DJ IV breaks down Halifax Hopscotch Fest featuring Tech N9ne, Lil Jon & more [Review]
Halifax, NS – Halifax’s Hopscotch Festival, like many other festivals, needed a few tender years of growth to help shake the kinks out. In the 4th year running, they added the fuel to the fire they needed to prove that Hopscotch can weather the storm and be a staple festival for Halifax like Manifesto is for Toronto, like Under Pressure was for Montreal… Covering all aspects & elements of urban culture & arts, featuring local artists that have helped mold the scene for decades to new comers who have recently found their passion within the walls of hip-hop, hosting international urban artists, producers, DJs, MCs, break dancers and being able to pack 3 days worth of entertainment into a “something for everybody” city wide adventure.
The 2014 Festival directed towards exposing the local youth to urban arts and culture kicked things off with a soft-opening featuring visual urban art at The Dart Gallery, artist Christian Toth showcased his contributions of paintings, murals & a variety of works from other artists. Some of those artists were also invited to do live art installations for the official grand opening night, a first of it’s kind… Drive In Concert!
The first event of the consecutive 3 day weekend started in a place you might of heard of before… KOTD Champion Pat Stay frequently represents “The Darkside” or Dartmouth as we call it, a quick ferry ride or jaunt across the MacDonald Bridge, stick to the coastline until you come across a little spot called Dartmouth Cove. The backdrop for this FREE to all event, a building covered in vibrant colours being painted by artists from all over the world, creating a live background for the stage pitted right in front of them. The stage setup with turntables, keyboards and lots of space for the 30+ MCs who were invited to perform in the cities biggest cypher to date. Hotrod cars lined the sides of the stage and plenty of other vehicles piled in for the events “Drive In” concept… picture a tailgate party meets the vibe of a drive in theatre… except there’s no movie, it’s a live show!
Having a local radio station on the dial synced with the output of the soundboard, you could pull your car up, pop the trunk and let the show bump through your car speakers! DJs Hotcue, Fester & Tom Fleming held down the tunes for the actual 24 rappers that showed out to spit their skills. There were a lot of salty rappers who I personally heard talking about why they didn’t get invited to the cypher, to them I need to say, next year… Apply to perform when they put out the call for submissions… it will get you involved easier than complaining about it will. The MCs who applied for the 2014 cypher ranged from newbies on the mic to veterans MCs who have built followings in Atlantic Canada, the whole event was captured on video and will be available for your consumption in the near future. Finishing off the night was Electronic duo Scientists of Sound, as the sun set, the group played beats till curfew and everybody got down drive in style!
Day 2 of Hopscotch had to be one of the most anticipated series of events, maybe not the biggest, but definitely the talk of the town had to be on Saturdays FREE Event on the Halifax Waterfront featuring Pat Stay vs. Rone in a compliment battle, which would later be headlined by producer AraabMuzik. Kicking off the night were local dance troop The Woods, the group has danced at many events over the past few years and the progression of talent in the collective is growing with each performance.
Breakdancing took to the stage with the annual “Roast The Coast” bboy Battle in their 5th year of inviting Atlantic Canadian bboys and bgirls to come compete for their chance at taking home $500 and champion bragging rights at what has grown to be the breakdance battle of the year to be at.
Continuing with the night, a crowd of I would say over 500+ were gathered on hand to witness what was about to happen… an event that would go down in the books of Halifax’s hip-hop history. KOTD (King of the Dot) Champion Pat Stay in his hometown, just across the water from where he grew up, taking on fellow battle rapper Rone in what was called a “compliment battle.” Pat Stay appeared with his propeller beanie cap looking like he always does, ready to go and eager to get it on.
Once things got situated and those who felt the need to be on stage made their way up there to secure their prime spot for viewing the battle, things got underway with Rone going first… What happened next, 3 rounds of EPIC back 2 back compliments with the most intense convictions, had the crowd loosing it, the laughs, the “ohhhh’s”… the “ahhhh’s” coming from the crowd of people ranging in ages of toddlers to grandfathers. I turned around at one point and saw a 60 year old man hysterically laughing. I’m talking knee slapping, keeled over laughing at the things that Pat Stay was delivering to Rone. To be an epic battle, all props cannot go to one side, Rone came very prepared and it’s possible, IF you were judging the battle that night, he could of even won the battle… his lines, comebacks and intensity all made for an amazing battle.
