Rock The Bells Festival Hits Toronto

Toronto’s true Hip-Hop heads came out in droves to Arrow Hall on July 20th, where they were treated to an uneven, but largely enjoyable all day show. Earlier in the afternoon, the crowd was laced with short sets from Kidz In The Hall, Jay Electronica, Murs and The Pharcyde.

However, the vibe intensified when the heavy hitters of the bill began taking their turns rocking the heads in attendance. Mos Def turned out an energetic and lively set, touching largely on material from his latest album True Magic and Black On Both Sides. He sounded particularly crisp over “Unbelievable” and crowd favorite “Ms. Fat Booty”.

After a short break, the original microphone fiend Rakim took the stage to chorus of cheers as his DJ Kid Capri screamed at the crowd informing us that we were about to experience some “real f***ing Hip-Hop!”

Unfortunately, Rakim’s set was marred by sound problems. Kid Capri had a losing battle with the decks and he and Rakim had some choice words for the sound crew. Too bide time, Rakim dropped a nice a cappela freestyle which temporarily won the crowd over. He threatened to walk off stage at one point, but once Capri had the decks back under his control, he blew through the rest of his set with aggression, especially on the classic Eric B. and Rakim track “Paid In Full”.

Next up were Method Man and Redman. They took to the stage smoking you know what and tore through a hard rock version of their hit “Da Rockwilder”. They blew through their forty five minute set working the crowd into froth with the lighter-raising anthem “How High”.

After what seemed like an eternity, the pressure was finally released when Nas, walked on stage to the opening notes of “You Can’t Stop Us Now” off his latest disc Untitled. He launched into “N.*.*.*.*.*” and had the crowd in the palm of his hand from that moment on.

Backed by DJ Green Lantern, Nas moved with ease through some of his latest material (“Hero”, “Black President”) which ended up being overshadowed by his classics “Represent”, “If I Ruled The World” and “Hate Me Now”.

The reunited A Tribe Called Quest, were certainly going to have a tough act to follow after Nas’ memorable performance. Little did we know we’d only get to see A Tribe Called Tip? After a thirty minute plus wait, the restless and tired masses seemed puzzled when Q-Tip finally took the stage with Mos Def. The two were backed by a live band and ran through a set dedicated to the late J Dilla and some of Tip’s solo material.

Once Tip began dipping into the Tribe material minus the services of Phife Dawg and Ali Shaheed Muhommad, it was clear this wasn’t the Tribe that we had waited all day to see.

Fans began filing out of the now empty-looking venue wondering just what happened. If Phife and Ali were hiding out backstage, waiting to make their grand entrance, the thousands leaving never got to find out.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: A Tribe Called Quest did perform a thirty plus minute set after The Abstract did his solo big. Phife hit the stage with a surprising energy while Ali was his usual reserved self. The Tribe killed it. Sorry for the glaring ommision.]