If you’re not up on NXNE, let’s just say it’s the sister festival of SXSW and the A3C of Canada. Every June, the festival takes place and artists – known and unknown – grace the stage. Likewise, conferences, workshops, comedy and art play a major role in making this event successful. While you may not find the Southern hospitality you would at A3C, there’s a world of talent and familiar names you can catch this year in the Screwface Capital, otherwise known as Toronto.
If you love a late night, you’ll love the time slots for the hip-hop shows. If you happen to want to make it to your job the next morning, luckily there are repeat acts throughout the week. While most of the shows have a cost, Sunday is a full day of Free99 music – including Joey BadA$$ and Ludacris. As much talent as there is, in no particular order, here’s my Top 13 Acts to see this year.
1) The Antiheroes
Weds, June 12 – Wrongbar – 12:15AM
Sat, June 15 – Wrongbar – 10PM
Toronto duo The Antiheroes go back to the basics with complex rhyme schemes and a Golden Era feel. Having recently released their LP Modern Day Riot, the duo has held their own with Thurz and Ash Riser, as well as Sugar Tongue Slim and fellow local artist Rich Kidd.
2) Mickey Factz
Weds, June 12 – Wrongbar -10:10PM
Sun, June 15 June 15th – 12AM
Coming out of The Bronx, Mickey has worked with the likes of Drake and Travis McCoy, and his last project, Mickey Mause, was dubbed a “#MasterPIece” by none other than Lupe Fiasco.
3) Tre Mission
Sat, June 15 – Wrongbar – 9PM
London, UK transplant Tre Mission has embraced the Toronto culture and nuzzled it into his ever-growing popularity. Still repping the grimey streets of UK sonically, Tre enlists big electro beats and a swift flow to deliver dope music.
4) Deniro Farrar
Weds, June 12 – Wrongbar – 11:25PM
Fri, June 15 – Wrongbar – 12AM
Sun, June 16 – Dundas Square – 4PM
As Deniro Farrar works on his June 18th-release, The Patriarch II, the North Carolina native doesn’t want anyone to label his music, other than himself – music which he calls cult rap. Check one of his three shows and see for yourself!
5) Rich Kidd
Sat, June 15 – Wrongbar – 11PM
Having worked with everyone from Drake to Raekwon, producer-rapper Rich Kidd has gained a buzz across North America and is definitely noted as one of Toronto’s best. With a hard hustle, a wild passion for his music and a crazy dope show, be sure not to miss out on this act.
6) Seth Narley
Weds, June 12 – Wrongbar – 830PM
While Seth Narley is more than likely most ‘popular’ for his track with A$AP Rocky, the Bronx native delivers some dope rhymes and is currently working on his forthcoming mixtape Chanel Rap, which will feature the likes of Troy Ave and Al Doe.
7) Truth Universal
Weds, June 12 – Crawford – 12AM
One of the few Southern acts comes via way of New Orleans and in the form of a man named Truth Universal. Labeled a staple in the N’awlins hip-hop community, it’s always best to hold down our legends – whether they’re from our city or not.
8) The Underachievers
Thurs, June 13 – Wrongbar (No time, but don’t forget to enter the contest here!)
Sun, June 16 – Dundas Square – 5PM
The Underachievers are a Brooklyn duo signed to Flying Lotus’ label, if this helps decipher what they may be like. Psychedelic, but mellow, the duo’s music is rooted in knowledge, lyrics and dope production.
9) Panther & The Supafly
Thurs, June 13 – Nocturne – 9PM
The Vancouver collective, Panther & The Supafly, fuses modern hip-hop, R&B, jazz, pop and electro to create an eclectic soundscape that anyone can enjoy. While they’re definitely new to the scene, and their lead MC hasn’t been doing this too long, their music is nonetheless smooth as hell.
10) Frankie Payne
Fri, June 14 – Crawford – 1AM
Frankie Payne, 1/4 of Toronto group Freedom Writers, recently released his solo LP Clarity and as a storyteller, he represents the city that he’s from and the life that he lives. With or without his group, Frankie Payne puts on a great show and puts his heart into it every time.
Weds, June 12 – Wrongbar – 930PM
NY spitter ANTHM made a name for himself in the past few years with his mixtapes and EPs, including a collabo project with L.A. rhymer Blu, and has taken a break from his Wall Street job (yeah, I know!) to join the NXNE activities June 12th.
12) Joey Bada$$ + Pro Era Crew
Sat, June 15 – Wrongbar – 1AM
Sun, June 16 – Dundas Square – 8PM
There’s not much to say about this Brooklyn crew. Their heart is in it, their lyrics are ridiculous, and they’re one of the freshest and most tight-knit crews the hip-hop community has seen in a minute. Don’t miss it.
13) Smif N’ Wessun
Sat, June 15th – Velvet Underground – 11PM
Sun, June 16th – Dundas Square – 7PM
Again, what more can I say? Legendary Smif N’ Wessun are almost 20-years deep in the game, and still producing and performing great music.
And finally, but an obvious not-needed-to-be-numbered act:
Sun, June 16th – Dundas Square – 9pm
Luda came as a surprise, after OutKast member Big Boi couldn’t make it. We can’t complain. Hopefully the weather is nice and we can rock out (for Free99) to Luda’s discog.
Likewise, there’s a side-film festival that also takes place during NXNE. Two major films for the hip-hop community to check out are the following:
1) All Out War
Thurs, June 13 – Bloor Hot Docs Cinema – 9:15PM
All Out War is film that explores one of hip-hop’s fundamental pillars – breaking. It follows four b-boys at different points in their careers, who all happen to end up at the same competition. Peep the trailer.
2) B.B. King – The Life of Riley
Fri, June 14 – Bloor Hot Docs Cinema – 6:45PM
Sampled by artists like Big Daddy Kane, Big L, Kendrick Lamar, Action Bronson and Ice Cube amongst others, B.B. King may not have directly meshed with hip-hop, but certainly left his imprint on our souls. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, the documentary features clips from over 250 hours of footage of the legend.
And finally, the panels. While A3C is known to hold some of the greatest panels of any festival, NXNE offers some great information as well – especially for Canadian artists. From grants to songwriting, marketing to licensing, there’s a good 30-or so panels and workshops for budding artists and entrepreneurs, but here an essential three:
1) What’s in a Label? Indie Hip Hop: Back From the Dead
Fri, June 14 – 3PM – Hyatt Regency Hotel – Room E
In light of independent artists (i.e. Mac Miller, Tech N9ne etc.), this panel explores the (re)emerging line of indie labels and signings that have recently happened, and the future of rap signings at major labels.
2) SOCAN Emerging Songwriters Workshop with Keith Harris (Black Eyed Peas)
Sat, June 15- 2PM (Workshop) – Hyatt Regency Hotel – Studio C
SOCAN, which stands for Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, is teaming up with BEP real head honcho/producer/songwriter/music mogul Keith Harris to not only talk songwriting, but also head an actual writing workshop.
3) How Technology is Remixing Copyright
Thurs, June 13 – 145PM – Hyatt Regency Hotel – Room D
Everybody with a mixtape and uncleared sample should attend this – DJs, producers and artists alike.
Whether or not you make it out this year, if you’re looking to expand your fanbase and brand yourself in a Canadian market, NXNE 2014 should be on your list of things to do. And be sure to check the rest of the schedule for other hip-hop acts. See you there!