Right before Years Ahead was released, a friend of mine asked if I was downtown, and what I was doing. At the time I was pre-occupied but still said, “Not much, what’s up?” He responded back saying Redway was having his album release party – an project produced by WondaGurl who had just appeared on Magna Carta Holy Grail – at Get Fresh Company. “Not another one,” I thought. Regardless, he was convincing and sounded passionate about this artist, so I made my way over. Unfortunately, I caught the tail-end of the event with people spilling out of 498 Queen Street W. in droves. The street became loud, as if family from years just reunited. I remember this night vividly because that was also the first night I met Redway – someone I would come to know as a passionate artist, and someone most people knew as a “us against the world” type of guy.
The project knocked, and Redway immediately got thrown into my list of Toronto-artists-not-named-Drake I’d share with my American peers who inquired often about our music. Quite frankly, Redway will always be in that list of mine. I also got aquainted with Redway’s previous music, but I was steadily hooked on Years Ahead – a title that now seems to hold more meaning than ever before. I’d miss the opportunity to work with Redway from a PR standpoint, something I’d later regret in 2014, but rambled about his music when I could. Even when I was hit up by CJ Fly’s management about openers for an upcoming show, I found myself telling her the story about this guy I’d just found out about who packed a popular clothing store to the brim.
That summer, I ended up running into Redway several times – at the most random times and places, and eerily almost too many times for someone I had just met, but that bright smile and coy demeanor was always welcomed. I also respected Redway’s hustle – the respect he showed others, the effort he put into his career, and how he thought of the city’s changing landscape. As I was putting together a last-minute Toronto showcase for the A3C Festival in Atlanta in August, I reached out to him to see if he wanted to be a part of it. To my surprise, he put trust in myself and this showcase, and said yes.
Manifesto’s annual festival was soon approaching, and it was no brainer to have Redway on the bill. It’d be the third year he’d perform at our festival. That day, he had an early set for Live At The Square. A few acts passed, tensions were already high, and 15 minutes before his set he still wasn’t there. “Hey, where are you!?,” I said in a frantic call. He said he was stuck in traffic – of course he was, as he was coming from Mississauga on a Saturday morning. “There’s talks about cutting set time, get here as soon as you can!,” I continued. With seconds to spare, he made it. With a big smile and positive energy, he took the stage.
Two weeks later, a troop of GTA artists would find themselves in the sunny air of Atlanta, GA. Most of us were also all kotched up at the same hotel (so it seemed), so throughout the week, I’d see Redway networking and building, or sometimes just posted up outside the hotel with his crew. The night of the showcase came, and just before Redway’s set, the steadily packed room started to disperse for one reason or another. In a bit of a panic, I wondered whether to stall his performance or not, but once again, I saw him take the stage with a smile. The room packed right back up, and a few ATL natives asked me who he was shortly after. “That’s Redway! He just released a project with WondaGurl that you should definitely check out,” I’d reply.
It’s been a year since that night in ATL, and by now, I’ve sent the video link to “YKTO” to almost all my American friends when they ask, “What’s Toronto like?” Having recently found myself back at A3C, I also found myself speaking about that ‘416 Showcase’ and what some of those artists were up to now. “We lost one of our guys from last year’s showcase this summer,” I blurted out after that realization hit. “It’s weird, you know… He was such a dope talent. He was the one who had next. He was one of the good ones.”
I’m one of hundreds who attended Redway’s vigil and funeral this past summer – a celebration of his life; ‘how he’d want it’, we were reminded. While my story of knowing him lasted a brief moment in time, the outpour of love and admiration for Shane Redway was – and still is – a consistent testament to who he was as a person. At this year’s Manifesto Festival, we wanted to pay tribute to the late Mississauga artist who touched hundreds of lives in his time. While emotions were high at Dundas Square, there was also a beautiful energy in the air. In my brief time of knowing Shane Redway, I can confidently say that that energy matched the smile of a man and an artist who’s legacy will always live on.