MOS DEF with MEDINA GREEN at Harbourfront Centre, June 23. Tickets: $40. Attendance: sold out. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Rapper? I don't think so. Mos Def is an artist.
Since dropping his classic debut, Black On Both Sides, the enviro-conscious, big-business-bashing MC (filming here with Bruce Willis) has been in an Oscar-buzzed flick, worked with Spike Lee and set out to push the boundaries of black music. He's even done an SUV commercial for GM (you need to Google that shit).
Considering all this, you just knew he wouldn't do the same old rap shit at Harbourfront Centre.
Not like his little - in both senses - brother DCQ of Medina Green , who started just a bit after 8 pm. Under slightly severe daylight on the outdoor stage, along with several roving hype men, the diminutive rapper struggled to get the benches full of his sibling's seated fans involved.
After a wait while day turned to night, the plinking of neo-soul keyboards cued the big crowd to the Mighty Mos Def 's arrival. Fans armed with camera phones clambered over benches toward the stage, and Dante Smith burst out in a pair of basketball shorts and a hood that kept his face enshrouded in darkness.
You may not have known it was him until you heard that distinct stuffed-up Brooklyn cartoon character voice coming from his cloak.
Def busted a verse over GZA's Liquid Swords, then switched into Ghetto Rock from his underperforming second album. But Mos's easy charisma kept the crunk juice level up and often saved him during the slightly sloppy set.
Right after that track, he almost tripped over a mic stand but caught himself. "I ain't gonna bust my ass in front of all these people," he mumbled with perfect comic timing. The crowd laughed like everyone had been spring-loaded. And when he revealed his face, people cheered till they were blue.
Same for when he kicked Miss Fat Booty, The Body Rock and Close Edge (first dropped on Chappelle's Show).
Rising hiphopper K'naan appeared with a big drum strapped on and kicked an impressive flow with Mos Def - by the way, the star of the upcoming Italian Job sequel, The Brazilian Job - backing him up on keys. You'd have to be numb to not feel it.
Yeah, the night was one pure, cool laid-back vibe. Organic, positive, conscious, and - oh, shit, I gotta go - I think I left my SUV running.