Saturday night shows at the Corona Theatre in Montreal, Quebec are great, especially when the weather gets warmer. There’s always a buzz in the area with tonnes of options for food and drink all the way from upscale at Joe Beef to quality quick fare at Dilallo.
A live area also means people show up early. A decent crowd had already amassed by the time Toronto’s JD Era hit the stage. A Drake protégé, JD Era definitely doesn’t share the ubiquitous rapper’s style. Era has old school flow and an old school flare for crowd interactions. His stage presence and ability to get the crowd going were the perfect way to kick off the evening.
BC’s SonReal was next. He, obviously, has a strong following on his own because quite a few SonReal t-shirts were found pushing their way to the front. The man himself came out looking like a boy band member gone solo but, if you were to judge the book by its cover, you’d be deceived. His skills on the mic were real. His nineties style raps over modern beats worked very well. He was dressed to impress the young girls but his sound is for a much more mature audience. Near the end of his set, he treated the crowd to an unreleased track from his next release, “Can I Get a Witness?” This track has radio hit written all over it, having a Kendrick Lamar vibe to it.
Our main event, the undisputed king of Maritimes’ hip-hop, Classified, hit the stage with a full band and a DJ. What says Canadian hip-hop more than having your brother as your hype man and your youngest brother playing guitar for you? Well, maybe by naming your album and tour Greatful. (A little bit of hip-hop bravado by spelling it ‘great.’) Or, the Canadian humility by thanking your audience for achieving mainstream success after plugging it out in small venues for a decade and a half.
Mr. Boyd came out to a mix of new material and old classics for the fans who were there when he was playing those small rooms, including 2010’s “That Aint Classy.” Those long time fans will unequivocally testify to the fact the his skills have grown over the years, and he sounds much tighter and more confident on the mic. For someone whose audience has grown exponentially over the last two years, he wasn’t afraid to dig into his repertoire and a lot of the tracks sounded better than they did then. He even rewarded an old school fan wearing an old “Keep It Classy” t-shirt, who identified herself as Mary Anne from Shawinigan, to come onstage and rap with him on “All About You.”
He paid tribute to his influences by having his DJ spin a medley of nineties hip-hop tracks and sang along to while he encouraged the audience to do the same. He also displayed particular skill imitating Eminem’s speedy flow from “Forgot About Dre.” He closed out his set with two breakout hits. First, “Inner Ninja” whipped the crowd into a dancing frenzy. Then, Class asked the audience if they were proud of where they’re from before inciting Canuck pride with “Oh… Canada.”
Some people say Kendrick Lamar is bringing hip-hop back to its roots, but if you’re in Canada, it never really strayed away into the land of pop (Drake who?). Canada: keeping it real since Maestro Fresh Wes.
Written by Richard Brunette
Photography by Angie Radczenko
*edited by Danielle Kenedy