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It felt like every head in Toronto was at Yonge Dundas Square for the sixth annual Manifesto Festival of Community and Culture. Even the weirdly cold weather and afternoon downpour did little to dampen the "hip-hop playground" atmosphere that permeated the show.
Last weekend's sixth edition further cemented Manifesto's rep as one of Canada's best hip-hop festivals. This year's highlight, as in previous years, was the free Sunday show, headlined by veteran Queens MC Pharoahe Monch and T.O.'s own BADBADNOTGOOD.
The show kicked off with an early set by D-Sisive and kept going strong throughout the afternoon and evening, as the crowd eagerly ate up performances by hometown heavyweights like Maestro, flanked on either side by two flag waving b-boy's fully decked out in RCMP regalia, and Michie Mee, who spat a verse as part of the Ladies First Cypher.
Rich Kidd & SonReal/The Closers performed a tight set later in the evening before special guests, The Beatnuts and Tha Alkaholiks, dropped a boozed up barrage of verses. Thanks go to them for giving us one of the best rap-group names ever: The Liknutz.
Monch and BBNG took to the stage around 10 pm and kept the energy high, with BBNG providing the sonic backdrop for Pharoahe's monstrous flow. Pharoahe ripped through tracks like Fuck You (cleverly bypassing the festival's strict no swearing policy by encouraging the crowd to belt out the hook), My Life and Let's Go.
There was a definite focus on his newer material, which left some fans wanting a little more Internal Affairs and a little less W.A.R. Of course, this was all reconciled once BBNG dropped the opening bass line of Simon Says and the crowd went predictably bonkers.
Although this year's fest seemed slightly scaled back compared to previous years, taking place over three days instead of the usual seven, it was still packed with events: a whole day of workshops and seminars led by T.O. luminaries like Kardinal, Shad & Jully Black and parties and showcases, like Friday night's opening jam at the newly opened Regent Park Arts & Cultural Centre, where heads from all over the GTA and beyond came together in appreciation of art in all its forms.
The mission of the festival, according to Che Kothari, executive director, is "to unite, inspire, and empower diverse individuals and communities through innovative arts and culture." This mission was in full effect at Sunday's Art Is Power walk down Yonge, which united Manifesto with 55 other community organizations in an effort to show the powers that be "that without art in the mix, we can't save the world, we can't empower young people, art is a part of the holistic cycle that we need to create a healthy community and a healthy society."
Fittingly, Sunday night's festivities ended in true ‘Festo fashion with all in attendance raising two fingers in the air.
Peace Manifesto, see you next year.