So Loki’s Sam Lucia was silenced. Mid set, his mic cut out completely, leaving him voiceless on stage. Instead of shrinking back from the sea of eyes on him, he jumped forward onto the monitor and literally screamed through the rest of “Birthday,” supported by the voices of the CiTR and Discorder community. This moment seemed to embody the spirit of the Discorder Hip Hop Showcase and Fundraiser: Vancouver hip hop was not about to be silenced.
Something August kicked off the proceedings, although I’ll be honest: at the beginning I thought I might have walked into the wrong gig. The duo came onstage in cult-like garb, hoods and all, and settled the congregation in with clattering chords and bass that brought to mind church organs and U.K. warehouse raves. With no audience interaction, they let the music do the talking, marrying hip-hop, R&B and goth in an unholy matrimony that worked for some songs and didn’t for others. Ultimately they were uncompromising on sound, setting the experimental and enthusiastic tone for good things to come.
Spotty Josif appeared soon after, cutting through the layers of atmosphere and vibes cultivated by the Crimes & Treasons DJs with no-bullshit bars and beats. His isolation onstage (with no visible producer) and in the music might have hurt a lesser artist, but his free and open style and lyrically dense cuts put his talents at the forefront of the mix.
Freeman Young’s voice dripped like honey off his mellow production, and despite his awkward placing in the middle of the night, he made it his own with a unique presence and confidence. He moved and rhymed easy, like he had nothing to prove (something perhaps reflected in his short set) bringing to mind a hybrid of D’Angelo with the skittish flow of a less aggro Busta Rhymes.
R.O.M.I. reminded me of D.R.A.M. a little, not just because of the deftly used acronym, but also the happy-trappy style they cultivated performing. The beats for sure were dark, sometimes sparse, almost never ‘happy,’ but the energy the MC’s brought to the table was infectious and wholly captivating. The lyrics were thoroughly explicit, but their sound and personalities were readily digestible. Their angelic voices perfectly juxtaposed the sordid tales they spoke of, the loveless situations. They soared over the brooding production, and added colour to the bleakness of the stories.
Missy D threatened to steal the entire show — her status as penultimate act didn’t stop her from rocking the Media Club for almost forty minutes, without so much as a pause for breath. “Too Many Feelings,” the single off her debut album, was the song I screamed back as if I’d known it my whole life, even though I’d only stumbled across it through Discorder the week before. She left the stage to rapturous applause — the reaction of a headliner. And we still had So Loki to go.
They were a revelation. Their music was at once vulnerable and pulverising, melodic and distorted. The only constant was the energy of Sam Lucia contrasted with the almost calm presence of Natura, grounding Lucia’s yelps and screams and whispers in a soundscape of jittery synths and pounding percussion. During the quieter moments of the set, Lucia seemed to be speaking in tongues, freestyling sordid somethings to a choir of nervous laughter from the audience, whose laughter quickly subsided to quiet reverence. I can’t even remember leaving the Media Club, the effect was so entrancing.
In their piece on So Loki, VICE called it “Vancouver’s Fragile Hip-Hop Scene.” However, seeing the kinetic electricity flow through the veins of each person, performer, producer and paying punter alike at the Discorder showcase, it didn’t feel fragile. It felt radical. It felt like home. It felt like it could never break. In the words of Freeman Young: “keep on making your own fucking decisions… we need CiTR.” And CiTR and Discorder needs them.