If you know anything about the Halifax waterfront, you know on any given day you can catch some people fishing down there. At one point somebody had referenced something about fish in their lines. No sooner did the words come out… a slimy old mackerel came flying up on stage supplied by a few local fishermen who had stopped by to enjoy the battle on their way out of the waterfront. When your on a stage with 500+ people in front of you… that fish is getting launched!
And so it did… accompanied by another one… and later in another round somebody had tossed one up again which was quickly re-directed into the crowd. As the fish was in the air, the crowd got louder… that growing “aaaahhhhhhhhhhh” got real loud followed by everybody bursting into laughter as the mackerel struck a young woman right in the side of her head. As Pat Stay says in the video, “She got skruck with a mackerel.” Hilarity all through the battle which was hosted by local heavyweight Quake Matthews. Wrapping up the battle, he announced that they had both won because the match was not being judged. All of which was caught on tape and will be released shortly, stay tuned for that!
A quick changeover allowed everybody to grab some of Pat’s mercy or dap up different members and fans of the scene. I can’t even begin to describe how many selfies and people I saw connecting. It was a beautiful thing for Halifax’s hip-hop culture and those who were there to support it. Lots of heads bumping, people chatting who haven’t seen each other in a while and general respect and fandemonium happening all around. It’s almost as if everybody who’s doing something in the scene was out, even though I know they weren’t all there… but it felt really good as if everybody was there. AraabMuzik was up next, he started in on his set in true Dipset fashion… real heavy and Travis Barker like… he had heads knockin’ and a large crowd up front of the stage stayed for his 2 MPC performance.
Local Monthly dance party “The Jam” held a super heavy Hopscotch Edition by bringing in the legendary DJ/Producer Just Blaze to perform a DJ set at the Marquee. There’s a few things one must know about Halifax… A) Any show that comes to town, in true hip-hop head fashion, SHOULD to be held at the Marquee Club… it’s legendary and B) If you’re in town and “The Jam” is happening… if your not there, your an idiot! The good homies DJ PLAEBOi and Loukas Stilldrunk – along with Dj T-Woo – have built up this amazing night that’s kind of like an anything goes night for the heads, featuring a looping roll of the most oddest SFW footage they can find on the internet playing on screen, the music can go from one genre to the next, yet it stays funky and everybody who’s anybody who don’t mind getting down and stinky with it can come out, let loose, and have a good time… no questions asked!
Needless to say, when you add in a super producer/DJ headliner that has made tracks for everybody from Jay Z to Saigon to Freeway… if there is anywhere else to be, you better have a damn good reason for not being in attendance.
The night went off amazingly with Blaze opening up his set going thru his catalog of bangers he’s produced for everybody over the years, morphing into a clap your hands medley followed by a weed anthems medley. He went all over the board playing some trap music and even dabbling in some EDM tunes which got old quickly with the crowd. As a good DJ does, he read his crowd and switched it back to playing classic anthems that everybody was feeling. A true and humble gentleman as he stuck around and talked to fans after the show, everybody left the Marquee that night in a great mood.
The final night of the festival featured 2 world class artists headlining the event. Tech N9ne and Lil Jon were on everybody’s minds all summer as the anticipation built for Hopscotch. The night was finally here, everybody had made their flights and the show was ready to go. Strange Music fans and kids screaming “OKAY” started lining up at the Cunard Centre doors. Kasper K. (Official Festival Photographer for HipHopCanada) had pointed out with a picture she had taken that the line was a lot longer than we had thought it was…
I was blessed to be able to DJ the start of the night as the crowd shuffled into the venue. I went through a medley of tunes, throwing in an occasional juggle and scratch during my set. I was informed they were going to hold the performances to allow the line-up to get inside so everybody could see the show and nobody would be stranded outside.
