CUMC 2014 "Young & Poppin" Showcase:
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CUMC 2014 "Young & Poppin'" Showcase Review: The Road to Rock, R'n'B'n'Rap-ture
By Black Krishna | BKB | October 13, 2014
Arriving at the show around 10 pm (Sat, Oct 11th) I was greeted with a fairly low-key pre-show energy with the quarter-full venue in the mood to mix and mingle and chill. I paid $10 for cover and $8.50 or $10 for a can of Creemore beer including tip. The bartender was a real sweetie who looked vaguely familiar and like she used to figure skate or something athletic like that and she had a story to tell, but probably wouldn't.
Hearing hip hop and other favourite music loud on big speakers in a nice club, in this case Adelaide Hall at 250 Adelaide St. W just a few blocks from where I live, is worth paying for since as an often rib-rattling, head-nodding, hand-throwing and body-rockin' individual and collective good time experience, especially with a good DJ playing. There was welcomed/expected Golden Age 90's stuff spinning, but solidly eclectic.
I was enjoying the ambiance and looking forward to many acts who I'd never seen or heard before.
Then the acts started arriving at the stage with a couple of 19 year old young rapper guys called "Unaffected Union". They were frankly a little green to be making the scene and perhaps not taking themselves or their work seriously enough yet, though like most performers they had enough technical skill to the point where when they finally saw a chance to try to win the crowd before they left they put their hearts into it more and pulled-off an uneven but passable to good performance. One of the guys is a better, clearer-sounding and more confident rapper, while the other has a unique deep and growly voice that's often unintelligible, but if he refines it perhaps it could be a great music tool. They also have trouble bragging in person on stage they way they might in the studio since it's obvious that few of us are really paid (i.e. "rich") like we're often culturally supposed to rap like we are, but as their confidence and character grows and develops they could be solid.
The order of acts after this is a bit fuzzy but approximated, sorry for any I missed for whatever reasons.
The "Grant Brotherz" were up next'ish, also young black rapper guys who shared some issues with their previous peers, including not pushing themselves enough to make a great impression and clearly lip-synching along with backing tracks instead of augmenting them. While stradding r'n'b to thuggery they're not quite serious enough to take serious, nor hard enough to take hard, nor fun enough to take fun. But, with some skills to work with as long as they keep working on it they can make some good music and sell it better live. Right now there's a bit of deer in the headlights stuff and they need to coordinate and focus to come off it.
Neither of these opening two acts was "bad" or hard to listen to. They were just not compelling enough at what they were selling yet, especially at an industry showcase full of people in the biz who are often cynical and critical from their pro or semi-pro perspectives.
At showcases like this with just 2 or 3 songs each for most, it starts to become really important to be able to grab and hold the crowd so they can't bare to turn away for fear this is only going to last a few minutes and they'll never be able to see it again and regret it.
While very few artists have this great quality, fortunately a few at this showcase did to varying degrees.
I recall "Yoana Rae" coming up next'ish and wasn't sure initially what to think of this slightly cynical, slightly nervous, slightly sour-faced and yet strangely attractive tall, skinny, long-faced white girl. She didn't have much presence or rapport with the host or audience until she broke into a surprisingly powerful and yet controlled rendition of Rihanna's "Stay". That was really enchanting and got the whole crowd respecting the power of the song taken seriously, including her as we were all witnesses to it done well with a lot of pathos.
Then Ms. Rae went into one of her own funner and funkier joints which showcased her ability to use that great voice to help people have fun as well as heal and feel. This established some solid bonafides with the assembled as the first truly exciting artist to hit the stage. Her talent is undeniable, she just needs to work on her presence and focusing it on the right material when it comes to how the audience wants to see her and she can synergize. She obviously has feelings to channel, she just needs consistency in her presentation.
That said, her performance was a lot of fun, like a mini-event like many of these showcases should be.
Next up'ish was "Ellevan", a good-looking and talented white rapper from Vancouver now in Toronto. He had some technically good skills and a decent look, but lacked the gravitas and persona for most of his set to pull off his rhymes with a lot of feeling, or he wasn't sure how to present them live yet. One of the organizers Rebecca came up to see what I thought of his set, to which I diplomatically replied he seemed practiced.
