K-Os performing as part of the Downtown Jazz Festival with Kamau and SEan Hewitt at the El Mocambo, June 28. Tickets: $20 advance, $25 door. Attendance: 250. Rating: NNNN
The El Mocambo might seem like an unusual venue for a hiphop show, but even stranger was the fact that the gig by Toronto rap threat K-OS was part of the Downtown Jazz Festival and there wasn't a single Dixieland band on the bill. So there were very few people at the El Mo who'd raced over from the Hot Five Jazzmakers matinee at C'est What to catch Shawn Hewitt underneath the huge cigarette company banner, hilariously dedicating each of his songs to a different megacorp. The sweaty crowd was thankful for a little levity since the joint was dry. The night before, the venue's liquor licence was suspended until July 10 when some schmo was caught with an open beer in the front room.
But as sweltering as it got inside, the lack of booze didn't appear to dim the audience's spirits. DJ Paul Lopes maintained a good-time vibe between sets by rocking hiphop classics.
From the first Eastern-flavoured note produced by the funky fresh four-piece band backing K-OS, fists were pumping and people soon began rhyming along with every word.
At first, K-OS seemed chuffed by the unsolicited audience participation, letting the crowd sing the hooks while he gave shout-outs to people in attendance. But eventually he had to put a stop to it, saying, "Hey, I'm the MC here!" when the shouting was getting out of hand.
He then went on to prove he could not only flow with finesse but was eminently capable of singing his own hooks as well.
While his crowd-pleasing revision of the Beatles' Yesterday, whose "all the wack MCs used to seem so far away" has become a certified showstopper, what brought down the house was his reggae medley, which moved from Guess Who's Coming To Dinner? through Crazy Baldheads right into a natty head-nodding version of Avril Lavigne 's Complicated. The man is a star.