On November 17th, Montreal hip hop fans were treated to the last stop of the six-week tour dubbed The Canadian Classic Tour featuring three generations of Canadian Hip-Hop royalty including Choclair, Maestro Fresh Wes, headliner Classified, and newcomers Twondon. It went down at the Corona Theatre.
The show was scheduled to start at 20:00 and unbeknownst to me, it did! There were a couple opening acts before the main three and when I walked in, just before 20:15, Dj Odi Wun was warming up the audience and a rapper, whose name I didn’t catch (apologies to you, sir) was wrapping up his set. Apparently I missed something pretty cool as there were indigenous dancers in full dress on the stage with him.
Next up to keep the crowd going was Twondon from Englewood, NJ. It was his first time in Montreal, and most it certainly won’t be his last. I didn’t catch any track names but he’s got a solid flow and is very confident on stage. Despite many people hearing him for the first time, they had an easy time getting into it. His second Ep titled Cheers to Us All just dropped this past Monday, November 19th. I had the opportunity to quickly say hi after his set, he was really cool, telling me he’d be back as a headliner one day. I believe him. Check out tracks from his first EP Paradise Isn’t Free on Soundcloud.
Following the up-and-comers was Canadian Hip-Hop veteran Choclair. His first album, Ice Cold, was released in 1999, and features the track he opened with, “Rubbin,” which I hadn’t heard in some time. It was released when I was a young adult and theinnuendo in its lyrics caught my ear: “You fronting like I ain’t ’bout to knock it I got a rocket in my pocket Two tickets to your ecstasy.” Hearing it again was nostalgic. He performed some of his other classics like “Light It Up,” “Made (to Move Mountains),” and another one of my favourites, ‘”Love ‘Em All” from the 2002 album Memoirs of Blake Savage. He had plenty of fans in attendance which was evident with so many people mouthing along to his raps and rhymes.
After Choclair was another veteran performer often referred to as “The God Father of Canadian Hip-Hop” – Maestro Fresh Wes! His set wasn’t particularly long, but he certainly made good use of the time he had. He played a few of his classics and some mash-ups. He opened with “Drop the Needle” from his 1989 debut album Symphony in Effect and followed it with one of my favourites from his 1998 album Built to Last, “Stick to Your Vision,” which samples “These Eyes” by The Guess Who. Another track he performed featuring a classic rock artist was Lawrence Gowan‘s “Criminal Mind.” Gowan himself appears in the video for the track. He also played “I Know Your Mom” which is a comical song that he says is based on a true story. And of course, he played his biggest hit “Let Your Back Bone Slide” which was the first hip-hop track to go gold in Canada. He fished his set with the track “Reach for the Sky (Try)” which was produced by Classified for the 2013 album Orchestrated Noise and samples Blue Rodeo‘s “Try”.
And lastly, the headliner for the evening Classified graced the stage with his crew, back-up vocals, and keyboards. Classified is an artist that seems to always be busy and always on the go. Released just this past October was his 16th studio album titled Tomorrow Could Be the Day Things Change. He performed a range of classics and new tracks including “Maritimes” which kind of became an anthem for the east coast of Canada, and “Changes” from the new album which features the artist Anjulie. For this particular live version, we got to hear the vocals of his keyboardist Owen who honestly blew me away. For the whole set, every time he sang it was noteworthy. Another new track Classified performed was the song “Powerless,” the first single from the album whose lyrics and video address abuse and injustice towards indigenous girls and women. Next he brought out special guest Ruby Waters to perform the track they did together on the new album called “10 years.” She sings and play guitar, and it is a lovely track indeed.
What hip hop show would be complete without talking about bud, especially in Canada where we can now talk about “Legal Marijuana,” a track also from the new album. And yes, he was puffing away on stage… without being kicked out, like some of the audience members.
The show wrapped up withsome shenanigans and all three main artists together on stage. A fan came up to sing with them (even though she couldn’t sing) and others unsuccessfully tried to follow. A 13-year-old who was at his first show ever got to crowd surf with instructions and encouragement from Classified himself. It all culminated with them singing “Oh Canada” and thanking everyone for coming out for the last stop of the tour. It was a fun night!
Written by Joey Beaudin
Photography by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Kate Erickson