Toronto is one of the best cities in the world for a lot of reasons, but where we falter comes when we’re to support our local talent, musically. Manifesto is an event that occurs around a few days that promotes people to educate themselves more on the business aspect of being an artist or entrepreneur, and it’s something that a lot of people can benefit from. In my case, I was really there to observe what I could at the workshops, and on the last day I was there to take in some music, food and merchandise. For everything Toronto related, the issue often is ‘will people support?’ Having been to Manifesto a couple of years before, there was no doubt that there would be a great turn out.
One of the main reasons why I was excited about this year’s festival is because Jhene Aiko was one of the main headliners whom was also going to speak at an open interview with Karen Civil. That was enough for me to head downtown and do just what I had to do to see her (everyone’s allowed to have a crush). This year, however, I’d be at Manifesto with a different view. It was the first year and first event that I had a media pass for the weekend, which I was representing myself (that’s the best part about it). I was looking forward to really just being in the atmosphere and taking in the vibe and any valuable info that was going to be passed along,
On the Saturday, that’s when the ‘So Much Things To Say: Evolution Summit’ was happening and one of the panels that I actually wanted to attend was one that spoke about the growth and importance of social media from and industry view (The Social Media Evolution). I wouldn’t say that I’m exactly in the industry, but I’m about 1 degree of separation from being directly in it, so I’ll go that far. Unfortunately, due to a family event, I missed that (which was fine), so it was really up in the air as to which workshop I was going to sit in when I got down to George Brown College (the Waterfront Campus is impressive, by the way). After meeting up with a lot of familiar faces and talking to others about what they’re looking forward to with the discussions, you got a sense that education and personal growth with a business mind state was the focus, and for young people, that’s great to see people want to get out there and want to get better daily; taking every ounce of information that they can.
I waited for ‘The Power of P.R’ discussion (I really couldn’t decide where to go) and I’m glad that I stuck around for that one. The panel featured people who whom were familiar with public relations on both sides. Dee Vasquez (representing Hot97 in New York), Morgan Steiker (Writer/Publicist), Katrina Lopes & Addy Papa (both managers for Shawn Desman and Rich Kidd, respectively). Now I’m not familiar with the overall concept of Public Relations aside from the fact that they are the people who (more times than others) keep their artist in check in the public’s eyes.
From the discussion, it ranged from how the usage of social networks by upcoming acts can be used effectively, and also the homegrown support for our own people. Dee made a good point saying that it wasn’t just Toronto that has that stigma of not supporting anyone, but rather it’s all over the place. Not everyone breaks in their home city, even in the states (suddenly I didn’t feel so bad). The moral of it all was that no matter who you are, personal appearance goes a long way, and it’s about how you present yourself to others – the first impression is important. The Q&A session opened up and the questions flooded in to just how to be a proper PR representative, choosing the right clientele, and even if post-secondary education plays a valuable role. There was a lot of knowledge flooding through the course of the 90 minute discussion, and I definitely took away needed info from it.
One of the major panels that was happening also on this day was the ‘Women on the Move’ discussion with notable names like Karen Civil (Civil TV, Living Civil, KarenCivil.com) and the EOC of XXL Magazine, Vanessa Satten. Dee Vasquez was the moderator for this discussion, and it was nothing but dropping knowledge about what it’s like to be a woman in the industry where the stigma is that they don’t know anything about music or that they’re groupies out to get quick fame and riches – with these women, it isn’t exactly the case.Also featured on the panel were general manager of Warner/Chappell Music Canada, Vivian Barclay, and Singer/Songwriter, Nirvana. Each woman took the time out to tell their stories of the rise to their respective positions, and just all of the battles that they had to endure professionally in an industry that in male dominant.
Karen Civil shared an interesting story about her working under the tutelage of DJ Funkmaster Flex and the fact that he didn’t know her name for the bulk of the time that he worked with her, until she left and made something of her own by establishing industry relationships and developing her brand. That’s something to admire – the hustle, and being that she’s a woman at that, it made it that much more admirable. Vivian had a great story about hearing a song that she’d had in a playlist for months and scouring all over the place to find the person who wrote it, and it wasn’t until she had lunch with someone that it was them who wrote it to begin with – that was great. Nirvana’s story was pretty inspiring given the fact that she was on a group, had an album, had a baby, and grinded for years and years to re-establish her career. She shared a story about J.Cole and just how she was the foundation to bringing him to Canada for the first time (which we, the fans are appreciative of). Out of all of the panelists, it was pretty much unanimous (not taking away from the other women) that Vanessa Satten was the standout of them all, because her attitude and colourful commentary was indicative of who she is and what she’s about. Being a woman in Hip Hop is trouble enough, but being a white woman in Hip Hop is damn near blasphemous for a lot of people, and she knew that the skepticism would be on an all-time high, but instead of backing away from it, she’s used that as fuel to push her to the position she’s currently sitting in, which is the last word on a publication on a respectable magazine (albeit, it’s been shaky for music publications for a few years now).
Nothing comes easy, and the main point expressed in the discussion was that no matter who you are or what sex (although it was a majority female audience), you have to put in the work to get the proper results, and hearing the stories from each woman was uplifting. For me, as a male, we do look at women sometimes like “girl, do you know what you’re talking about?” But, it’s ironic that I know more women than men who are actually working their asses off to shake the stigma of being a woman representing the Hip Hop culture (Nikki, Sam, Natasha, Erin, Sandra, Kayla – Salute to you).
The crown jewel of the Summit came at the end of the day with a 45 minute discussion with Karen Civil and Jhene Aiko. I’ve actually had a crush on Jhene since was about 13/14 and it was totally by accident (let’s just say this happened in the days prior to catfish being a thing, but we won’t get into that). I was anticipating her coming out and after months of me essentially harassing Toronto promoters to get her to do a show here, The Known Unknown one-ups that and has her here for a discussion – fantastic. She came out decked in Japanese traditional attire to a gleeful cheer of the audience (myself included; so what). From her progression as a solo artist, to her verse on Drake’s ‘From Time’ and the origin of how that happened, it was an intimate opening up of her life, her inspirations, and her love of marijuana.
She was very comfortable expressing her love of it and just how it was essential to her for creating the music she’s made (although she only has 1 mixtape out). She provided some details on her forthcoming EP Sail Out, and just what the people can look forward to on her album ‘Souled out’ (she also talked about why ‘sail’ is a constant word use for her projects, which started off as a typo correction on Twitter). The Q&A portion came about and the hands were flying everywhere. One guy asked to sign her cast (which was just genius), others asked about relationships and her brother’s passing being an inspiration for her music. I wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass me up, so I even asked her a question (without first formally welcoming her to Toronto after a long wait). I asked her about her progressing from the B2K days and just what she took from those experiences and applied them to her solo career and whatever happens in the future. I had her stumped a bit, but she gave a good answer playing into just what it takes to remained focused on the task at hand and realizing that it’s a marathon and not a sprint.
The first day was a success, and it was a strong lead-up to what would go down on the final day – the performances. The artists came in for some education and discussion, now it was on to the real thing. I valued everything (although it wasn’t much) that I witnessed and there were lessons that were learned that I could easily translate to my own life. I was glad that I came out. I couldn’t wait to get wild and enjoy what talent Toronto had to offer this year at the celebration of Hip Hop. But until that time, thanks for reading.
That’s My Word & It STiXX