Published May 07, 2014Three police cruisers were parked in front of Toronto's Sound Academy Tuesday night, as if law enforcement was preparing to give each member of newly reunited Lox trinity his own private escort should the night go sideways.
But if 2005's "Free The Lox" campaign — an effort to break free of Puff Daddy's shiny-suit internment — didn't already tip you off, Jadakiss, Styles P and Sheek Louch are not Bad Boys for life.
The frisking was a little extra on this brisk May concert night: each cigarette in the pack inspected, every fan wanded down with a metal detector. And there was much ado about getting David Styles through Canadian customs — border officials confiscated his belt and his phone charger, he said — and into the country for the first Lox headlining show in the city. (In 2002, the MC served an eight-month bid in Valhalla Correctional Facility in upstate New York for stabbing a man in the buttocks.)
But inside the club, gangster reputations gave way to gentlemanly conduct. Despite the turnout — mostly '90s-rap-loving dudes in ballcaps — filling just a quarter of the spacious venue, the haze of marijuana when D-Block stepped to the fore at 12:20 a.m. was thick enough to catch a contact high. The mics were passed just as freely, and peace signs thrown up frequently. In fact, the only trace of animosity to spot would be in the classic (clichéd?) "No, fuck that side" call-and-response gimmick.
There were tributes to 2Pac and Biggie, their former collaborator, and Sheek Louch called for lighters and cellphones to be raised high: "I want this shit to look like one big birthday cake."
Yes, it was a happy-go-lucky, stick-to-the-script rap show, complete with all the tropes. For heads raised on Ruff Ryders and Bad Boy, it was home cooking. Technician the DJ quarterbacked a set of the trio's biggest smash hits and remix appearances both as a group and as solo artists, with just a splash of the Yonkers group's surprise new EP, The Trinity, mixed in. Best was Tech blending in classic instrumentals from other acts — Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg's "Deep Cover," Luniz' "I Got 5 On It" — seamlessly during renditions of well-known Lox gems.
"Wild Out," Last Day," "All About the Benjamins," "Money, Power, Respect," "Mighty D-Block," Jada's "Made You Look" verse, Styles' "The Life" — no smash was left unplayed in the tight 75-minute rip. There wasn't much flash or frills, just hard rhymes and big beats, which is about all you'd want from veterans like these. Then they flipped a peace sign and signed autographs and shook hands with the diehards.
Styles, especially, seemed to relish being onstage with his high-school friends, group mates of 20 years and running. The most prolific Lox member sipped lustily from long blunts and bounded around the dais with a white towel over his baldy, occasionally stopping to hike up those beltless jeans of his.
Kudos to local artist/promoter Peter Jackson, who warmed up the building with a brief set, and his crew for making this reunion happen. Maybe it was Canadian Music Week distractions or the steep ticket price ($50 general admission; $125 for meet and greet), but it's too bad more fans didn't get a chance to wild out.