NXNE 2015 - Heems + Raz Fresco + Bishop Nehru @ The Drake Hotel Underground

Presented by Say Media

NXNE Toronto - June 18, 2015


When the group Das Racist broke up in 2012, it seemed like hip hop had lost a great contender in rap music that was both funny and political. Fortunately, the themes that Himanshu Suri brought to the table with Das Racist are revisited in his latest album Eat Pray Thug, which is centered around Islamophobia. His song "Flag Shopping" is a raw and underscored look at the racism he witnessed post 9/11, and his performance was one of the most powerful I've seen in a while due to the song's lyrical genius and Suri's powerful stage presence. He sang over his own track with a sense of intensity that likely gave the rest of the crowd chills.

I know why they mad
But why call us A-rabs
We sad like they sad
But now we buy they flags
Spying on our Muslim brother
While staring at our mother

At the same time, Suri stayed true to his former group's trademark: each song was followed by a short snippet of improvised comedy. The crowd's applause was almost immediately followed by a "Stop! I don't need it. I know I'm good!" or "What have you done with your life?" I remember being a bit disappointed that I wasn't able to see Willow Smith perform that night at the Danforth Music Hall, but she was certainly there in spirit as Heems repeatedly whipped his hair back and forth. With moments of comedy, intense drumming, powerful verses, and hair flips, Heems gave Toronto an all-encompassing performance that spoke to current socio-political issues.

Raz Fresco

Raz Fresco wasted no time in making music, beginning to write rap lyrics in the second grade and producing his own beats in the seventh. Now 20 years old, he returns to his home town to share a few new songs from his upcoming album, Pablo/Frescobar. The album will contain contributions by fellow rappers Bishop Nehru, Chuck Inglish, and Raekwon. His performance was focused and passionate, hitting every word with a punch. Along with his producer/DJ, he made sure to tell the crowd that Toronto was a goldmine of talent, implying that Drake isn't the only one who should and can represent "The 6ix".

While sharing a few bars with the crowd from his new album, Raz alluded to the redundancies of mainstream rap, and concluded that many local Toronto rappers are diverging from this pattern and creating more authentic and thought provoking material.

I was lucky enough to catch a few words with him after the show. Here's what he had to say about what we can expect from the new album:

Bishop Nehru

Listening to his debut mixtape, Nehruvia, one would never guess that Markel Scott was 16 at the time of its release. Now 18, he continues to evolve as a producer, director, writer, and rapper. His performance was a true reflection of his recorded music: seamless and mature. Scott didn't cease to remind the crowd of his young age between songs, stating: "I'm not even supposed to be here. There's a security guard that keeps following me to make sure I don't drink, like chill dude I don't even". Scott has made it evident that he is focused on his career, and doesn't waste time getting caught up with anything other than music, which may be why he's had such abundant success thus far.

After a night of young talent, Bishop Nehru was welcomed by an eager crowd as the last act of the night. With a t-shirt that matched his bucket hat, some sweet moves, and a vibrant stage presence, I along with the rest of the crowd was charmed.


--Julie co-hosts Exposé every Tuesday at 11 AM, only on CJLO. Warning, kids wear helmets... your mind may explode!