ARCEE with BROWNMAN and GRUVASYLUM , ZENOBIA , CHHAYA , IRON CRESCENT and UNKNOWN MISERY as part of the Masala! Mehndi! Masti! Hiphop Showcase at Harbourfront Centre, August 5. Tickets: $5. Attendance: 125. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
I was leery of this hiphop showcase at Masala! Mehndi! Masti! at Harbourfront Centre's Brigantine Room from the moment the bouncers openly mocked me at the door. More so when I wasn't given a reason why I couldn't move one of many empty chairs 10 feet from the patio to indoors, where every scarce chair was either occupied or reserved. As I watched from my seat on the floor, Canadian Idol contestant and Montreal native Chhaya Dewan belted out a spot-on rendition of the intro to Method Man's Release Yo' Delf, with the line "all you bitch-ass niggas in the industry" changed to "all you crazy-ass singers in the industry."
For the remainder of her 10-minute set - the typical length of most of the night's performances - Chhaya released enough soul to make people question Ryan Malcolm's Idol victory.
But there weren't many there to do much questioning, and that's part of what made this a somewhat flaccid event. Attendance was sparse relative to the size of the room, and the audience of straitlaced people mostly stayed outside smoking, probably because of the lack of table seating around the large, seldom populated dance floor.
Next was up-and-coming rap group Iron Crescent , who had obvious passion and heart when it came to spittin' rhymes with conscious overtones over raw beats. They even gave out copies of their CD, The Past, The Crescent And The Future.
The apparently demented Unknown Misery , who may have accosted you on Queen West ("Yo, do you support conscious Canadian independent hiphop?" - those guys), were so terrible it was funny. Most of their yell-centric thug rhymes were inaudible over beats they inexplicably kept asking the soundman to turn up, to the point where he couldn't tell when he had to play the next song. That left them ad-libbing and yelling, "Change the track! Go to the next track!" for at least two minutes.
Then, local legend Arcee , in a professor-style blazer, rocked a 45-minute set of purist rhymes over some golden-era hiphop-style beats, easily outclassing everything that had come before, with the assistance of DJ Lil Jazz 's mad turntable steez.