THE ACADEMY presents HIPHOP HISTORY CLUB II with MASIA ONE , DJ DOPEY , ABDOMINAL , ETERNIA , MINDBENDER , SCANDALIS , ISIS , VAN KHANH , SHAD K , AROWBE , DREX , DARP MALONE , PANGEA PROJECT , ADAM BOMB , GALACTACUS of EMBASSY , FRIDAY and NOTES TO SELF at the El Mocambo, April 29. Tickets: $15. Attendance: 400. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNNN
Whoever came up with the idea for the Academy's HipHop History Club "Live Mixtape" deserves an expensive fruit basket. What better way to expose Toronto's finest to the heads than with a night of, in this instalment's case, 90s classic rap covers? Because when you hear your friendly neighbourhood MCs make these bangers their own, as they did at the El Mo , you get a primer on their vocals, delivery and energy with beats and rhymes you can recognize quick.
You might not know the words to a track by, say, Isis or Scandalis , but you probably do know all or most of ODB's Shimmy Shimmy Ya and Jay-Z's Friend Or Foe. And so do they.
These were prime examples of how this idea can be executed with perfect form. Summoning the image of Biggie-as-Hitchcock in a classy tux, Scarborough's Scandalis and some of his Empire entourage ripped it over Premier's horns, as did the masked Isis, busting from backstage to RZA's toy piano wearing a ragged ski mask. She also veered into the late 90s, blowing up Lauryn Hill's Lost Ones.
What kept the energy high throughout a lengthy show was the brevity of each act. Most would bust out, do one track and tag the next person on.
Coming succinct, fresh and profesh were Masia One (doing Artifacts' Wrong Side Of Da Tracks; she also nailed How High with Isis later), Mindbender (his strong presence riling up a packed crowd on Nas's The World Is Yours), Eternia (an intense double-timey version of Dr. Dre's Deep Cover) and Abdominal (Digital Underground's The Humpty Dance).
DJ Dopey should also be recognized for a spinning up a dextrous KRS-One homage that set the roof on fire.
Unfortunately, not so the schoolgirl-outfitted Van Khanh , whose mic problems didn't help her thin vocals on A Tribe Called Quest's hits; Shad K , one of a couple of MCs who needed to restart; and Pangea Project , who overstayed their welcome. And Mindbender's return was funny - a seemingly drunken, open-shirted 2Pac tribute.
But the occasional sloppiness complemented the rowdy atmosphere, giving even more character to a brilliant idea with plenty of potential.