And it's true. He seemed practiced in knowing his rhymes, just not as much in "feeling" his rhymes and really spitting with that head-grabbing heaviness or piercing-power injected into every syllable like the greats, or close enough to it to really rock the crowd. He wasn't quite as happy, mad, sad, confused, wild, crazy or whatever as his rhymes suggested on stage, though by the end he was spitting harder to try and squeeze better reactions out of the crowd. He was good, but I recommend dressing up that solid build a bit more to create a better look for his look, focusing on blowing people's minds with the delivery of his lyrics like they're supposed to, practicing moving and working with the crowd and getting into character more. Solid journey.
I think "J-Rome" was on next and he's an R'n'B singer, but I don't remember much except he was solid.
"Pinkush'n'Kidz" were up next, including two tough-looking tatooed guys with a big fan base there and for good reason. They had the right look with the more muscled and heavily tatooed guy having a good-looking 50's tough vibe while they other had a big beard and seemed more modern skater and street-smart. They also had a great sound while soon shirtlessly energizing their fans into wildly dancing and getting the whole hall rocking with an energy that wasn't seen before. Their punk-rock-rap music seemed to have some solid melodies to augment the energy and with a serious approach to their focused performance anarchy they created a set that transcended the world of the show until it became thoroughly engaging, as opposed to the audience judging different artists on stage a certain venue. They have real "Beastie Boys" -like party rocking potential while being able to jam some substantial subject-matter swigs into that rumble-punch as long as they keep things catchy enough. Look for them to entertain you and yours if you get a chance to vibe on it.
Next up'ish was "Daniella Watters" who seemed like a sweet'n'sour artsy-fartsy young lady, a little pale and petite and at-times bitchy, but that's ultimately probably just hiding some fears and insecurities as a nice girl who wants to be a performer and put on a show. She had a nice look with some purple and blond colors in the hair and top while a partly see-through lingerie style dress added some funky sex appeal, plus a great voice with some serious power and edge. But, at times she wasn't quite emoting her material in as-convincing a way as she should. She had more of an awareness of the songs being sung than an involved disappearance into a pathological need to express some ideas, feelings and emotions, so it was at-times a bit of a technical display. Towards the end she got more into her opportunity to impress the audience and try to connect and she started to feel more of what she was saying. So, as long as she continues she should be great to see.
Shortly after I saw an artist who I was truly impressed by and who I thought was the performer of the night. This was "Del Hartley", a tall, strong, good looking and good sounding black R'n'B singer with enviable size, style, presence, gravitas, personality and "game" as intangibles go. Soon after he hit the stage the audience was gripped. He reminded me a bit of James Brown with some serious "Pay attention!" showmanship, like he'll patiently tolerate you for a split-second putting your beer down carefully to focus, but otherwise you're barely worth shooting if you're not paying attention to the greatest show on earth. Of course, one has to back up an attitude like this and for the 2 or 3 song set I think he had everybody in the crowd totally focused on what he was doing. I don't recall any specific songs since his set was more about presence and energy at the time, but I could totally see him in a longer set mixing in some more "get to know me" ballads with "just watch me" party jams. He's definitely a mover and I look forward to seeing him growing as an artist.
Unfortunately I don't remember much about "Goliath Paw" and "Sage Harris". Nor did I see "Saukrates". So, I don't know what happened. I remember bits, but I might have stepped out or to the can. Sorry.
The last artist and headliner of the night was "JD Era", a rapper and inspired performer with an authoritative and heavy flow that makes you want to ride with what he's saying. He had a relaxed set with bangers thrown in to hype the crowd up and his DJ made some expert cuts, though I felt he was held back a bit and could've been more a part of the show with his skills. While Mr. Era had a solid set, you could tell he had different levels of passion for what he was saying, so a more focused message for his street-preacher cum rapper role might help channel his obvious energy and solid flow. In the Ice-T directed documentary "The Art of Rap", some rappers said they felt it's often lyrically better to say things simple and plain as opposed to complicating them. For Mr. Era, a few more punch-lines, whether funny or not, would hook the crowd even tighter. His anthem "Smokin' Good" produced by Lex Luger was an example of him slowing down and then deliberating with his flow to get an audience he can get riding with him at a speed they can understand. Other spots were good in a solid set worthy of a headliner that may have benefited from feeling like it had more of a purpose or agenda. He's not quite a party or thug or intellectual rapper. He's a combo with room for more definitions.
All in all, a great night of urban music, thanks to all who organized, performed, attended and enjoyed.
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