Toronto rappers make debut in VICE documentary, 6ix Rising

By: Andrea Josic & Raizel Harjosubroto

Toronto’s TDOT era is coming to a close after rappers like Kardinal Offishall and Rascalz coined the term “T.O.” a decade ago. When artists like Drake and The Weeknd put the city on the map, The ‘6ix’ became Toronto’s new nickname. 6ix Rising, a new documentary by VICE, follows the journeys of the city’s emerging rappers and how they made a name for themselves on the rap scene.

The documentary features artists Prime Boys, Friyie, Big Lean, CMDWN, Jazz Cartier and Pressa. Director Shawney Coney explores their stories, how the city influences their music and how they are on the verge of fame.

It opens with Jimmy Prime of Prime Boys, a rap collective consisting of himself, Donnie and Jay Whiss. A rap collective is different from a rap group because while the rappers collaborate to make music, each artist has their own discography as well. Growing up in the Esplanade, Prime and his friends created Prime Boys and focused on rap in order to stay out of trouble.

Jimmy Prime in 6ix Rising. (Courtesy of Noisey by VICE)

Jimmy Prime in 6ix Rising. (Courtesy of Noisey by VICE)

“I invented the ‘6’,” says Jimmy Prime. “The ‘6’ is a new brand for the city. I felt like no one was taking the city seriously.”

Rapper Friyie was inspired by the different cultures and musical sounds in his neighbourhood of southside Jane and Finch to make music.

A few months after he graduated from York University, Friyie performed his hit single Money Team at the T-Mobile arena before the Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor fight in August.

“It’s crazy how life works,” said Friyie after watching Mayweather working out to his music. “I was a young kid just working and trying to spit motivational music and it was able to motivate a legend like Floyd Mayweather.”

In December 2015, rapper Big Lean lost his close friend, Lotto Max, in a drive-by in Parma Court, a public housing project neighbourhood in Scarborough. Although he lost the partner with whom he created the rap collective Da Degrees, Big Lean stays motivated to pursue music.

“I’m going to go hard for what he wanted and what I wanted,” says Big Lean. “He’s working up there and I’m working down here until we meet again.”

CMDWN, pronounced “come down,” a Toronto rap collective consisting of Fiji and Ca$tro Guapo, was originally known for hosting house parties in a one-bedroom apartment above a bar.

Ca$tro Guapo’s family is from South Jane and Fiji’s mom lives on Parliament and Shuter. Coming from rough parts of the city, CMDWN uses music as an escape.

“Music, to us, is a gateway to freedom to do what we want and live how we want,” said Fiji.

As the duo’s personalities gained laughter from the audience throughout the screening, it’s evident that CMDWN’s chemistry attracts various crowds.

“We’re opening doors for people that are different,” said Fiji. “Our fans vary from hipsters to weirdos, to hood n*****.”  

Toronto-born Jazz Cartier claims the city as his home. He looks down upon artists who leave Toronto for the U.S. to pursue music because when they return, he feels they can’t claim the city as their own.

Jazz Cartier in 6ix Rising (Courtesy: Noisey by VICE)

Jazz Cartier in 6ix Rising (Courtesy: Noisey by VICE)

“Your city has to f*** with you before anyone f***s with you,” said Cartier, in regards to creating music in your hometown.

Despite the respect he has for the city, Jay Whiss of Prime Boys feels that an artist needs to go to the U.S. in order to make it big.

“We get caught, we can’t go to the States,” Whiss stresses the importance of keeping a clean record. “That’s the number one market. So if we can’t get there, it’s useless. There’s only so much you can do in Canada.”

Pressa originates from the Driftwood neighbourhood near Jane and Finch. Pressa has been unable to tour in the U.S. because of a criminal record.

His career started as an opening act on Drake’s Boy Meets World tour. Last May, Pressa’s show in London, England was cancelled due to negative press around his arrest in early 2016.

Pressa in 6ix Rising. (Courtesy of Noisey by VICE)

Pressa in 6ix Rising. (Courtesy of Noisey by VICE)

“I have better things and better plans for my future,” Pressa said when reading his allegations. “I’m just trying to work and have a better life than where I came from.”

While these rappers have gained local attention, they have yet to take their fame outside of the country.

Whiss acknowledges that it’s difficult to break through. “A lot of people in Toronto have a spotlight as if they’re a big artist already,” said Whiss. “The pressure of having to take it to that next level and getting there, it’s hard.”

In a Q & A session after the screening, Coney said that he is looking into making a documentary about music producers who are more established, with 10 or more years of experience in Toronto’s music industry.

The full Noisey documentary can be viewed here.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra enchants audiences with Harry Potter Concert Series

By: Gabrielle Reyes Nostalgia filled the air as thousands of fans poured into The Sony Centre for the Performing Arts last night to experience the film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets like never before.

