MGK brought the heat while Young Thug just kept us warm.
On the last day of September, Young Thug and Machine Gun Kelly had the first stop on the Justin Bieber Big Tour taking place at Echo Beach in Toronto’s west end. The party kicked off at 7 PM but being the person I am, I arrived at 730 and made my way onto the grounds while fans trickled in, some already litty while others were looking more on the hot side of the spectrum. There was a clear contrast between those who attended for Machine Gun Kelly and those who came for Thugger. MGK fans dawned their Colson Baker T-shirts from past merch grabs, while Thugger fans rocked some of the best streetwear looks with some hunnies who dared to wear stiletto heels that sunk in to the sand that made up the venue grounds.
After scoping out the array of people who posted up outside of the moshpit that Killy previously orchestrated as the opener, the whole vibe began to change. The stage went black and a video clip of Machine Gun Kelly was projected on the screen where he said hello to Toronto from his tour bus. A reel of clips from classic movies and baby photos of MGK had fans feeling nostalgic as their eyes were glued to the screen while the bad guy speech in Scarface played - the same one Nicki Minaj sampled on “Chun Li.”
Before I knew it, the giant white skull that stood center stage began to turn and there appeared MGK welcoming himself for an evening that proved he’s a rockstar. As I stood on the outside of the crowd, watching the way the front row lit up upon MGK’s arrival it became clear that he was putting on a show that couldn’t be missed, forcing me to move in and get a better glimpse. The second I was next to the die-hard fans, there was no denying MGK’s shine as he rapped with no backtracking and matched the bars to each song he delivered on his album Hotel Diablo. In between his opening singles “El Diablo” and “Glass House,” MGK revealed to the crowd that “some of the best pussy” he’s had in his life “was right here in Toronto” which (now looking back) is probably what sparked one gyal to flash him like a true “Hollywood Whore.”
The shining moment of MGK’s performance was when he put the mic down and jumped on the drum set to showcase his impressive percussion skills. MGK hit every beat to a mix of Kanye West tracks, trap beats and oldies-but-goodies such as Fast Life Yungstaz’s “Swag Surfin” and even System of The Down’s “Chop Suey.” Needless to say, the crowd went wild giving them something sweet to remember before he jumped back on his white skull stage-prop and began his Eminem diss track.
Before the words of “Rap Devil” came out of his mouth, a graphic of Eminem’s face with a gun target hit the screen making everyone aware of the bars he was about to spit. “Anyone who feels different can suck my dick,” he said after his proud performance that didn’t hear him skip a beat. Moments before MGK closed his set with “I Think I'm OKAY” -- jumping off the stage in order to be closer to his fans-- he told everyone to remain in their places for the true “icon” to hit the stage, A.K.A. his touring partner in crime, Young Thug.
There were about 30 minutes in between MGK and Thug. The audience fluctuated as some people ditched their prime viewing spots while Slime men and woman aggressively pushed through to reach the front of the stage. The banter of fans was constant - some exchanging suggestions on what song they hoped Young Thug would open with while a large section of fans sparked up, getting on a mental wave to truly enjoy Young Thug even more. At one point, a “Thugger” chant began as the smoke clouds cleared and after a few seconds of trying to get the rapper to appear faster than their patience would allow, fans went back to puffing the cloud nine they waited on. Young’s DJ got the crowd good and ready blasting "Suge," "Thotiana," "Shabba Ranks" and more usual turn-up songs. It was easy to sense we were close to the main event when Young’s team prepared a red drink and placed it in arms reach on stage, while an entourage of hunnies crowded the side stage - Jeffery had arrived.
Thugger stepped on stage as “On The Run” played and he delivered the punchline verses on the shortened rendition before giving us some “Jeffery” shit and performing a slurred version of “Cash Talk.” From the get-go, it was clear that Young wasn’t coming in as hot as MGK when it came to energy levels. He caressed the stage, walking back and forth from left to right, pointing out individuals in the crowd letting them know he saw them. The stage was equipped with a DJ booth behind Young Thug, and various Slime visuals on the screen as he strutted back and forth, busting out a little dance every once in a while. After performing “Chanel” from his Slime Language tape, the real heat was felt once “Surf” hit the speakers and the crowd instantly bounced on the repetition of “Surf, surf, surf, surf.”
Before the next tune, Young had a quick chat with his DJ, treated himself to a sip of his red concoction and then performed “I’m Scared,” but once again, a shortened teaser of what appeared to be his favourite verse: “Every nigga with me slime and sheisty.”
Thug showcased more of a vocal range with his performance of the London On Da Track-produced song “Digits” from his 2016 tape Slime Season 3. “Nigga, hustlers don't stop, they keep goin'" he sang, giving the crowd the proud opportunity to rap the next verse: "You can lose your life but it gon' keep goin.'" Thug maintained his calm, effortless grace on stage not once taking off his shades as he offered up performances of classic Thugger features like “About The Money” and 2015’s “Check” before calling on Toronto’s very own Nav to do the damn thing on their collaborative track “Boy Back.”
via @cashxo Instagram Story
"I wanna do some Toronto shit, Can I do that?" he asked his fans before Nav hit the stage in an orange Fendi hoodie. Once Nav jumped off, the mosh-pit action was sparked when So Much Fun single "Hot" took over the speakers. Considering the hype of the Gunna-featured song and the number of times fans have probably heard the tune, it would have been dope to hear Young lay down a true performance but instead, he opted to let the backing track do most of the work, jumping in for certain one-liners.
The final offerings Young had left in the vault for the evening were “Relationships,” “Pick Up The Phone,” “Best Friend,” “Lifestyle” and finally, lead single "The London" closed out the show. Young’s exit was quick while his DJ said farewell and some fans were clearly not ready to say goodbye, staring at the stage asking themselves: is it really over?
It was, at least, for this particular crowd. The Toronto stop is the first of many to go for Thugger, and while last night's performance wasn't bad, Thug could have been more personal and lively during his performance. I only hope he can tap into the amount of energy his fans are giving him in future shows on the tour. I attended the show for Thug, but I left with a newfound respect for MGK.