Published Feb 26, 2015When Ryan Montgomery was eight years old, his schoolteacher asked the class to rework a nursery rhyme and sketch an accompanying illustration. He was assigned "Little Miss Muffet." He drew a picture of a girl upside-down in a toilet bowl, head in the water, feet aimed skyward.
"Little Miss Muffet sat on her caboose / Stuck her head in the toilet juice," he wrote.
All grown up and two-and-a-half years sober, Royce da 5'9" related this childhood nugget to the Toronto crowd for two reasons: One: to prove that even as an elementary school kid, he had bars. And two: to point out the one time he got in trouble in class that the trouble wasn't doubled when he got home. Mom was cool with his creativity.
Well, she would've been proud of her boys (Royce's younger brother, Kid Vishis, served as the evening's hype man) on this bitter February night. The Canadian debut of PRhyme, a new group composed of old favourites Royce and DJ Premier, was not just sold out; it may have been sold out twice. If you arrived two hours before the main act hit the dais, you still risked frostbite and completely missing local opener Notes to Self, as the lineup outside Tattoo stretched nearly a snowy block long.
Once inside, concertgoers were crammed to the cuticles. You know those little passages that allow you to sideslip along the bar or slither down half a staircase? Those didn't exist on this weeknight. Were the Tattoo a streetcar, you'd contemplate elbowing your way off and just walking the rest of the way to work.
Wearing a NYLKOORB cap and backed by DJ Skizz, New York newcomer Your Old Droog ripped through a 25-minute set that focused heavily on last summer's buzz-churning self-titled EP — "Bad to the Bone," Nutty Bars," "Good Times Are Hard to Come By These Days" and the M.O.P.-sampling banger "You Know What Time It Is" — and less on his new Kinison EP. Dude has excellent mic control and suberb taste in beats. Skizz's sprinkling of classic NYC instrumentals like "Ice Cream," Ante Up" and "Get At Me Dog" didn't hurt, but "the white guy that rhymes like Nas," as one concertgoer and a thousand comment-board types have described him, could stand to lose the crowd interaction clichés: "I bet Vancouver will be louder than y'all!" / "Man, that Canadian border is tough to pass!"
After a solid warm-up by YOD and a boom-bap playlist, PRhyme strolled onstage and proceeded to shoot lay-ups. With Premier manning the digital turntables and Royce, decked out in a Pirates cap, spitting his typical flames, the veterans looked to be having a blast with their new material, performing nearly every track off December's PRhyme, nailing "U Looz," "Courtesy" and "Underground Kings."
A mid-set interlude featured Premo — the world's best at making music from other people's music — interrupting old sample material with the beats he warped them into, and the heads went ham for "10 Crack Commandments" and "New York State of Mind."
Little brother Kid Vishis killed an a cappella verse, and Royce's performance of Bad Meets Evil's "Scary Movies," the 1999 single with Eminem, was a nice surprise.
An encore would've been appreciated; ditto more material from Royce's deep vault of solo material, but the emcee sounded sincere, not sappy when he told Toronto this was the best set of the tour.
And after the duo climaxed with "Boom!" the dude next to me summed things up better than I could: ""That's a fuckin' rap show right there."