I thought it was a great idea, but it had totally slipped my mind that it would probably cut into my set time later in the night. So all the meanwhile I’m DJing for the crowd thinking I’m going to have a set later. And I was saving my Redbull Thre3style routine for that later set, which did ended up getting cut due to holding the line. As a DJ, I still learn things… that night, I learned not to hold back sets anymore! Quick intermission to get ready for Tech.
As the crowd started chanting for Tech N9ne, he and Krizz Kaliko waited for their cue point to rush onto stage. His intro started, his body guard manned his position and with that Tech took to the stage, face painted in white like the Ultimate Warrior. The crowd saw him suddenly appear in his red outfit, they went nuts as he started in on his 90 minute performance. If you’ve ever seen a Tech N9ne show before you know that he puts it all into his performance, choreographed dancing, singing, & all out entertainer. If you haven’t seen a Tech N9ne performance, then I strongly suggest you reach next time he’s in your area. He’s full of life and will leave you feeling that you got your money’s worth for what he delivers back to you.
With a small, almost seamless change over, Lil Jon stepped up to the decks and performed a mostly DJ set that consisted of Trap beats and EDM where he dabbled into some dirty south tunes. He finished off his set performing a medley of his biggest songs including “Yeah,” 2006’s “Snap Ya Fingaz,” and of course, “Turn Down For What,” etc.
I wasn’t overly impressed with his DJing skills, but maybe I’m just biased because I am a DJ. His hype man skills are on point as expected, but his performing style was more going through the routines rather than planned out performances. Seeing Tech N9ne and Lil Jon back-to-back was kind of like seeing both ends of the spectrum with Tech being the guy that puts everything into his show and has worked to earn every dollar he has, and Lil Jon being the flash in the pan gimmicky rapper who got rich quick for a few quotables on over-priced production. A lot of people said that Tech should have been the headlining performer, although I agree with that statement, I understand why Lil Jon finished the night off. Turn down for what, right???
I want to give a quick round of applause and shout-out to the whole Hopscotch crew that helped make this event happen, notably festival organizer Billy Comer. The work you and your HRM Civic Events Staff are doing for the city is remarkable! Everybody on the Hopscotch Committee, Michael McGuire, Christian, Alexis, and Sam. Those who helped volunteer their time, Corey LaRue, R$ $mooth… There’s always people I’m missing, S/O if you attended any of the events! But lastly, certainly not least, I need to extend the most gracious of thank you’s to Chyloe Gallant aka Kasper K. Photography for visually and mentally covering this event as an exclusive on behalf of HipHopCanada.com, and every other event that goes on in this city… for everything you’ve ever done to capture these moments in our lives, you and your work will receive more praise than you can ever imagine for being there to freeze frame all of those times. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, the Halifax hip-hop scene will be worth a hundred thousand trillion thanks to the coverage you’ve given it… On behalf of the community, thank you for that!
After this weekend was all said and done, as a fan of hip-hop I am truly anxious to see what the Hopscotch crew has in store for next year. It’s becoming more amd more known as a great weekend to be in Halifax, a weekend you want to be apart of whether it’s performing, attending or being entertained. I have friends that have travelled more than halfway across the country to attend Hopscotch… TWICE! Whuddup Devin! The 5th year anniversary next year is going to be bonkers, I already know, I can feel it because in order to top what they did this year, it’s going to have to be of epic proportions and that makes me happy. Being a patriotic Nova Scotian, born and raised in Halifax, I am glad that these international stars get to come here and experience our side of the world. We have always had something special here and those who travel to see what we have to offer always leave with a smile. Rone will never forget that mackerel toss… only in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Twitter: @HopscotchHFX | @DJIV | @KasperK_Photo | @MarqueeBallroom
Tags: Araabmuzik, Battleaxe Warriors, BAXWAR, Classified, DJ Fester, DJ Hotcue, DJ IV, Halflife Records, Just Blaze, King Of The Dot, KOTD, Krizz Kaliko, Lil Jon, Pat Stay, Rone, Strange Music, Tech N9ne, Tom Fleming