as much as we do.
Peace to Manifesto, we await #MNFSTO8!
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