Hip-hop talent isn’t exactly thick on the ground at this year’s edition of Canadian Music Week. The festival’s two biggest hip-hop acts—Raekwon and A$AP Rocky—are both playing limited pass-and-wristband shows, while Tyler, the Creator’s March 22 show seems to have been uncoupled from the festival entirely. (Tyler’s name is still appearing on CMW posters, but the show has been removed from the official calendar.)
That said, if you’re out and about and feel like a break from the CMW’s indie rock–heavy offerings, there are still some good options.
Wednesday, March 20, 1 a.m.
The Crawford (718 College Street)
Those of you who are old enough to remember hip hop of the early ’90s will probably remember rap-dancehall fusionist Chip Fu from his work with the Fu-Schnickens. (Hopefully, you’ll recall the Fu’s Tenor Saw–sampling breakout hit, “Ring the Alarm.” More likely, though, you’ll remember the group’s career-ending collaboration with Shaquille O’Neal.) Fu has built a solid underground following, bridging the gaps between reggae and hip hop. His set will definitely be interesting, but don’t go in expecting a lot of Golden Era nostalgia.
Wednesday, March 20, 10:30 p.m.
Global Village (460 King Street West)
Thursday, March 21, 1 a.m.
Painted Lady (218 Ossington Avenue)
On their new release, Chimp Blood, BC-based electro-rap hybridizers Pigeon Hole display sharper rhymes than you’d expect out of this sort of genre-bending act. While the group will probably never be a pop-crossover act, it has the potential to be a critical favourite.
Thursday, March 21, 11 p.m.
The Hoxton (69 Bathurst Street)
In 2012, chef-turned-rapper Action Bronson went from buzz-act to break-out star. His first proper, studio-backed album is expected to drop on Vice later this year. In the meantime, he still has seemingly endless hours and hours worth of mixtape material. He’ll be showing some of it off at The Hoxton.
Friday, March 22, 8 p.m.
Kool Haus (132 Queens Quay East)
Polaris-nominated Edmonton-via-Montreal MC and producer Cadence Weapon is one of those artists you have to see at least once. One of the country’s most high-energy hip-hop performers, his set at last month’s Wavelength Festival saw him getting sweaty with the crowd, without ever missing a line. His CMW performance will probably be similar.
Friday, March 22, 11 p.m.
Annex Wreck Room (794 Bathurst Street)
Prolific local hero D-Sisive technically retired from rap late last year, after releasing the third and final album in his Jonestown trilogy. Thankfully, he’s still playing live while working on new, non-D-Sisive-related projects. If you’ve never seen him before, you should probably catch this CanRap treasure while you still can.
Friday, March 22, 11:30 p.m.
The Phoenix (410 Sherbourne Street)
Harvard-educated New Yorker Ryan Leslie is one of the fest’s hip-hop highlights. He is effectively the mirror image of Drake and Future. While those guys are rappers who dabble heavily in R&B, Leslie is a singer and producer who raps enough to fit comfortably in either genre. He first experienced success producing songs for then-girlfriend Cassie before going solo, and he was nominated for a Grammy in 2011. Expect a lot of new music, as Leslie is currently promoting his upcoming fourth solo album, Black Mozart.
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