The four members of Non Phixion stomped an irreverent boot into the underground hip-hop landscape in 1994 but, until last Halloween, had not even shared the same room in nearly a decade. A warm response to their October reunion at Times Square for Cypress Hill's annual Haunted Hill jam led Ill Bill, Sabac Red, Goretex and DJ Eclipse to embark on an eight-stop, all-Canadian "20th Anniversary Reunion," hitting clubs in major cities between Vancouver and Montreal.
And with that, rap nostalgia has moved past the Golden Age and into the early 2000s, when Non Phixion's seminal LP, The Future Is Now (2002) was a veritable backpacker bombshell: three smart, angry, paranoid voices; a DJ who actually scratched; and a New York super-production roster — Large Professor, Pete Rock, DJ Premier, JuJu, T-Ray and Ill Bill's brother Necro — that would be the envy of any rapper worth his breath.
The four knew precisely what their audience came for, and didn't bother with the deep cuts. If you were hoping for your favourite verse off Sabac's Sabacolypse: A Change Gon' Come or Goretex's The Art of Dying, you were out of luck.
The rowdy crowd of 250 or so devotees — 99% of which fell under the category of "white" and/or "dude" — who entered Dundas West's Rockpile hung onto every syllable and each ad lib as Non Phixion ran through The Future Is Now hammers, channelling the energy they brought to The Opera House over 10 years ago: "Rock Stars," "Futurama," "There Is No Future," "The C.I.A. Is Trying to Kill Me" and the masterpiece that is "Black Helicopters."
Bundled in an Uncle Howie hoodie, Ill Bill, the group's largest presence in every sense, destroyed "Cult Leader" as the stage-clingers broke into a spontaneous mosh pit, proving this is something that still happens. Sabac, wearing a red cap stitched with the message "ALWAYS A STUDENT," boasted that his group had been exposing the ugliness of police brutality "before it became a social media extravaganza." He was preaching to the converted, of course (but he also made a case for stitching a hat with the phrase "SOCIAL MEDIA EXTRAVANGANZA").
As the set reached a fever pitch, Sabac jumped into the mosh pit himself, and one white dude wasted no time shoving him full-force. Despite their age, Non Phixion is a body-contact sport.
An encore was demanded at full volume, a girl jumped onstage, and the four capped the reunion with Pete Rock's "If You Got Love."
Many of the cult followers stuck around, hoping for a pound or a brief word, but the air tasted bittersweet. What if the momentum of that debut album had not been followed with 13 years of sporadic solo records and mostly silence?