Red Bull Sound Select & Manifesto Present: Toronto Spice With Some SZA – The STiXXclusive Review

Manifesto is one of the great organizations in Toronto to encourage and strengthen the exposure of local talent. They’ve been around for 7 years, and the increase in the work that they’ve done (and currently do) has stretched further than the city limits, but has taken over on a North American scale. What they’re able to do is harness the talent that’s in the city, to help them prosper at home and abroad, and there have been examples of that; whether the acts worked directly with Manifesto or not, they’ve still had their hands in the development. Having been to an event or two that Manifesto put together, there’s no doubt in my mind that they would put together a line-up of talent for people to see.

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Top Dawg Entertainment is the most influential and successful independent label to come out in a very long time in terms of doing it their way, and they did so with only 4 artists on their roster. When they signed 2 acts in 2013, it was considered a big deal because a lot of people thought that they’d retract their focus from their Fantastic Four in Black Hippy, but it turns out that it wouldn’t be the case. Isaiah Rashad & SZA have naturally come together with TDE to showcase their own unique styles, and because that’s the mantra of the label as it is, they seem like matches made in Heaven. When I saw that Manifesto was bringing up SZA (this coming after numerous requests for someone to bring her to the city), it just re-instilled my confidence in them when it came to taking responsibility to expose the city to great talent. I applaud them for it. When a show is $3 with an RSVP and $10 at the door without one, what in the world would stop me from attending? The cold (as much as it’s been tiring as hell) definitely couldn’t stop me, so I ventured out to Tattoo (which has become a go-to venue for urban shows) and wouldn’t you know, a line was starting up, and it’s good that I found myself at the front, because it was getting up there in length as more people started to show up. Familiar faces as usual were in attendance, and it just goes to show you that there are people who generally care about not only the headliner, but also to witness some good local talent in the process – which I find to be very important when it comes to solidifying an image for the future of the culture in the city. As for the event itself, the emphasis was on Toronto and the exposure of the artists that were on the bill. There was only 1 artist that I hadn’t seen (I’d seen Shi Wisdom perform at numerous events, and KJ once), and that was a l l I e. I hadn’t heard much about her, so I was looking forward to hearing what she was like.

 

KJ is a one man band man (to quote Swizz Beatz) and it’s his beats that are engulfing in sound that are on the electric side that have a House feel, but still have the force of Hip Hop energy. I knew what I was expecting going into the show, because of what I’ve heard on one of his mixtapes, Water, and based off what I saw at one of the Known Unknown shows a year or so ago. It was a bit shaky of a performance as he forgot some of the lyrics to one of his tracks (I mean, even Nas does, right?) and the long intro to one of his songs had people in an awkward state waiting for him start rapping, until he finally acknowledged that he did indeed ‘like long intros.’ It was a short set, but the crowd still showed him love for his performance, although it wasn’t like the previous one I saw. It lacked stage presence and crowd involvement, which is too bad, because he has dope music to vibe out to.

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Before the show, and in between sets, DJ Lissa Monet was spinning her usual fire mixes that included a range of past, present, chill out & turn up music, and there’s a reason why she’s such a decorated DJ, not only in the city, but essentially international. On top of it, she’s a great person, so all of that is bundled into one.

 

A l l i e (the spaces are part of the name) came out with her producer, 2nd Son with a guitar well in hand, as she was rocking a flashy bling that looked Ancient Egyptian inspired and the curly hair that flowed across the stage seemingly in slo-motion (Curly haired goddess always prevail). When she started performing, the reggae/R&B vibe of Rlctnt Hstlr with a soulful electronic twist was so unique to me and I was digging the vibe from the get go. She performed all of her Strange Creature EP, and her voice and how it smoothly floated over the production was amazing. It’s a broken record of a saying that R&B has fallen off significantly, but when I hear music like hers, I wonder why that is. There are still artists making great music, and I had become a new fan of hers, and the fact that she’s from Toronto surprised me even more, because I was sure she was from the States. That neo-soul vibe isn’t that common anymore, and even people hate the term, but that’s what comes to mind when I hear her. I’d recommend checking out her EP, and anything else going forward.

