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Monday, June 15, 2009

hip hop highlights at nxne 2009

From NOW Magazine

In addition to an extremely special performance by GZA, this year’s NXNE features a number of prolific (and slept-on) rap acts. Grab a cold one, roll up whatever you need to and slap on those headphones; here are our top picks.

FREEWAY at the Opera House (735 Queen East), June 19, midnight. $20 or NXNE wristband. nxne.com.

Freeway plays Toronto for the first time, and the buzz is deafening. Formerly on Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records, the Philly Freezer’s gravelly, nasal flow, unique delivery and underdog status make him a fan favourite around the world. With a new album, Philadelphia Freeway 2, and a new label, Cash Money, he’s ready to unleash his bravado on a virgin audience. Get there URRRLY to avoid a lineup.

MR. LIF at the Opera House (735 Queen East), June 19, 11:30 pm. $20 or NXNE wristband nxne.com.

If anyone’s going to make political activism palatable in rap, it’s Mr. Lif. What separates the Boston hip-hopper from the rest of his ilk is his stage presence and ability to bring the crowd to a frothy boil before it even realizes it’s getting hit with anti-war sentiments. Lif’s capable of converting even the most staunchly commercial rap fans, so get ready to sing along to favourites Phantom and Iron Helix, plus new material from his recent independent release, I Heard It Today.

THE COOL KIDS at Yonge-Dundas Square, June 21, 9 pm. Free. nxne.com.

In 2007, the Cool Kids rolled up to the rap scene on BMX bikes strapped with bass bins. Since releasing Black Mags that year, the duo of Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish have survived label woes to land their music on Entourage and the NBA 2K8 video game, all while refusing to let go of the bicycle iconography. Now comfortably settled on C.A.K.E/Chocolate Industries/XL, which will release their upcoming mixtape When Fish Ride Bicycles, the Cool Kids are tuned up to deliver provocative lyrics and idiosyncratic beats with street-wear swagger.

AZ at the Opera House (735 Queen East), June 19, 12:30 am. nxne.com.

AZ’s been a legend ever since claiming the only guest appearance on Nas’s first album, Illmatic. Though he has collaborated closely with 90s New York rap icons – most notably the Firm, with Nas and Foxy Brown – he’s taken a decidedly quieter path than his peers, focusing on his craft and adhering to his own ideas. The result? A cohesive, high-?quality catalogue and dedicated fans.

MILES JONES/KAE SUN at Harlem (67 Richmond East), June 19, midnight. nxne.com.

Friday’s showcase at the intimate Harlem sees the convergence of two rising local talents: Toronto’s Miles Jones and Hamilton’s Kae Sun. Jones, whose father is local radio DJ “Deadly” Hedley Jones, is impressively mature and introspective for a 25-?year-?old and has garnered the respect of Detroit production phenom Black Milk. Sun, a Ghana-?born singer, songwriter, poet and rapper, infuses his songs with soulful inflections reminiscent of Detroit’s Dwele. Jones and Sun have amazing chemistry and are proof positive that there’s strong rap talent brewing in the north.