Published Dec 01, 2004It was obvious from the outset that Mos Def's first proper Toronto appearance would never be the show that most had hoped for. A four-act bill including two no-names, a "special guest" and a substantial price tag put together by an unknown promoter certainly didn't provide a sense of security to fans waiting to see the man who's been looked upon as hip-hop's would-be hero for some time. Still, with the Brooklyn native spending more time of late flashing across the silver screen than in the studio, such a rare onstage appearance was simply not to be missed. The show started off as poorly as one would have expected, with novice local MC Jack Flawless and his clownishly thugged-out New Jersey rhyme-mate Al-Nur receiving a hefty serving of boos from the Toronto crowd. Next up were not-so-surprise guests M.O.P. who, for all the love and respect they received, seemed surprisingly old and out of shape on stage. Minute-long renditions of their mash-out classics left the group panting and doubled over, before graciously stepping aside to make room for the main act. Upon taking to the stage, Mos Def his face half-obscured by a mask quickly made "freakiness" his main theme, oscillating throughout the night between his own personality and that of a Dr. Trevis-type radio DJ, which he split over two microphones. His equally odd backing band (a mute hype-man, one man on effects and the third working the play button) manned the controls as Mos peppered cuts from his mildly received New Danger disc with catalogue classics like "Ms. Fat Booty," "Definition" and "Mathematics." Frequent ruminations about an old man and the crossroads, as well as an ode to pornography, drew looks of bewilderment from some audience members, as did rumours of Q-Tip's presence backstage (heartlessly perpetrated by M.O.P.'s DJ). All freakiness was laid to rest, however, with the performance of ultimate show closer "Umi Says" providing the best possible end to a night that, while never even suggesting a sense of history being made, was entertaining nonetheless.