Kool Herc / Maestro Fresh Wes Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto ON - December 23, 2005

What if the brother who invented hip-hop was to make his first-ever appearance in Toronto and the attendance and enthusiasm was about as high as it would be for the third most-popular rapper in a group that's well past its prime? Sadly, this is how things down, as the legendary Kool Herc was greeted by a half-empty venue made up of people who weren't caught up on their hip-hop 101. But as we all know, it doesn't matter how large the crowd is but how you rock it, so those who knew the importance of this night didn't let the pre-Christmas crowd get them down. Though tonight wasn't a simple case of a couple opening guests warming the stage — Herc was headlining a b-boy battle, which can be exciting to watch but is seldom executed smoothly, and tonight was no different. The one-on-one battles reached high levels of intensity but, of course, you have to get everyone organised on stage and go through round after round of eliminations, which can grow tiresome quickly. And the clock wasn't working in the night's favour, as the b-boy competition dragged on, but thankfully we were treated to Canada's own hip-hop legend, Maestro Fresh Wes. Toronto's finest wandered on stage pleading with the crowd to understand the honour of having Herc perform and that MCs such as himself would never exist without the Godfather of hip-hop, but it wasn't until Wes announced that "this is a throwdown" that the kids went bananas. Maestro only performed two songs, but given the fact they were "Drop the Needle" and "Let Your Backbone Slide" there wasn't anyone left unsatisfied, though it wouldn't have hurt to drop "Conducting Thangs" also. After all the battles were done it was finally time for Herc to step behind the decks and do what he does best, but after all the wait it seems that what he does best now is mix classic breakbeats really sloppily. Didn't this cat pioneer the extended break beat? The blends were off time and the sound was unbearably shrill, especially when the squeals and horns of James Brown kicked in. Maybe it was technical difficulties or some other forces out of his control, but it was a complete let down. Herc will always be a god in the eyes of hip-hop's faithful and nothing will ever take that away, but he might just have to keep practicing to completely win us over.