Aminé highlights packed Manifesto bill

Echo Beach turns into massive community party

Where: Echo Beach, Toronto
When: Fri., Aug. 11
Vibe: Going from the BBQ to the after party
Rating: NNNN (out of 5)
Highlight: Relentless Diaries turning up with the crowd

THE FRONT OF THE STAGE is populated early in anticipation of Aminé, the headliner for this year’s edition of Manifesto. Founded in 2007, Manifesto is one of the country’s premier youth arts and culture platforms. Its focus is on prioritizing Black communities and creating local arts, community and culture, both on and off stage. Manifesto Festival of Community & Culture is its flagship event and, in the past, has featured Daniel Caesar, JID and Charlotte Day Wilson.

Echo Beach looks more like a festival than a concert. There are two stages: the main Manifesto stage and The Block stage. On the way in, you see the CBC tent and The Block stage right away. The Block is a weekday radio show hosted by Angeline Tetteh-Wayoe; it focuses on music of Black origin and, with it being the 50th anniversary of hip hop, there is a quiet, celebratory feeling in the air.

The Block stage is more intimate and features traditional rap acts like Clairmont the Second and Saukrates. This attracts a small mob of die-hards older than the main-stage crowd.

There are more food options than you’d expect at Echo Beach. Early in the evening, much of the attendees are seated at the dozens of picnic tables. The sun is still up, but there is more summer behind us than ahead of us.

The screams for Skiifall on the main stage are chilling, and his moody drill drums have some heads bobbing. His sound is clearly influenced by the drill stylings of the U.K. and New York. The hair-raising vocals are a fit with his aggressive lyrics; confident and direct, his voices travels across the grounds.

He starts Ting Tun Up, his most popular song, and gets a massive reaction. Halfway through the first verse, he pulls it up and the excitement magnifies.

The main stage is hosted by The Relentless Diaries Podcast. One of the fastest-growing podcasts coming out of Toronto. Following Skiifall’s set, hostsZoie Smith, Tresor and Clyde Smith stay on stage while Giovanni plays the best dancehall and afrobeat songs of the summer. Tresor dances until he is exhausted, as the crowd feeds him energy.

Kuruza are up next, their monthly party series has been appointment viewing in the city. This Toronto-based DJ collective consists of Onii-Sama ( DJ/MC), Minzi Roberta (DJ) and Kiga ( DJ), and almost instantly they take the energy to a whole different level.

Smoke engulfs the stage as lyric-less dance music blasts through the speaker. The sounds are vibrant, the kind of drums you feel in your chest. Anthony Aka-Anghui is playing the saxophone in every song, giving them their own custom horn section

By the time Kuruza are on stage, the number of people in front of the stage has doubled. Onii-Sama (Freddie) is on the mic, and he effortlessly gets the people going.

After what feels like an hour of straight dancing, we are ready for Aminé.

His DJ sets up and does his part to get the crowd going. He plays remixes of some big hip hop songs, keeping the audience on its toes — then, without any warning, Aminé runs out on stage. He starts with Mad Funny Freestyle, a fan favourite from his 2021 mixtape, TWOPOINTFIVE.

His colourful sound features colourful, shimmering synths and up-tempo drums that fill the air. Aminé’s music has a dance element that is hard to miss, the kind of beats you would hear during a Boiler Room set. His vibrant fusion of hip hop, R&B and pop takes over the night.

With Aminé, every song feels like a hit — no matter the project, no matter the era. When he stops rapping at the end of a line, his fans pick up where he left off without fail.

His showmanship is on full display. He elicits a call and response, but one that is not typical for a hip hop show. He says, “You’re beautiful,” and instructs the crowd to say, “I know.”

Even for those who aren’t die-hard, the energy is high. Aminé professes his affection for Toronto: “All my favourite Africans live here.” He replaces lyrics with Toronto multiple times and each one gets a pop from the crowd.

Aminé and Montreal-based producer Kaytranada released their joint album, Kaytraminé, in May. They have yet to formally tour the project, and Aminé alludes to it being on the way. He performs a few songs from the album (Sossaup & Rebuke), many of which we are hearing live for the first time.

Someone is holding a sign that says “Let me rap Big Sean’s verse on Master P”. Aminé acknowledges the fan saying, “I’m not doing that tonight, that’s for the Kaytraminé tour.”

Later on he asks, “Are there any Spice Girls out here?” and everyone loses it. Girls are literally jumping up and down with their knees in the air. He performs Spice Girl, one of the standouts from his first album, Good For You; this is one of the biggest songs of the night. He goes straight into Wannabe by Spice Girls, which, almost 30 years later, still hits.

Aminé brings the party to Echo Beach, connecting with the die-hards in the front and making the casuals dance in the back.

The energy does not let up. He slows it down for Caroline, his most-streamed song to date and his first true hit. This gets everyone singing along and then losing their minds once the drums finally come in.

He concludes with his hit Reel It In, ending the night on a high note and, I’m sure, leaving with a few more die-hard fans.