Hands down for me personally, this is the most hip-hop infused NXNE I’ll be attending yet. Juicy J, Danny Brown, Pusha T, A$AP Ferg and keynotes/panels with some heavyweights. I’m ready. While sorting through the schedule at www.nxne.com and planning which events I’ll be covering for Urbanology Magazine, I thought it would only be right to not only share my “Can’t Miss” events of this year, but also my helpful tips to surviving them.

My Top 10 Can’t Miss Events at NXNE:
10. Redbull Sound SelectFriday, June 20 at Tattoo (567 Queen St. W.) 8 p.m.
Don’t miss A$AP Ferg put in work, put ’em in the dirt on NXNE’s busy Friday night slot as part of the Redbull Sound Select. Things are expected to get real tight and real turnt inside of Toronto’s Tattoo as Montreal rap group The Posterz and Toronto song-goddess Shi Wisdom open the show, before “Shabba Ranks” rips the venue apart. A Redbull may not even be necessary as the energy should be enough to give you wings.

9. Keynote, Oliver El-Khatib: OVO and the Creation of a Global BrandSaturday, June 21 at Hyatt Regency (370 King St. W.) 3 p.m.
Rare, very rare. It’s not every day that Drake’s co-manager and founder/creative director of the OVO brand shows face (except for Instagram and Jimmy Johnson video shoots), let alone drops some knowledge. The final panel of the festival will end on a high note when The Remix Project’s Gavin Sheppard interviews Oliver North on the secrets of the owl and everything Drizzy related.

8. USA vs. Canada Beat BattleSaturday, June 21 at MOD Club (722 College St.) 8 p.m.
Things are about to get intense inside of the MOD Club on Saturday night for The Beat Academy’s USA vs. Canada Beat Battle, as some of the best production talents that the U.S. and Canada have to offer will face off in a beat war, judged by production gawds Young Guru, Jake One and Symbolyc One. With heavy hitters on #TeamUSA like Kush Skywalker and Logic, and beat masters on #TeamCanada like C-Sharp and Chef Byer, it is anybody’s crown. Who will reign supreme and earn the trophy and the bragging rights?

7. A3C x NXNE ShowcaseFriday, June 20 at Studio Bar (824 Dundas St. W.) 8 p.m.
“Every A3C ambassador chose one or two artists from their respected markets,” explains A3C Canadian ambassador Erin Lowers. Independent acts from Austin, Houston, Atlanta, New York, Boston, Vancouver and Toronto will all be represented on the Studio Bar stage following an industry mixer. “It’s incredibly important to have this collaboration, because it’s two festivals from two incredibly different markets. A3C has been focused on indie artists for so long that it only made sense to bring it up north and expand the American market into the Canadian market and have artists to be able to have a performance here. It’s exciting to know that we have this opportunity.”

6. Keynote, Paul Rosenberg: The New Album Campaign Friday, June 20 at the Hyatt Regency (370 King St. W.) 4 p.m.
Shady Records, need I say more? Hear stories about Em, and gems from a legend, in an intimate and interactive panel. With working alongside names like Blink 182, Xzibit, Cypress Hill, Action Bronson and Danny Brown under his belt, Rosenburg’s keynote speech is sure to be nothing short of incredible.

5. Pusha T on VICE IslandThursday, June 19 at Toronto Island 4 p.m.
VICE Islands is a new twist to the already riveting NXNE experience. Wristband and pass holders have the chance to jump on a private ferry head across Lake Ontario for a unique festival where King Push is set to perform. Turning up to “Blocka” on an island? It only seems right. RSVP here: http://rsvp.vice.com/viceisland/

4. Making It As A Music Writer panelSaturday, June 21 at the Hyatt Regency (370 King St. W.) 1 p.m.
Everyone thinks they’re a blogger and everyone has an opinion now that the Internet gives anyone who can spell (or even not spell) a platform. But there’s rules to this sh*t that Vice Canada’s Patrick McGuire, Noisey Editor Drew Millard and Ernest Baker, rap Twitter’s favourite realest, will be laying down the blueprint for. Take notes, or find out what your favourite rap writer is like outside of the Internet, either way, make sure you hit it up.

3. Smashmouth Mentality x NXNE ShowcaseSaturday, June 21 at Wrongbar (1279 Queen St. W.) 9 p.m.
As expected, Smashmouth Music Group, a budding Toronto independent label, will be showcasing its own artists Dillan Ponders, Jimmy B and SeT during the night’s hip-hop showcase, but it’s not just about the SMMG shine. Atlanta artist/producer/DJ ForteBowie, responsible for the catchiest hit “Gucci Mayne” will be slaying the Wrongbar stage for the first time in Toronto. Whether it’s the music you came to hear, or a rant from Toronto’s Suge White, who will be hosting the event, make sure you’re there.

2. Vann “Piano Man” Walls: The Spirit of R&BSunday, June 15 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (506 Bloor St. W.) 12:30 p.m.
Catch the Canadian premiere of this film, which features the story of Vann “Piano Man” Walls, a rhythm and blues pioneer, and his impact on rock ‘n’ roll. Directed by Steven Morris, the flick takes viewers on a journey through Vann’s fascinating life and the span of his 65-year career. Watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCQAYcUo8_I

1. Aaaand, of course: Live @ The SquareAll Festival Long Yonge-Dundas Square
From Thursday until Sunday, there will be free shows at Yonge-Dundas Square with some artists you can’t miss. Danny Brown (who’s only performed in Toronto once before at a sold out show with Action Bronson), Juicy J, Run The Jewels, etc. Toronto’s Flex The Antihero will also be performing alongside these hip-hop favourites as a Canadian headliner on the main stage. “It’s an honour from last year, from doing a couple small shows to being recognized alongside the big acts this year. I feel like it’s deserved. I put out one of the better projects of the year as Canadian artists, I would say. I think it’s going to open a lot of doors,” he says. “It kind of represents going to the next level. Any opportunity for NXNE is an honour, but to that, it’s kind of regarded a little higher in who they select and the calibre of music that is on there as well.”

Some Samantics NXNE survival tips:

  • Don’t OD on free energy drinks (or liquor) on the first festival day; it’s a long 10 days.
  • Talk to anybody and everybody. You never know whom you’re going to meet.
  • Take advantage of having all the industry professionals in the city and NETWORK with them, even if it’s just to introduce who you are.
  • Pack as much into your day as possible. There are multiple shows going on at the same time.
  • Take advantage of the free. Free swag, free shows and free drinks. They’re everywhere. Stock up.
  • But try not to carry too much with you unless you want your limbs to fall off.
  • Wear comfortable shoes that you don’t care will be ruined. Because they will be.
  • What happens on Vice Island stays on Vice Island. Unless you’re a journalist and have to report it.
  • Bring your charger, everywhere. I won’t judge you if I see you in Starbucks or inside the subway station, squatting and charging your phone, because I’ll probably be next in line.
  • Give business cards, take business cards.

Samantics is a weekly column, written by columnist Samantha O’Connor, highlighting and discussing the Toronto hip-hop community – the talent, the identity, the events, the slang, the industry and all things in between.

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