Toki Wright Wraps Up “Black Belt Tour 2010” at Minneapolis’ Fine Line [Exclusive Coverage]
Minneapolis, Mn. -- Last Sunday evening disciples of the Minneapolis hip-hop scene headed downtown to see the city's fastest-rising rap star and two fellow up-and-comers wrap up the first annual Black Belt Tour. Kicked off February 25 at Minneapolis' Pizza Luce, the tour took Rhymesayers phenom Toki Wright, fellow Twin Cities hopeful Omaur Bliss and D.C.-based emcee Haziq Ali across the Midwest, stopping at venues in Des Moines, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Chicago (to name a few) before bringing them back home for a closing performance at the Fine Line Music Cafe.
First to hit the stage, St. Paulite rapper Omaur Bliss spent much of his set trying to convince wallflowers to step out onto the dance floor ”Don't be scared – I won't pee on you!” he ad-libbed before launching into the Biggie-referencing opening lines of Dirty v2.0 track “What's Good:” It was all a dream / I used to read Word Up Magazine/ Now I just write raps and make sure the flow is mean.”
Tallahassee-bred, D.C.-based rapper and frequent Tabi Bonney collaborator Haziq Ali continued Bliss' efforts to loosen up the crowd. While Haziq's heavily Dirty Southern-influenced brand of “U-Can-Do-It Music” stood in stark contrast to his tourmates' Midwestern sensibilities, Ali attacked tracks like “Hussla” and “Wut Duz It Take?” with undeniable energy and swagger.
Next on the mic, Doomtree member Sims cut an unusual figure in rolled-up jeans, flannel, and a Timberwolves T-shirt; his intense renditions of cuts like “Pay No Mind,” “Say It Like You Mean It,” performed in the midst of the crowd, brought the energy level up several notches.
Toki Wright took things back onstage for his portion of the show, but that only resulted in the attendees crowding closer. Rocking a white button-down shirt and his trademark dreads, the artist and his partner, DJ Fundamentalist, kept bodies moving with spirited renditions of tracks off his much-buzzed-about debut set, A Different Mirror, as well as his recently-released BlackMale EP.
Both Toki's bone-crushing Booth debut, “The Feeling” and featured EP cut “Out of Nothing,” were crowd favorites, as was “Devil's Advocate,” a track whose official video scored Wright a spot in MTV's rotation last year. It was “Next Best Thing,” however, that received the biggest response. One couplet in particular made quite an impact, and not only because it applied to yours truly; nearly everyone in the house rapped along as the emcee delivered the lines.“I read an article that said that I'm a hype man / I ain't no hype man, f**ker I'm a live band!” Point taken.
Though it was nearing 1:00 AM when Wright wrapped up his set by jumping into the crowd for “More Fire” (after dealing with some technical difficulties that Fundamentalist later admitted he'd faked in order to receive free shots of Jameson), the emcee still wasn't quite ready to say goodbye to the Black Belt Tour. Instead, he invited all the night's performers, along with a few brave audience members, on-stage for a cipher. Following fresh, freestyled bars from all involved, Toki brought the night – and the tour – to a close, leaving the exhausted but thoroughly entertained crowd to head home and rest up for the beginning of the work week.