It’s still easy to hear the chants for Joey Bada$$ between the head-banger filler music that separate the sets. As is common with any crowd that comes for its main course, the hunger for the main attraction is clear and evident, validated by the Pro Era T-shirts that deck the diverse crowd along with lyrical carols that embody his music at Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall.

Despite the heavy anticipation geared towards the artist in question, a more unknown figure confronts the audience with an aura of sureness befitting a veteran. Jazz Cartier reveals no clues to the fact that he’s relatively fresh to the mainstream scene.

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A large screen serving as his backdrop displays doting imagery showing samples of a young couple in actors Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin in the 2011 film Like Crazy expressing young love; a very atypical move for a show that invites ears tuned towards the hard golden age of mid-’90s boom bap hip-hop.

A combination of both worlds – from electro sounds to the welcomed style of the older eras – the Toronto-centric rapper almost seems like a figurative oddity in his world, and it suits him well.

Transitions into more gritty tracks, like “The Downtown Cliché” and “Switch” prompt the bombastic performer to lose his shirt and embody the energy, allowing the crowd to vibe hard, with some likely hearing the performer for the first time. With a crowd revved up, as if served its entrée, an echo roars through the hall, prompting an expected reaction.

“Y’all ready for Joey Bada$$?!”

The man wastes no time reminding his audience why he’s the main course, shouting adored lyrical verbiage from his latest album B4.DA.$$ as the crowd of pre-teens, teenagers and young adults alike bounce, nod and sing in response.

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There aren’t any overpriced theatrics or hype men in Joey’s case. All he needs is his mic and his individual energy that seems to bring a classic experience to the hall, while performing songs like “Hazeus View” and “Christ Conscious”.

Further along in the show, in response to the passing of a fellow Pro Era member and close friend, Capital STEEZ, Joey Bada$$ gives one of his few commands to his audience. “Get your lighters up!” and a collective array of dimly lit illuminations blanket the floor, amidst gleaming cell phones pointed in the direction of the performer.

Joey consistently reminds the audiences of his mastery over the main stage and his ability to interrelate with the audience despite his stature. With Cartier’s freshness and Joey Bada$$’ stage experience, this feels like a thrilling concert completely worthy of the CMW price tag.

Photos By. Janelle Scott-Johnson

Noel Ransome is a freelance culture and entertainment journalist. As a former full-time writer for VICE and Associate Editor of Urbanology, he’s covered everything from getting Joel Schumacher to apologize for Batman and Robin, to the dissection of various societal and racial concerns. If there’s a conversation to be had, he wants to start it.

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