NXNE 2013 Preview: Hip Hop
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NXNE 2013 Preview: Hip Hop

No Big Boi? No problem. There's still a ton of must-see hip-hop acts at this year's edition of NXNE.

Ghostface Killah and Raekwon get the crowd hyped at Yonge-Dundas Square in 2012. Photo by Loni Schick/Torontoist.

North by Northeast’s hip-hop lineup was dealt a major blow when Big Boi, who was supposed to headline the annual Sunday night Yonge-Dundas Square blowout, had to cancel six weeks of tour dates to recover from knee surgery. He’s been replaced by Ludacris. While we’ll always be fans of Luda’s early ‘00s singles and his willingness to give shit to Bill O’Reilly, this isn’t really a replacement of equal value. That said, this year’s edition of NXNE has a pretty strong hip-hop contingent. The festivities will even feature Deniro Farrar, one of the most talked about young MCs to break out in the last year. We’ll also be getting shows from one of hip hop’s founding fathers, and three of the local scene’s most intriguing talents.

Deniro Farrar

When: Wednesday, June 12, 11:25 p.m.
Where: Wrongbar (1279 Queen Street West)

When: Saturday, June 15, 12 a.m.
Where: Wrongbar (1279 Queen Street West)

When: Sunday, June 16, 4 p.m.
Where: Yonge-Dundas Square (1 Dundas Square)

Charlotte’s Deniro Farrar has compared himself to both Tupac Shakur and Charles Manson. He’s dubbed his incongruous, sometimes jarring blend of pretty, ethereal cloud-rap beats and ultra-thuggish rhymes “cult rap.” In short, he’s supremely weird, but he may be one of the more interesting acts at this year’s festival.

Go if: You dig this whole “cloud-rap” thing, but wish it had more edge.

Jelly Too Fly

When: Wednesday, June 12, 11:35 p.m.
Where: Nocturne (550 Queen Street West)

Jelly Too Fly, Toronto’s self-proclaimed Queen of the Game, has spent the last few years dropping mixtapes and honing a style that could best be described as stoned, slit-eyed malice. She’s developed a strong cult following around the city, and for good reason. While her rhymes are strong on her records, her brand of slow-moving, menacing rap really shines live.

Go if: You want to see the closest thing Toronto has to Snoop from The Wire.


When: Thursday, June 13, 10 p.m.
Where: Sneaky Dee’s (431 College Street)

Local hero D-Sisive was supposed to retire from rap after the release of last year’s Jonestown 3, but so far he’s been terrible at quitting, which is a good thing for hip-hop heads. His blend of wordplay and storytelling is second to none, and his between-song stage banter is an attraction in and of itself.

Go if: You like your rap smart and insightful.


When: Friday, June 14, 1 a.m.
Where: The Horseshoe Tavern (370 Queen Street West)

It’s probably a bit of a stretch to include Blowfly in the hip-hop section, but he doesn’t really fit anywhere else. The masked soul singer from the ‘60s and ‘70s is often considered to be the first-ever rapper, because of his penchant for almost mind-blowingly filthy rhyming couplets.

Go if: You want to hear a really filthy version of the alphabet song.

Tre Mission

When: Saturday, June 15, 9 p.m.
Where: Wrongbar (1279 Queen Street West)

We’ve been pretty high on local MC/producer Tre Mission for about a year now, which is also roughly how long we’ve been waiting for his next mixtape, Malmaison. (The project was supposed to be done in time for last year’s NXNE, but rappers aren’t always huge on punctuality. It will be available for download tomorrow.) Mission may be one of the most intriguing characters in rap, not only locally, but period. A North American MC who made his mark in the very British grime subgenre, he’s equally comfortable talking street shit or analyzing his own self-doubt, and he does things like rhyme over instrumentals from Jamie xx and sample Imogen Heap.

Go if: You like a mix of sharp wordplay and unexpected influences.

Joey Bada$$

When: Saturday, June 15, 1 a.m.
Where: Wrongbar (1279 Queen Street West)

When: Sunday, June 16, 8 p.m.
Where: Yonge-Dundas Square (1 Dundas Square)

Brooklyn-based MC Joey Bada$$ may only be 18, but his style is strangely reminiscent of the classic east-coast MCs of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. His breakout 2012 mixtape, 1999, was filled with with sharp wordplay and sample-heavy beats. Rap nerds have spent years waiting for someone to resurrect “real” New York rap. (The Southern-influenced styles of A$AP Rocky and French Montana don’t really count, area codes be damned.) This guy looks like the man for the job.

Go if: You’re out to see the next big thing.

Fat Tony

When: Sunday, June 16, 6 p.m.
Where: Yonge-Dundas Square (1 Dundas Square)

Houston’s Fat Tony became a blog darling after he released “Hood Party” earlier this year. The song was both a high-impact party jam and a scathing sendup of gentrification. The song also did a great job of encapsulating what’s great about Fat Tony: a versatile flow that can go from fast and syncopated to slow and laconic on a dime, as well as scads of smart references. You’re going to like him.

Go if: You’ve recently bought a fixer-upper in a formerly blue-collar neighbourhood.

See also:

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