Lupe Fiasco Leads Epic Hip-Hop Show At TIFF

The rapper joins Melanie Fiona and Kardinal Offishall to raise money for impoverished children.

“Anything that has these two things in it–Canada and a great cause—you can pretty much sign me up for,” says Toronto-born, L.A.-based singer Melanie Fiona. “It’s my responsibility as an artist, as a Canadian, as someone who has even a small percentage of influence, to give back.”

Giving back was the overriding theme of the evening at Saturday night’s ONEXONE concert at Toronto’s Kool Haus—all proceeds are going to the charity, which is dedicated to helping impoverished children around the world. Fiona joined fellow T.O. native Kardinal Offishall and rap superstar Lupe Fiasco for a marathon concert that had the stylish crowd hopping, quite literally.

After making an appearance on the red carpet—which also included Kardinal and ONEXONE founder Joey Adler—Fiona opened the show with hits from both her first album, The Bridge, and the soon-to-be-released MF Life. Soon after, Kardi—who was joined onstage mid-set by R&B singer Jully Black—proceeded to bring down the house with one of the most high-energy hip-hop performances we’ve ever seen, playing to the home crowd with favourites such as “T dot Oh,” “Numba 1 (Tide is High)” and “Maxine.”

It was a tough, dancehall-infused act to follow, but when headliner Lupe finally appeared well after midnight, he head-banged through his rock-rap set—mostly songs from his latest album, Lasers, including his current smash single, “The Show Goes On”—with on-point delivery. The Chicago native even gave a shout-out to our boy Drake…Though Drizzy did not, for the first time in recent history, make an appearance (a break with tradition after surprise appearances during Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne shows this summer).

Through it all, the fashion was almost as loud as the anthems: Fiona in the highest Louboutins we’ve ever seen, Kardinal taking colour-blocking to a new level in salmon and Starbucks green, and trend-setting Lupe going grunge in camo pants and a jean jacket.

“Music is the thing that unites people,” says Fiona. “If you like the song, and everyone around you likes the song, then immediately you have something in common.” It was the perfect sentiment for a concert billed as “an evening of hope,” and one quite clearly shared by all those on—and off—the stage.–Julia LeConte