CMW 2014: Thursday

By James Li

My first night at CMW began at Tattoo Rock Parlour on Queen West, where Karla “Hustlegrl” Moy presented a showcase of Toronto hip-hop in cooperation with Noisey. Hustlegrl is an apt name for a young prodigy like the 21 year-old Moy, a graphic designer and blogger who is best known for launching Drake’s former official fansite, All Things Fresh. Hustlegrl also made her debut as a DJ this night. Hustlegrl’s DJ set included everything from funk to dancehall, but it felt more like a tour through hip-hop. She started off her set with classics from TLC, Jay Z, and Kanye West, progressed to modern favourites like Pusha T, Schoolboy Q, and Drake (naturally), and finished off with some more visceral fare from YG, A$AP Ferg, and Migos. Although it seemed like she needed some time to get into the speed of mixing and the set seemed to run a little long, Hustlegrl displayed some impressive DJ skills, more so considering that it was a debut.

APB at Tattoo Rock Parlour for CMW

APB at Tattoo Rock Parlour for CMW

The first act of the night was A-Game, a Toronto hip-hop duo. A-Game’s Nova and Chase wear their influences on their sleeves, beginning their set rapping over hard-hitting and triumphant beats from Drake (“Trophies”) and Jay Z (“Tom Ford”). But if there’s any hip-hop act that A-Game remind me of, it’s Clipse: both duos are two brothers who deftly riff off each other. But while A-Game do not usually approach Clipse’s level of cocaine-dusted hedonism, they came close when they ended their set with their sleeper hit, “Money Made Me Do It.”

Before APB, another hip-hop duo, hit the stage, their hype man asked if there was anyone from Scarborough in the crowd and if they ate beef patties and oxtail, two quintessentially East end foods. Judging by the number of Scarborough hats in the crowd, it was safe to say that the East end was well-represented. Good news for APB, who unabashedly represented Scarborough. APB’s Bon Voyage and Beck Motley’s rapid-fire flows contrasted against their live backing band, whose sound borders R&B and synthpop more so than conventional hip-hop beats. Whether it was APB’s upbeat sound or hometown pride, the crowd was the most energetic during this set, and the floorboards shook from their non-stop jumping.

Tre Mission at Tattoo Rock Parlour for CMW

Tre Mission at Tattoo Rock Parlour for CMW

My favourite act of the night was Toronto rapper Tre Mission. Although he’s from this side of the Atlantic, he would be easily mistaken for a rapper from London than from Toronto, with his unwavering cadence and slight West Indian accent and slang. While he has a cult following in the UK’s grime scene, he has mostly flown under the radar in his native Toronto. However, his casually masterful lyricism over gritty fast-paced production won me over and made me wonder when more North American rappers will start to dabble in grime.

Unfortunately, because doors opened later than scheduled and technical difficulties pushed the sets back, I did not stay around to catch the last set, Naturally Born Strangers, fronted by Drake collaborator Rich Kidd. But if the rest of the night was any indicator, it would have been another good set. This showcase is a testament to the budding talent in Toronto’s hip-hop scene – even if these acts weren’t on Degrassi.

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