After a controversial debut this past summer, the Winter Edition of Vancouver’s first hip hop festival, BREAKOUT, came back with a vengeance.
5,000 Vancouver hip hop heads gathered at the famous Pacific Coliseum to witness Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Cardi, KILLY and more deliver their most WORLDSTAR worthy performances of the year.
With Billboard artist level production, helpful event staff, and careful stage management, Timbre Concerts and CRESCENDO1 made a great first impression. Between CRESCENDO1 Founder Johnny Black hosting, and Fortune Sound resident Raiden on the decks, they kept the hype building until the first opener took the stage.
The local openers including: ILLYMINIACHI, ACDATYOUNGN*GGA, Rude Nala and Yurmsauce all had festival worthy performances. But it was Yurm, the first to grace the stage, who made the most memorable debut. As soon as the young artist took the stage, the crowd erupted. Beyond the music itself, I was blown away with his commanding stage presence and consistent energy throughout his 20-minute set. Other stand out opening moments included a surprise performance by Toronto’s Pressa, Vancouver’s ILLYMINIACHI’s Tofino-level crowd surfing, and G.O.O.D. Music’s Valee enjoying some legal Canadian cannabis mid-performance.
Near the end of the break before the first headliner, the anticipation was palpable. The stadium echoed as KILLY’s hype man masterfully took control of the crowd, priming them for the Toronto rapper to take the stage. In a second, mosh pits emerged, bass rattled chests, and the crowd took flight. From his darker toned “Doomsday”, to his love ballad to LA “No Sad, No Bad”, KILLY had the all ages Vancouver crowd in a frenzy. By the time he dropped his breakout hit “Killamonjaro”, he had us all believing he could “introduce us to the life and live forever”.
Between sets, Raiden kept the energy at absolute max with bass heavy bangers from Tekashi69, A$AP Ferg and the trending, chart topping hit “Mo Bamba” from Shek Wes. After a brief pause, the stage dawned a green, matrix-esque dark tone with an apocalyptic cold war era introduction to Playboi Cardi’s set. The “Magnolia” rapper’s presence was magnetic, dropping banger after banger including “Get Dripped”, “R.I.P.” and the Lil Uzi Vert featured “wokeuplikethis*” and “Shoota”. The bass was so intense at the front that I went up into the stands to give my ears a rest before the final act.
The break to follow was the only misstep in an otherwise flawless event. The crowd grew restless and murmurs circulated debating whether the headliner would flop last minute as it happened at the inaugural festival in the summer. As if he flipped a switch, in an instant, thousands of voices ignited when Lil Uzi Vert finally appeared. Dripped in a Whistler ready designer outfit, flexing animated dance moves, and tears pouring down teen girl’s faces, hip hop’s emo punk prince had arrived.
Since debuting on the XXL Freshmen List in 2016, and despite being labelled a blight on hip hop’s history as a “mumble rapper”, Uzi has consistently stood out among his peers with a string of hits. Drawing from metal, emo, and punk influences of the 1990s and 2000s, specifically Marilyn Manson & Paramore, his unique style and sound have cemented him as a quintessential artist of the hip hop dominated late 2010s. Seamlessly capturing the minds and hearts of the teen-filled audience, “Money Longer”, “Do What I Want”, “The Way Life Goes”, “Sauce It Up”, and “Top” gave the crowd everything they wanted and more in a headlining festival set. Every word of his exhaustive 45-minute set could be clearly heard, with his biggest hits “Bad and Boujee”, “New Patek” and “XO Tour Llif3” uniting the crowd in a groovy chaotic euphoria.
7 hours, 10 performers, and 5,000 people later, BREAKOUT had successfully closed its first winter festival. After years of attending EDM and mixed genre festivals, it was refreshing and fascinating to feed the hip hop head inside me. Festivals are a unique breed of event, creating a community of youth connected by nothing but a shared feeling. As a fan, you want a place where sound and light supersede all other sensory inputs, where life-changing friends, memories and mistakes are made in moments. It’s a difficult and delicate process to pull off successfully, so as an event promoter I applaud the BREAKOUT team for pulling it off (seemingly) with ease. Most of all, as an artist, I commend them for creating a platform where stars, up-and-comers, and fans go in, and only the best performers get the chance to BREAK OUT.