Is MURAL too big for its own good?

The festival experiences growing pains in its sixth year PLUS reviews of Pusha T, Playboi Carti & more memorable sets from Weekend 1.

Pusha T. Photos by Mr. Wavvy

MURAL Fest has become a monster, for better or worse. The 10-day event celebrates art and culture, with some of the world’s most esteemed muralists coming to the city to flaunt their talents. Alongside the murals, the festival also boasts an impressive rap line-up year after year. This year’s free hip hop block parties featured some of the most talked about names in the genre, locally, nationally and internationally.

Since its incarnation in 2013, MURAL has only continued to expand. With this year came some noticeable growing pains. It is clear that the venues for concerts have are now too small for their large ambitions. Throughout Playboi Carti’s set, security were visibly upset at having to hold the gates up due to an overflow of people. That same day, an abundance of photographers forced organizers to limit the media to one song per artist (the normal amount is three, though MURAL generally lets camera operators shoot entire sets), giving little time to get that perfect shot. With rumours of a second festival around September in the foreseeable future, it will be interesting to see how MURAL continues to grow given the increasing amount of support.

We caught performances throughout MURAL’s first weekend. Here are some memorable moments:

Vic Mensa

Poor Vic Mensa. Despite a history with the city from Kaytranada collaborations early in his career, Montreal has never shown enough love to the Chicago talent. Thursday’s performance was no exception. Mensa was added to the bill in a last-minute effort following an undersold solo show at l’Astral. It is hard to share a bill with Pusha T and Playboi Carti in terms of matching their energy. Vic’s problem is that all of his recent songs are simply too calculated — “We Could Be Free,” for example, is a well-intended but ill-fated “We Are the World” revamp. The Chief Keef-featured “Down for Some Ignorance” sounds like a turn-up anthem from somebody who has never left their house. Mensa ends his set with “Reverse,” a new single with G-Eazy and Marshmello. The energetic tune signifies that a spark has been relit, something the rapper could use after such a soulless slope.

Pusha T


“Number one hip hop album in the world, Daytona!” boasted the President of GOOD Music in between songs. The rapper has been on a high this past month, between the release of the record and the widely reported Drake beef that came along with it. With Pusha having only played a handful of shows since the album’s release, it should come as no surprise that there is still much ironing out to do with performing its seven songs. Nevertheless, he knows how to deliver a spectacular show, matching the crowd’s “Fuck Drake!” chants with an offering of his “Infrared” diss. The Clipse rapper has come a long way from his Virginia days, with “Grindin’” serving as the only track performed from his discography as the duo. This may have been for the best, however, with the young crowd seemingly happier to hear his GOOD Music anthems than revisiting his roots.

Playboi Carti

In New York, Playboi Carti milly-rocks. In Montreal, he phones in concerts. One of the spearheaders of the “Mumble Rap” movement, Carti’s show delivered both the most amount of crowd energy and the least amount of performance effort. It is barely fair to call his time on stage a performance, with the rapper serving as his own hype man, rapping along to the ends of bars as songs played with the vocals still attached. The bulk of Carti’s setlist comes from his fantastic debut album, though sprinkles of his recent sophomore effort appeared throughout the night, though no tunes from his tenure with Awful Records. Ironically, the biggest audience reactions came from tracks by affiliate A$AP Rocky being played. If there was one takeaway from just about every MURAL set, Rocky’s “Praise the Lord” is poised to be the club smash of the summer.

Maky Lavender

After the show it’s the afterparty, and Maky Lavender knows how to treat his guests. Friends and fans were treated to fruit assortments upon kicking off the performance. Lavender is a true master of ceremonies. His style can best be described as a blend between Puff Daddy and Tyler, the Creator; extroverted yet in his own lane, offbeat but funky. He understands the importance of aesthetics so early in his career, between the fresh food and a videographer to capture the evening for his vlog series. Despite being signed to Ghost Club Records, we don’t see Lavender vanishing anytime soon.


KGoon has come a long way in only two years’ time. The rapper’s buzz began to spark following surprise appearances at N.O.R.E. and A-Trak sets throughout Summer ‘16. However, the rapper has ascended far past simply being “the “100 Bandz” rapper. The Little Burgundy spitter’s time on stage showed the true potential of a united city. The performance turned into an all-out function towards its close, with many members of the Montreal hip hop scene taking to the stage to celebrate with the talent. The set ends with a surprise, KGoon teasing a new track with “Nice for What” hitmaker Murda Beatz.

Smooky Margielaa

What were you doing when you were 15 years old? Probably not performing in Canada for the first time in your life, in front of a few thousand people. After being discovered by A$AP Rocky, the rapper has enjoyed world tours and big-name features. Everyone has awkward moments in their teens. Admittedly, seeing anyone in their formative years trying to act like an adult is a strange sight. Smooky Margielaa came up fast after a big co-sign, and still has a long way to go in terms of finding himself as an artist. Yet the Bronx-born rapper is still wise beyond his years. It is clear that he has studied his mentor’s Mob enough to understand what makes an exhilarating show. With crowd surfing, mosh pits and singalongs, Smooky has the tools to grow into much more than just a fad.

Make It Rain Records

Local rap shows can be weird. They are more often than not a showcase of uncertainty in a genre that relies on peak confidence. Bonsound subdivision Make It Rain Records focuses on taking Montreal talent to new heights within their city. While an early performances from Kevin Na$h and MTL Lord proved to be rusty, the night quickly picked up. Franco rapper Rowjay is an artist with such crowd control. His performances force everyone to stop and pay attention. Moreover, the crossover appeal of his more France-centric delivery allow his raps to come through sounding crystal clear. Other highlights included the first official solo show by Kris the $pirit, though fellow Posterz member Nate Husser couldn’t help but pop up for a surprise appearance. Though $pirit may still be finding himself as a solo entity, his support is in abundance, via both the label and audience. 

MURAL continues through Sunday, June 17.