On Sunday, February 25, the Toronto leg of the “Xanarchy” tour popped off at the Mod Club Theatre and I’m glad I did not miss this show.
Over the past several years hip hop fans have been divided on the legitimacy of internet rappers. No matter what side of the debate you find yourself on numbers do not lie. The Lil Xan track Betrayed directed by hip hop’s newest impresario/mogul Cole Bennett currently sits at over 140 million views. Not to mention he scored a record deal with Columbia Records. I had to go to this show to see if Lil Xan was all hype or could actually move a crowd.
Steven Cannon, Lil Xan’s hype man got the party started whipping the crowd of rowdy teenagers into a frenzy with chants of “XANARCHY” and dousing the first few rows of fans with countless bottles of water. Nobody seemed to mind but the photographers with expensive cameras. Then it was time to see the newest hero the kids are throwing up the pop charts. When Lil Xan came running out from backstage the deafening sound of hundreds of adoring girls screaming his name made me realize instantly this was no fad but someone who has cultivated a rabid fan base willing to pay $100 of their allowance to see him live.
They would not be disappointed. From start to finish Lil Xan performed with intensity and passion that commanded the attention of the audience. His flow and tempo could use some work but he has an enigmatic stage presence that can’t be denied once you see it in person. Three songs into the set and a case of water bottles later the crowd was sufficiently wet and primed for a sing along to the newest drug-anthem When I Wake Up, a tune that I find reminiscent of Eminem’s early classic, Shrooms. Standing in a middle of a crowd of teenage kids screaming “when I wake up, I throw up, I feel like I’m dead” while the MC whips Skittles at the audience was surreal, to say the least.
Halfway through his set Lil Xan held a tribute for his friend and fellow rapper, Lil Peep who died of a fentanyl overdose in November 2017. It was quite a heartwarming experience to hear the crowd sing along to Peep’s Beamer Boy. It made me realize why this genre of hip hop is so popular. These are just kids rapping to others kids about the reality they face on a daily basis. Some might find the aesthetic of face tattoos and the promotion of drug use troubling but the same was said about long hair and bell bottoms in the sixties. This generation is desperately trying to define itself and in this new culture, vacuum artists such as Lil Xan have emerged to push forward a new version of a hip hop that many will never be able to understand.
Lil Xan closed the night out by performing his biggest hit, Betrayed twice to the roaring approval of his fans, especially the girls. Hearing every girl sing along word for word to this song solidified for me the staying power Lil Xan will continue to have. The polarizing nature of Lil Xan’s lyrics, aesthetic and meteoric rise to mainstream fame has allowed him to seep in to the fabric of our collective consciousness. I do not think his 15 minutes are up any time soon. I for one can’t wait until he rolls back through Toronto. Xanarchy Forever.
Photos by Justin Roth
Words by Dave Mauz