As clouds hovered over the luminous city streets of downtown Manhattan on Thursday night (Feb. 25), Toronto upstart Jazz Cartier feels the pressure inside S.O.B.’s, an intimate venue that has previously hosted performances from then-rising rappers Drake and Kanye West.
“This is where legends are made — literally,” the 22-year-old rapper tells Billboard before his sold-out performance. “That’s all I’ve been thinking about since I got confirmation that we were headlining today so I don’t know, man. If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.”
Throngs of Jazz fans ranging from college students to middle-aged adults swarmed the intimate hot spot. Returning this time as a headliner after serving as an opener for Post Malone back in October, Cartier was ready to conquer the stage fresh off the release of his new mixtape Hotel Paranoia.
After his openers G4Shi and Ro Ransom torched the stage, the self-proclaimed “Prince of the City” made his entrance on-stage with a thunderous performance to his H.P. intro track “Talk of the Town.” Donning a forest green jacket and a crisp pair of shades, fans watched Cartier gallop across the stage as his dreads swayed back and forth with each bar he spit. Attendees reveled in his brash approach, especially when he performed “I Know,” the moody cut off his praised debut Marauding in Paradise. His performance of “Stick & Move” highlight his swag, especially with lines like, “I’m declining features because I do it myself.”
He can credit his independence to an upbringing marked by constant moving due to his father’s U.S. government gig. “My dad wasn’t ever really around as much but when he was, he always told me about building a legacy and making sure you establish yourself as a man first,” Cartier recalls. “Never use anybody as a crutch. I feel like I can do that. Selling out S.O.B.’s with no big features or co-signs shows that the hard work is there, you know?”
As Cartier prepared to launch into his infectious banger “Red Alert,” he asked to change the color of the stage lighting to accommodate the record’s urgent feel. To keep the momentum going, he hopped into the more trap-infused records like “Opera,” “Tales”, and “How We Do It” — the latter an ode to the classic 1995 Montell Jordan partystarter “This is How We Do It.”
With a string of artists emerging out of Toronto like Tory Lanez and Belly, Jazz is confident that he will be able to showcase his versatility, despite what detractors may think.
“I’m the overall package, man. It’s not a shot to anybody else, but I obsess over this stuff,” he explains. “I’ve been doing this since I was 14. I’ve been practicing in front of the mirror years before my first show. I still practice in front of the mirror. I still get nervous. I’m still a kid on the inside. Like when I hit that stage, that’s what I worked for. All those nights where I was stressing out about shit not happening, I don’t think about that now because look at where we’re at.”
As the clock crept past midnight, Jazz no longer has his shirt on after its disappearance into the audience. His parting gift is a performance of a new track called “Piñata,” a perfect wrap-up for the life of the party.