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Shi Wisdom is a recognizable name where ever you go in the city when it comes to who are some of the perennial figures in the music scene here. It seems as if she’s been an ‘up and comer’ for years, but I feel like her time is well overdue because her popularity has been dominate for a while. Every performance I’ve seen her do, it’s been the same consistency in terms of her vocal delivery and the responses that the audience gave her – she’s a true professional with the attitude & mannerisms of someone raised on a block in Toronto, and I think that’s the cool distinction that makes her likable with her music. With a cane by her side, and a couple of singers to back her up, she ran through a couple of her well known songs like; LoveSpeak, Penny, and Easier – great songs, but what was the highlight of the night to this point (and probably of the entire night) was a new song that she debuted, entitled Young Gunner. It was so deep, she had to light a fire, and she literally and metaphorically lit a fire in Tattoo. The song was like a conscious reggae vibe with the stories of struggle dealing with the dark tales of young black men, and it hit a lot of people in a way as if it was a gospel song and the Holy Spirit was being caught. No hyperbole, it was that deep. The reception that the song got after she did it the first time was so thunderous in applause that she did it again for a second time. I’ve been to a lot of shows, and a lot of artists don’t even do encores of the same song after their entire set is finished, so for Shi to perform a brand new song after a minute to a minute and a half of applause, that was an incredible scene to witness. I hope the studio version of that song comes out soon, because it’s a wicked track.

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Shi has enough strength on her own to be a headliner, and she has been for previous shows, but even the great ones can step aside for a moment while someone new gets their shine, and in this case you could make the case that Shi Wisdom was a co-headliner with SZA, because even she acknowledged the great talent that Toronto had produced before she graced the stage. You know, when you see her hair in music videos and interviews, it doesn’t do it justice unless you see it for yourself in person, and you really can’t believe that it’s all natural. The luxurious flow of her hair is synonymous with her music; great volume and a thickness of depth with consistency throughout. I had seen every artist in TDE live in concert, with SZA being the last one, and she surely did put on quite the show. It’s always the question as to if a singer you hear on tracks can sing as well or better live, and with a live drummer & keyboardist by her side, with a bottle of alcohol behind her, ‘because she’s a hood nigga’ (I loved her for saying that), she delivered beyond my expectations. She ran her most popular songs that a good amount of people in the crowd knew word for word, like: Aftermath, Ice Moon, Babylon, Teen Spirit, and she even performed the literally brand new track, Child’s Play, featuring Chance the Rapper (I mean, Chance wasn’t there, but you know what I mean).

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One cool moment was when the SZA was performing the second verse of Tee Spirit, her mic cut off, and as she was reconnecting it, the crowd sung the words for her so she didn’t lose track or feel awkward about having a loss of sound for a moment or two. She admitted afterwards that she was fighting back tears because the audience was singing the words to her songs, and I thought that was pretty sweet. I mean, Toronto is really that city that loves a ton of artists and we take time to appreciate all of their music, not just what’s popular (I mean, depending on which shows you go to). There were even people requesting songs from her See.SZA.Run mixtape, and that caught her off guard a little bit. Who would’ve thought we’d know that much, right? That’s good on the audience for doing their homework.

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My overall satisfaction of the presentation put on by the roster of talented artists on the Tattoo stage was fulfilled, and whether it was me seeing some for the first time, a multiple time, or getting to hear a new voice to become a new fan, I got consistency in the vibe for the whole night, and given the fact that I was nearly frostbitten because of the ridiculous cold in the (almost end) of March, it gave me a warm feeling of sensation as the night concluded. Manifesto did it once again, and I was more than appreciative of them putting it on. There’s a good reason why people packed the house; even a person, as we were standing in line, stopped and asked what was going on and I told him to come in – he did. I’m glad I survived the 2nd of what was a back-to-back for concert attendance in the city. It was worth the loss of voice and the next-day full headache that forced me to recover. Until the next show,

That’s My Word & It STiXX

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