The Harry Potter Film Concert Series, presented by The Sony Centre and Attila Glatz Concert Productions, has returned for the second installment of the film series. Led by guest conductor Joshua Gersen, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra performed the iconic score with the film projected behind them on screen.

(Gabrielle Reyes/CanCulture)
(Gabrielle Reyes/CanCulture)

In stark contrast to the formal tone of most orchestral performances, this film concert series is an immersive experience. An unmistakably strong sense of community was felt as audience members collectively engaged with the film and its music through cheers and applause. Before taking his place at the conductor’s podium, Gersen even had audience members cheering for their Hogwarts houses.

The Sony Centre also featured a pre-show talk, “Behind the Curtain,” with TSO’s principal harpist, Heidi Van Hoesen Gorton and Toronto-based journalist Deirdre Kelly. They discussed the intricacies and challenges of performing such an iconic film score and what it takes to prepare for it. Van Hoesen Gorton noted how rewarding it is to be able to perform John Williams’ works, being a fan of Williams herself.

The pre-show talk put the performance into perspective, giving audience members an in-depth look at the show, explaining how various instruments and musical themes are used throughout the film to evoke emotion and complement the film’s atmosphere and characters.

The opening notes of Hedwig’s Theme were enough to elicit excited cheers from audience members. From the ominous musical themes of the Forbidden Forest, to the soaring horn melodies heard on the Quidditch pitch, John Williams’ orchestration brings life to the film. The themes of the second film are far more sinister than the first, and this was evident in their performance. The TSO’s use of articulation and contrasting dynamics effectively emphasized character nuances and tonal changes between scenes. While there is little room for interpretation while playing live with the film, the TSO brought Williams’ score to life.

Their synchronicity with the film was on par with that of the original soundtrack. The TSO blended their sound beautifully with the film, leaving audience members spellbound. In the best of ways, it was easy to forget that a live orchestra was performing a few feet away.

Two decades later, the Harry Potter series continues to captivate fans in new and exciting ways. From the devout Harry Potter fan, to the dedicated TSO patron, to the John Williams enthusiast, this film concert series promises a night of magic and entertainment for everyone.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets In Concert continues at Toronto’s Sony Centre until Oct. 14.  Tickets are available here.

For even more Harry Potter, check out the details for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in Concert next May!

Joey Bada$$ and Miguel shine at Ryerson's Sundown Music Festival

By: Nathan Williams The Ryerson Student’s Union hosted “Sundown Music Festival” last Friday, one final concert jam for students to enjoy before the summer weather begins to fade. Artists Joey Bada$$ and Miguel headlined the show held at the picturesque Polson Pier.

There were high expectations for this year’s event after the backlash that the RSU received following the controversial outcome of last year’s “6 Fest."

Sundown kicked off with a performance by Toronto’s very own all-female rap group, The Sorority. With a sound heavily inspired by 90s hip-hop, their hard-hitting lyricism and homage to rappers from decades past got the crowd involved.

Next up were The Skins, an afro-punk band known for their collaborations with hip-hop artist D.R.A.M. Hailing from Brooklyn, The Skins’ musical style incorporated hip-hop samples from the likes of fellow New York City artist Jay-Z with their own R&B sound.

From Ajax, Ont., rapper Sean Leon took the stage. This was his second RSU concert performance and he captivated fans with his stage presence, bringing energy into his rhymes. Playing songs such as “Steve Harvey / Family Feud, his catchy hooks had the crowd singing along.

(Gavin Mercier/CanCulture)
(Gavin Mercier/CanCulture)

Earlier this year, hip-hop artist Logic had to postpone his Toronto stop on the "Everybody's Tour." The festival was a great opportunity for fans to see Joey Bada$$, who was supposed to accompany Logic on his tour.

Joey Bada$$ made his presence known through his style of “conscious rap." A hip-hop mainstay, Joey Bada$$ played hits from his 2017 studio release ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$. “Land of the Free”, and “Devastated were just some of the tracks performed from this politically-charged album.

Not one to shy away from controversial topics, this full-length LP discusses racial tension amidst the wake of the new American presidency. For long-time fans, he played his classic hits “Paper Trail$” and “Christ Conscious”.

(Gavin Mercier/CanCulture)
(Gavin Mercier/CanCulture)

Starting his “Wildheart” tour at Sundown Music Festival, Miguel was the last artist to take the stage. His smooth voice and R&B sound delivered a relaxed vibe to an easygoing crowd. Audience members swayed to the likes of “Do You…” and “Coffee”.

His backing band energized the crowd with powerful guitar riffs through each song. Ending the night, Miguel performed his major hit “Adorn” and appeared once more to sing his upcoming hit, “Skywalker”, as a surprise encore.