Mobb Deep The Hoxton, Toronto ON, May 1

Mobb Deep The Hoxton, Toronto ON, May 1
Photo: Kevin Jones
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The purple 1999 Vince Carter jersey was a sweet touch.
 
About 90 minutes after the Toronto Raptors won Game 7 and advanced to the second round of the NBA Playoffs for the first time since the city's turn-of-the-century Vinsanity, Mobb Deep's Prodigy stomped across The Hoxton stage repping hard for the local ball team.
 
It would be difficult to discuss Sunday's (May 1) Mobb Deep show without mentioning the Raptors game. Small knots of stuck-in-the-'90s hip-hop heads clustered around smartphones streaming the waning moments of a just-please-hold-on fourth quarter, individuals could be spotted refreshing their sports-scores apps and bursts of cheers drowned out the DJ's golden-age playlist of bangers when the locals realized the Raptors had gotten over the hump.
 
The sold-out venue swelled the sardine status once the game let out and Rap(s) fans poured in. And the infamous Queensbridge duo tweeted that half of the basketball team's roster was in the building.
 
A celebratory mood for the Mobb's final North American stop of the Hell on Earth 20th Anniversary Tour kicked off with energetic local opener JD Era's call-and-response — "When I say 'Canada,' you say 'Eh!'" — and never relented.
 
Anyone who's attended a Mobb Deep show knows what to expect: no fireworks, no dancing and no lyrical gymnastics. Just quotable street anthems and incredible beats that still hold weight two decades after the fact.
 
The group didn't even have a hype man or a banner behind them — just the legendary Ski Beatz on the turntables. Profits from those cheaply made $30 T-shirts at the merch table probably weren't being redirected into the show's production value. But that's thuganomics, and when the beat to "Survival of the Fittest" drops, do you really need a light show?
 
Mobb's efficient and effective set list read like a 60-minute greatest hits mixtape, with a couple of "new" joints from 2014's The Infamous Mobb Deep plopped in mid-set. Hav and P, the latter decked out in his trademark bandana, did not try to recreate 1996's classic Hell on Earth album. They plucked that record's best tracks — "Quiet Storm," Drop a Gem on 'Em," "Nighttime Vultures," "G.O.D. Pt. III," "Still Shinin'" — and added hits from their entire back catalogue.
 
"Burn" killed, "Keep It Thoro" mashed and "Shook Ones, Pt. II" shook many as the show's climax. Of course it did.
 
So we can overlook the fact that the rappers sometimes used their own records' backing vocals as a crutch. We can forgive them for milking this "20th album anniversary" hook for back-to-back years (2015 brought us the anniversary tour for The Infamous).
 
Instead, we just banged our heads, in unison with the city's winning basketball team, to some of the hardest productions ever etched on wax and enjoyed the celebration past 1 a.m. It sure didn't feel like a school night.