Live Review: Nomadic Massive

Nomadic Massive at Montreal’s International Jazz Festival // Montreal, QC // July 2, 2011

Global hip-hop has been on my radar for a while now.  I was introduced to Montreal super-group Nomadic Massive in 2009 at NYC’s CMJ Music Marathon. Since then, I’ve only caught the 11-member orchestra in the States. When I heard they were booked four consecutive nights at Savoy du Metropolis in downtown Montreal during the city’s International Jazz Festival, I made up my mind to take the trip to catch the show.

If there’s any group that effortlessly epitomizes international hip-hop, it’s Nomadic Massive. The outfit is a composite of musicians, singers, and emcees from around the world who have come together under the cultural hotbed of the metropolis to promote hip-hop culture and social justice. Their four nights at Savoy included collaborations with other Montreal emcees like The Narcicyst and local roots group Groundfood.

I attended the second night of their residency. Doors opened at 11pm, and by half-past the club had stopped letting people in. By midnight, there was a line around the block. The group informed fans that the previous night they had made history – as 2,000 people were turned away from their show. Tonight was proving to be no different.

They opened up with some of their best material, starting the night by playfully teaching the crowd how to hold swagger and be stylish. Nomadic Massive is known for their playfulness and their energy. They make hip-hop accessible by showing the public that anyone, as long as they’re being the flyest, truest-to-themselves they can be, can find enlightenment by expressing themselves through this genre.

What I say energy, I mean energy. They never stop moving – dancing, running, jumping, joking with each other, or hyping the crowd. Nomadic Massive is an exercise in cardio, hip-hop that flexes your mind, body, and soul. The band members are multi-instrumentalists, and are all lyricists. They’re tight, well-rehearsed, and confident. From Super Fam to Sundance, the first hour of the night got the room sweltering.

Playing alongside Groundfood and Narcy, Nomadic Massive ended the night with a ’90s hip-hop revival. While jumping on and off stage, dancing with the crowd, and rapping from on top of amps, Nomadic Massive brought back Biggie, Mos Def, Black Star, The Fugees, J Dilla, and even Cypress Hill with clarity, honesty, and heart.

When I told them I came from Boston for one night, they couldn’t believe it. If you’ve ever felt what this kind of music makes you feel, you would have made the trip too.

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