Rappers Key! and Swoosh God are two pioneers of “Soundcloud Rap”. This pseudo genre — synonymous to terms “emo rap” and “mumble rap” — has become the major stylistic approach to hip hop in the 2010s. Like it or not, one cannot deny the fact that the majority of hip hop being created and consumed falls into this genre. Where Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti, and Juice Wrld are some of the names that first come to mind when thinking of this genre, one cannot deny the fact that Key! and Swoosh God are some of the earliest and most influential innovators to this style of music. Their Toronto performance at the Velvet Underground served as an ode to their unsung legacies and proved that they still have what it takes to be contenders for the spotlight.
The Toronto crowd was just as excited to see Swoosh as they were to see Key!. This was refreshing as it is a common theme for openers to not get as much love as headliners. Falling in line with this, Swoosh’s set even felt like a headliner’s set. Specifically, it was long, had the entirety of the crowd genuinely enthused, and had the majority of the crowd rapping along to his words. Standout moments were definitely his two biggest hits: “Get Out My Face” and “Swoosh Me Up”. He gave it his all for this set with his energy being consistently high and him even planning out a special outfit for the night. To pay homage to Toronto, he showed up in an all Octobers Very Own branded outfit — Toronto native Drake‘s street wear label. Interestingly so, the act was taken note of by Drake himself who later followed Swoosh God on Instagram that night. The Long Island rapper definitely still executes the finesse and melodies that he is known for and he is able to translate this unto the stage almost perfectly. His dances, rapping, and screaming bounced off the backing track — along with numerous stage alterations to the songs — to provide a unique and fun experience.
Key!’s performance was almost perfectly fitting to his character as a person. Key! is a fun-loving individual who makes music more for the enjoyment he gets out of it rather than chasing accolades or a certain amount of fame. Key! frequented his “Hello” adlibs constantly and jokingly explained to the audience that his slow walk on stage was meant to resemble a TV commercial. The entirety of his set genuinely felt like him having fun on stage and trying to extend his carefree aura onto the audience. He frequently made jokes with fans in the front row and kept switching between tracks on his set list to fit the mood. While this could have easily went wrong and translated into a bad performance — the authenticity of this being in line with Key!’s character simply made the performance that much more authentic. The highlight of his set was definitely the song “Toronto” as it is an ode to the city. The crowd was ecstatic and Key! even repeated the song halfway through its run the first time to make sure the experience was exactly right.
The crowd was slightly disappointed with the size of Key!’s set — roughly 25 minutes. However, it was shortened to make time for an after-party which was scheduled directly after the concert. While this does show that Key! did not simply opt for a shorter set out of something like laziness, an overly short set is definitely a disappointing factor to a fan who paid money to see one of their favorite musicians. Granted, Key! made the most out of his twenty five minutes by preforming a good variety from his catalog — switching between melodic ballads and hard hitters. Fans were also left enthused by the performance overall. The conclusion of the concert was still met with ample joy.
Ultimately, this tour showcased two of hip hop’s biggest unsung heroes — individuals who pioneered a whole genre and often don’t get the credit for it. Thanks to Embrace Presents and Sidestage Presents, Toronto was able to partake in this experience. Their performances were not only reminders of all that they have accomplished and all that they should be respected for, but, they also showed that these rappers still have the talent to match all those that they have helped develop.