By Willow Grier
September 5, 2015
CALGARY — Rain and snow overtook the city on arguably the busiest festival weekend of the year. While the heavy precipitation claimed X-Fest, and the spirits of many music fans, true hip-hop heads could not be dissuaded. A boisterous crowd filled Shaw Millennium Park in attendance at One Love, Western Canada’s largest hip-hop music festival.
Representing YYC’s heart, Humble Giants opened the show in the early afternoon, the audience steadily growing as the day wore on. It became evident that the performers of the day has been excellently curating, blending an adrenaline boosting KOTD battle in with old-school legends (Nas and Raekwon), and new-school heavy hitters (MGK and J. Cole).
Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon began the month-long Wu takeover of Calgary, to be followed by GZA at Beakerhead and culminating with the Wu-Tang Clan performing at the Grey Eagle Casino and Resort in late September. He said humbly to the crowd, “Y’all saved my life,” continuing with, “I came from nothing, but I’ve always been a good listener. And a good listener is a good writer.” Launching into an impermeable warm set that showcased those writing chops, he pulled Wu-Tang tracks, as well as his own solo work into the mix, celebrating his 20-year career in the scene.
Go-go influenced rapper Wale then took to the stage, filling it with a large live backing band that included two drummers. He energetically worked the crowd up with plenty of his trademark club bangers, addressing the rain with “Water’s for breakfast!”
To follow, Machine Gun Kelly‘s aptly named blazing percussive style took centre stage, although his manic hype did encounter some sound difficulties and mic cut outs during the first couple songs. Undaunted, the self-proclaimed “best stage show in the world” did deliver, with MGK charging about the stage like a raging bull, his punk attitude easily notable. As another artist using a live band setup, his drummer seemed to be more involved and memorable than both of Wale’s combined, and his whole stage crew matched his acrobatic intensity well. MGK vocalized his appreciation for the crowd, and kept them jumping even as the rain reached its highest intensity of the day.
While the other artists more than held their own, the truly legendary Nas took to the stage, and held a commanding presence unlike anything else imaginable. Widely regarded as one of the best MCs of all time, his king-like aura and unparalleled rhymes summoned an epic crowd response as soon as he stepped to the stage. Calm, cool, and collected, he simply oozed magnetism, summoning words from the deepest part of his diaphragm with unrivalled power. Nas performed a multitude of his best, fan-favourite tracks, including “NY State of Mind,” “One Mic,” “It Ain’t Hard To Tell,” “The World Is Yours,” “Memory Lane,” “Life’s A Bitch,” and many more. His intelligent, thoughtfully crafted words, melded with intensely memorable production has labelled Nas as one of the greats for many years, and he truly delivered to a hungry Calgarian audience. As he performed One Love, one of his most widely known, deeply personal tracks and then gave props to One Love Festival and all of the attendees, everything felt like it was coming full circle. He carried the theme of the day, which seemed to be “starting with nothing and becoming something great,” and everyone in attendance could pat themselves on the back for being a part of such a powerful event, and growing the scene in our fair city. Truly, grand things are possible anywhere.
Aglow from the abundant energy of Nasir Jones, crowds huddled in several inches of mud and water, determined to stay until the wrap-up of the day. As J. Cole took the stage, snow began to fall, and while this proved to be the tipping point for some, a surprising majority of fans stayed to vibe out and shut down the day. With the whole crowd soaked to the core, but glowing with familial energy, One Love Festival was a triumph, and showered the city with unyielding spirit.AB, Alberta, Humble Giants, J. Cole, Machine Gun Kelly, Nas, One Love, One Love Festival, Raekwon, Shaw Millennium Park, Wale, Wu-Tang Clan