When it comes to supporting the Canadian hip-hop scene, the monthly artist showcase known as #BigTicket is a huge deal.
Billed as the “ultimate hip-hop party and performance series,” the regular Toronto event (held on the second Friday of the month) started up in 2012 as an outlet for rap artists, both established and emerging, to display their skills while bolstering the hip-hop community at large. The list of artists who have performed at the show reads like a rap who’s who of the Canadian scene: Raz Fresco, Masia One, Twelfth Letter, Robots Wearing Sunglasses and the one and only Maestro Fresh Wes.
According to event promoter and organizer Chris Jackson, the event builds on Canada’s already deep hip-hop history, one he notes still needs to be nurtured and cultivated.
Jackson might be best known for leading the way in organizing the hugely successful and significant CBC Hip-Hop Summit in 2011, which celebrated the quarter-century mark of the cultural movement in the country. As a hip-hop veteran and music industry professional for more than two decades, Jackson has been a constant in the scene, be it promoting events, managing artists or generally being a champion for all things hip-hop. And while the #BigTicket series isn’t a direct spinoff from the summit, it did help Jackson to realize the need for such an event.
“It seems like hip-hop in Canada is growing without any direction,” he says, adding that the monthly event aims to deliver a foundational level of leadership, teamwork, mentorship and professionalism to the scene. “Everyone seems to be following instead of making their own statement.”
Jackson notes what’s truly missing in the scene is infrastructure, and the series aims to address that. Putting together the regular show isn’t an easy undertaking — organizing, booking and spreading the word — but Jackson says he does it out of love.
“Back in the day, we did it because we loved it, and we wanted to do it,” he explains. “Fast forward 20 years, there are a lot of us now who grew up with hip-hop and find themselves in positions of power. Therefore it’s my responsibility to reach out and help develop and share that knowledge with the younger generation who want to get into the industry.”
Toronto rapper Dan-e-o agrees that #BigTicket represents a great opportunity for both up-and-comers and industry vets to connect in order to help grow the scene. The established artist is a regular fixture at #BigTicket, be it hosting or performing as one-half of hip-hop duo Perfeck Strangers (which Jackson manages).
“Hip-hop lives and thrives at #BigTicket,” Dan-e-o says. “It’s Toronto's top spot each and every month to get your fix for the good stuff. It's also an all-around good time for hip-hop fans thirsting for the realness in today's desert of played-out gimmicks.”
It’s more than just live performances, notes Jackson. The event features networking opportunities, music video screenings, the ever present merch table (T-shirts, mixtapes) and, recently, the launch of author/pop culture critic (and CBC Music contributor) Dalton Higgins’s book Far From Over: The Life and Music of Drake.
That said, expect big things for #BigTicket in 2013. The January event kicks things off with artists like Perfeck Strangers, Tommy Spitz, Trace Motivate and more. Jackson notes that the event plans to get bigger and better from here on out.
“We need to start working together to develop a solid industry,” he adds.
See the next #BigTicket show featuring Large Live n' Direct, Robots Wearing Sunglasses, Perfeck Strangers, KemiKAL, SepTO, T.R.A., Trace Motivate, Tommy Spitz, Scott Ramerez and L.I.U. at Toronto's Velvet Underground (510 Queen St. W.) on Jan. 11.
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