Annette Brown, Lifetime The story of June Carter Cash comes to life in the…
- Posted on Jun 21st 2010 1:30PM by Tabassum Siddiqui
While the square was nowhere near as overrun by humanity as for Iggy the previous night -- perhaps unsurprising, given that the MuchMusic Video Awards were taking place nearby -- there was still a sizeable contingent on hand for the loose, block party vibe cultivated by the trio of Posdnuos, Trugoy and Maseo. All masters of the mic, the veteran rappers' strength clearly lies in the fact they've been at it for over two decades, and their onstage camaraderie and ability to work a crowd is palpable.
But somehow what should have been a hugely celebratory experience ultimately felt a bit flat, with multiple stops and starts of several songs derailing the energy the group is expert at stoking. The trio playfully goaded the crowd -- which ranged from parents with babes in arms to thirtysomethings clearly jonesing for a nostalgia trip -- by pitting sides of the audience against each other to see who could cheer or sing the loudest. But their constant exhortations to the "party people" quickly became rather tiresome.
Much more interesting was their tip of the hat to their deep roots, reminding the crowd of forebears like Run DMC and KRS-One ("We come from a different generation -- we used to sample records") and referring to the myriad influences (jazz, reggae, blues) that inform their sound.
While their no-frills approach to hip-hop is refreshing compared to the auto-tuned, pop-click perfection that passes for urban music these days, watching three guys pacing back and forth with microphones didn't exactly make for a visually stimulating performance, particularly on such a massive stage. And though the best parts of De La Soul are the chemistry between the three old friends and their clever wordplay, a muddy sound mix meant nary a lyric could be deciphered whenever the trio would rap in unison.
De La Soul can still get a good groove going, though, and it was a thrill to see thousands fling their arms in the air to the lazy bounce of classics like 'Stakes Is High' and 'Saturday,' clear highlights of the hour-long set.
But when T-dot rapper Kardinal Offishall ducked his head out of the wings (the band had earlier tipped their hat to Kardi and fellow local hip-hopper Choclair) before immediately disappearing again, it was hard not to wonder if an opportunity to showcase local hip-hop talent had been squandered -- either by way of local guests during the set (couldn't Kardi have stuck around to drop a verse or two?), or perhaps having De La Soul play earlier in the series and ceding the finale to a Toronto act.
After all, the city has no shortage of killer urban artists. While it would have been impossible to steal the red-hot Drake away from the nearby MMVAs (nor would that have been a wise idea, given the recent near-riot after police shut down a free Drake show in New York), surely an artist like homegrown rapper K-OS, who played the NXNE series on Friday and usually performs with a full backing band, could have delivered a more dynamic performance.
Not to take away from the veteran trio's obvious charisma and musical depth, but what should have been a rousing finale to another successful NXNE felt subdued after four days of remarkable performances.