"How many of y'all fuck with real hip-hop?" Raekwon shouted as he took to the Ritual stage a few minutes past midnight. Clad in a military jacket and a Yankees cap, the Wu-Tang MC began his set with his star-making verse from "C.R.E.A.M.," which the energized crowd shouted word for word. Backed by a DJ and hypeman, Rae blazed through a succession of early Wu highlights, from the murky bass of "Da Mystery of Chessboxing" to his vivid opening verse on "Can It All Be So Simple." Every few songs, the DJ cut the beat and Rae freaked it a cappella to the delight of the crowd. The hypeman commanded the audience to chant Wu-Tang and they complied without hesitation, throwing their W's in the air.
Rae responded by launching into a number of fan favourites from his masterpiece solo debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... "Ice Cream," though slightly diminished by the absence of Method Man and Ghostface Killah, still got the crowd live as audience members recited every line. The hard drums of "Incarcerated Scarfaces" got the dance floor hopping, while the mellow "Heaven & Hell" had everyone swaying with fists held high.
Raekwon cut the set to eulogize Ol' Dirty Bastard, leading a raucous sing-along to "Shimmy Shimmy Ya." He then went into a few songs from OB4CL2, the pounding keyboards of "Surgical Gloves" stirring up a frenzy. New songs were warmly received as well: the slicing strings and thumping bass of "Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang" shook the room as Rae spun a dizzying web of internal rhymes.
The packed house showed Raekwon the respect he deserves in the frozen north. "Respect to Ottawa, man," Rae said as he stepped off the stage. It was clear the feeling was mutual.