We acknowledge that this is not a review of an EDM event, however when an iconic DJ like Jazzy Jeff is in town, we feel his presence is noteworthy, wouldn’t you agree?
Last Thursday was the first time I’ve attended a hip hop event at Maison Mercer, in fact it was the first time I had been to a hip hop event in years, so the change in scene was quite refreshing. The large DJ booth was set up in front of the elevated bar, right at the edge of the sunken dance floor, which allowed for a more intimate experience between the DJs and their audience. The club was quite full by the time I arrived and the crowd was a mix of the young and preppy, the older and sophisticated, the hardcore hip-hop fans, and the regular club-going party people.
That night, I was just going as an observer, so I grabbed a drink and found a comfortable spot by the back bar and prepared to watch the night unfold. Opening the set was Toronto’s own DJ DLUX who, by midnight, had the club bouncing to the sounds of modern urban music. Everyone was there for a good time – bottle service girls were circulating the club and men and women alike had secured their spots, dancing on the couches and letting loose in preparation for the main act.
Behind DLUX was DJ Jazzy Jeff, who seemed to be acquainting himself with the crowd – he too was bouncing along to the sound of DLUX perhaps in preparation for his set. Around 12:30am, the MC, Skillz (formerly Mad Skillz) took over the mic and introduced the man who, really, needed no introduction. “If you love music, put your hands in the air” and the crowd responded. Skillz explained there would be something for everyone – old school, hip-hop, funk, soul, reggae and more, and with that, Jazzy Jeff opened with Jay-Z’s Big Pimpin’.
From the get-go there was a mix of tracks from the 90s, early 2000s, and into the current year. The first 20 minutes brought us dance-able R&B and well-known hip hop. We heard Ginuwine’s Pony along with DJ Khaled’s All I Do Is Win, some Kanye & Jay-Z as well as some classics from The Notorious B.I.G.
Jazzy Jeff definitely brought in the variety promised as he transitioned into slower reggae hits like Bob Marley’s One Love, Buju Banton’s Boom Bye Bye and even Jamrock by Damien Marley. I was definitely taken back to my early clubbing days when hip-hop, R&B, and reggae had a more prominent place in mainstream music – remember that?
Of course throughout the set, Jazzy Jeff threw in his insane scratching techniques, which brought a unique flavour to what was a fairly commercial, crowd-pleasing set. Tracks like Black Rob’s Whoa and Luniz’s I Got Five On It, while good on their own, were made more enjoyable with Jazzy Jeff’s touch and the playful antics of Skillz. Most notable was the crowd teasing that occurred when the intro of Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg’s Next Episode played over and over with DJ Jazzy Jeff scratching along. Then finally he dropped the track that everyone was waiting for.
Around 2:15am, the beats got a little faster while Jazzy Jeff picked up the pace and introduced the sounds of house music. That was a cue to many people that the night was wrapping up, so jackets went on and the dance floor became more spacious. By 2:30am, club was moderately busy and DJ Jazzy Jeff made his exit. The party continued with the closing DJ, but the following day was a work day for me, so I made my exit as well.
Before leaving, I had the opportunity to ask people in the club about their thoughts on the set. For the most part, they found it to be enjoyable, however they seemed to be expecting more. One comment came from Toronto-based DJ Danke, who said this was definitely a crowd-pleasing, party set, appropriate for the venue – not something you’d hear from Jazzy Jeff spinning in his basement. Expected, but not preferred.
We see this theme in the EDM world all the time – DJs and artists who have their own sound, but create a fairly commercialized, mainstream set to please the masses. I suppose it’s just the nature of the business, so I am not entirely surprised. Nonetheless, it was a good party night at Maison Mercer. But then again, I didn’t expect any less.
Until next time…
Anjali Handa – EDM TOR