Rock the Bells Arrow Hall, Toronto ON July 20

Rock the Bells Arrow Hall, Toronto ON July 20
Nostalgia was on the minds and lips of most in attendance, even if younger fans were still enjoying naptime during hip-hop's golden age. Proof of this retro obsession spoke most loudly from an abundance of A Tribe Called Quest T-shirts and old school sneakers. Assisted by former Roots' DJ Scratch, Supernatural's freestyle ability hid a Wayback machine that told us — via a Notorious B.I.G. imitation — that "right now hip-hop is wack."

Given that you could have scratched new school rappers like Cool Kids, Jay Electronica, and Murs from the line-up and still commanded the same audience, I mostly agree. Los Angeles's Murs gained plenty of new fans, with credit going to either his giant tentacle of a dreadlock or his sun-drenched storytelling.

An unexplained temperance movement denied booze to hundreds of ticket holders during De La Soul's set. Upset fans stormed past security and into the booze garden after their pleas went unanswered. De La's potent elixir restored order, especially the triple encore of "Rock Co.Cane Flow," which ended with a fadeout that hit you like a dose of horse tranquilizer.

It took Pharcyde two songs, the second being "Runnin'," for the crowd to flip out. A few songs failed to excite, but out popped sing-along classics like "Drop" and "Passing Me By" whenever the crowd quieted. Rakim proved that the God MC prefers to rest on Sunday. Sound troubles caused him to abort, restart and then shorten his set. The faithful hurled boos.

Mos Def ignored Black On Both Sides to shine a light on newer material, which was fine till he stopped singing and let his DJ play way too many classic reggae cuts. We paid for history, yes, but also to hear you rhyme. Huge lineups for greasy pizza obscured for me the sights and sounds of Redman and Method Man (pictured), but reports confirmed that time had yet to blunt their live skills.

Fans of all colours threw their hands up when Nas launched his set with the provocative "N.I.G.G.E.R " from the recently released Untitled. Three songs in, he unleashed multiple tracks from Illmatic. He later played "If Ruled The World" and "Black President" — one an anthem of past hopes, the other a sign of progress — back to back. Jaws dropped.

When Q-Tip shamelessly strutted his solo stuff before remembering that ATCQ is also Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi many were peeved. Once "Buggin' Out" blasted from the speakers that malice was forgotten. Faces froze in joyous smiles sure to last a lifetime. And the hits — "Find A Way," "Bonita Applebaum" and "Electric Relaxation" — kept coming until, fittingly, Tribe were off to the next city on what I'd call an award tour.