Published Apr 01, 2006As the self-proclaimed "Morpheus of the hip-hop Matrix" (exposing fake shit), Common rolled into Toronto still riding the newfound wave of mainstream relevance to go along with his underground respectability. It's been almost a year since his "comeback" project, Be, hit the streets, but judging from the comfortably packed house on hand, Common is still the man. Opening act Shad K showed why he's one to watch, with the London, ON native winning over the typically screw faced T-dot crowd with his trademark "I just gotta be me" whimsy and more-than-capable rap styling. But it wasn't until the headliner greeted the crowd (with a Colgate smile and dressed as if he stepped out of a Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue) that shit really got cooking. Amazing is the rapport Common quickly built up with the fairly young crowd, most of whom were still in Pampers when the veteran rapper got into the game and to whom the phrase "Can I Borrow a Dollar?" seems more like something a Queen St. panhandler would say rather than the title of their favourite performer's 1992 debut. Keeping that in mind, Common kicked things off with recent stuff and ran down almost half the Be track listing (the title track, "The Corner," "Go!," "Faithful" and "Testify") before mixing things up with older material ("Love of My Life" and "Respiration"). Backed by musicians and a DJ, Common kept things lively. The Canadian quotient was maintained with an impromptu and wholly reverent reworking of that late J Dilla's "Thelonious," with Saukrates and Frank N Dank filling in for Slum Village. The Chi-town native represents a fascinating case study of new millennium hip-hop, positioning himself quite nicely between the 50 Cent and Black Eyed Peas commercial polemic. Homie is shiny but not saccharine, positive but not placatory; Common is the template that one pleads for future commercial hip-hop acts to follow.