There’s no doubt that the past year and a half has been tough on the arts, so we’re stoked that Unity Charity is coming out of the pandemic swinging. Unity’s pretty amazing — a national charity that helps young people develop resilience through the teaching of hip hop art forms like MCing, breaking, beatmaking and spoken word, paired with skill-building around communication, stress management, social skills and goal setting.
And The Drake is absolutely thrilled to partner with these good people for Unity Fest/21, a jam-packed three-day event happening virtually on July 15, 22 and 29. We connected with Unity’s Executive Director Rebecca Harrison to hear more about what Unity Fest/21 has in store. (Trust us: you don’t want to sleep on this one.)
Hi Rebecca! Tell us about [Unity Fest/21] and this year’s “Keep Ya Head Up” theme.
How we landed on this name is actually so funny. The kids, the community, have been through so much in the last year — people have been isolated and their lives have been turned upside down. But through it all, we’ve seen young people and artists finding ways to support each other — their talent and commitment to art, culture and wellbeing is absolutely irrepressible. We wanted to find a theme/name that captured that, and after a non-conclusive brainstorming session at the end of a long week (at the end of a long pandemic), one of Unity’s directors said, “Keep ya head up, everyone.” And so a Tupac anthem that celebrates grittiness and resilience became this year’s theme. It means a lot to us 🙂
Who’s participating in this year’s festival? 75 artists and youth over three events is pretty impressive!
I can’t overstate how stacked the festival line up is going to be — for anyone keeping tabs on Canadian hip hop culture and emerging Canadian talent, Unity Fest is a hotbed. I give it two years before we can’t afford 90% of the artists on this lineup anymore! It’s hard to choose highlights. We’re really excited to have Eyeda Sophia headlining our youth night on July 15th — she’s an incredible talent in the city and has been doing awesome work with Unity youth for a few years now. The dance night on July 22nd is also going to be amazing. We’re featuring dancers and dance crews from all over Canada — B-Boy Phil Wizard who’s an international champ, Kosi Eze who’s a Canadian hip hop and house superstar, as well as some incredible youth crews — Kritics Crew from Scarborough, for example. The final event is going to be really special too. We’ve got Exmiranda and Patrik Kabongo headlining, and Junia T DJing — two MCs and a DJ that will definitely be contributing to Toronto’s rep as a centre for hip hop on international stages.
How is The Drake involved in the festival?
We’re so excited to be partnering with both The Drake Underground and The Academy to present the live concert on July 29th. Chris Wilson (The Drake) and Jesse Ohtake (The Academy) have been creating spaces and opening up stages for emerging hip hop artists for years now, and we’re thrilled to be working with groups and people who are helping to rectify some of the inequality that hip hop artists face when it comes to development and growth in the Canadian creative and cultural industries.
We’re also premiering two original art videos that were shot in various locations around The Drake. I haven’t seen the final works yet, but I’m excited to see how the artists were able to make use of some of the beautiful spaces at the hotel.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Definitely want to share the Pay What You Can ticket link — all proceeds from the event will go towards Unity’s year-round youth programs. The festival is our flagship event every year, but our work with young people and artists across Canada is our lifeblood.
Learn more about Unity Fest 2021: https://unitycharity.com/unityfest21/