About a month ago, during the evening of Tuesday, October 16th, I documented Sheck Wes’ Toronto performance via RIFF Sessions XL Toronto.

Sheck Wes was the event’s headlining act, and the many opening acts included Yung Tory, Uptown Boyband and Haviah Mighty.

Among other things, RIFF Sessions XL Toronto was a celebration of cannabis’ recent legalization in Canada, as the event took place mere hours before cannabis’ nationwide legalization.

The event was produced by RIFF — a community and cannabis brand, in collaboration with The CO.LAB, which is an artistic collective bringing creative minds together from all across the country. CO.LAB’s ethos is “to transform music, art, food and fashion to mind-altering levels, while pushing the boundaries of creative expression.”

Leading up to Sheck Wes’ performance, I was intrigued by the numerous, surrealistic installations displayed throughout the Distillery (Historic) District’s fermenting cellar wherein the event took place — installations that illuminated an otherwise dark and moody venue.

The space was appropriate, given the grimey nature of Sheck Wes’ music, and the fact that a cannabis brand was hosting an event in a fermenting cellar was indicative of the legal Canadian cannabis industry’s socio-economic parallels to the alcohol industry.

What also fascinated me about the event was the cultural diversity of the patrons, the wide-variety of artistic communities represented within the space, and how unique the outfits worn by the concert-goers were.

As I walked through the packed venue, listening to the opening acts, being mindful of my photography equipment, and often bumping into and briefly conversing with countless strangers, and a handful of my colleagues, clients, and supporters, it became apparent that Toronto’s millennials and generation Z population are comprised of some of the most fashionable individuals that I have observed anywhere in the world.

After the opening acts did their thing, the crowd was primed for Sheck Wes to hit the stage, and when he did, it was as if a riot was about to begin. Coincidentally, he is signed to Travis Scott’s Cactus Jack imprint, and Scott is one of the few riot-inducing musicians that I have photographed, over the course of the last few years. Admittedly, due to my workload, multiple projects and ventures, and simply through overextending myself in various ways, I was falling asleep prior to his performance, but he certainly woke me up (as soon as he hit the fermenting cellar stage).

Leading up to RIFF Sessions XL Toronto, I had listened to Sheck Wes’ “Mudboy” album numerous times, so I was curious to see how his live renditions of records like “Live Sheck Wes”, “Mo Bamba”, “Kyrie”, and others would be received.

 

Generally-speaking, he did not disappoint, and I view Sheck Wes being the most recent manifestation of the intersection between punk rock culture and hip-hop culture — an intersection which was first popularized by acts such as The Beastie Boys and Run DMC, and which embodies the untethered rage of modern youth.

Born to Senegalese immigrants, Sheck Wes’ music delves into his interpersonal struggles, the challenges that are inherent to immigration to American, growing up as a visible minority, living in poverty, his mental health, homelessness, drug-dealing, the nature of his anger, and navigating the often confusing and discouraging commercial music industry.

With that said, he is one of the most authentic musicians that I am currently listening to, he has amazing beat selection skills (and producers working alongside him), although he is far from embodying the lyrical genius of rappers such as Jay-Z, Nas, or Kendrick Lamar.

As of today, Sheck Wes’ “Mo Bamba” is number seven on the Billboard Top 100 chart, which is a incredible feat for the twenty year old Harlem native who recorded the single about a year ago, and I am interested in seeing (and hearing) how is career evolves in the coming months and years.

More of my images of Sheck Wes can be viewed below, as well as some of his videos.