Etobicoke's Rockpile filled up slowly on a quiet Sunday night. On a bill packed with dull local rappers spouting tired underground ethos, Toronto quartet In the Raw were a welcome respite. Led by MC Bo Janglez, the band delivered a thumping, psychedelic take on Wu-Tang-style Big Apple rap fleshed out with live bass, guitar and drums. Their brief set was highlighted by Bo's wild-eyed take on Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya," where the MC let the audience shout along with the infectiously off-kilter chorus.
Just a little past midnight, Mad Child of Swollen Members delivered a tight, professional and energetic set mixing solo highlights with Members hits like "Fuel Injected." The slight, heavily tatted rapper had the crowd begging for another song, and Mad Child gladly obliged with encores until his time ran out.
Still the ranks visibly swelled around 1 a.m., as Redman entered the stage with hometown hero Saukrates playing hypeman. "How many of y'all remember '92?" Red inquired before launching into "Time 4 Sum Aksion," prompting instantaneous moshing and fist-pumping. Newer Red/Method Man tracks "City Lights" and the Saukrates-assisted "A-Yo" got equally warm reception. Red then demanded the audience shout "Fuck you Redman" before deigning to play the chest-rattling punchline fest "I'll Bee Dat."
The energy did dip slightly when Red surrendered the spotlight to his Gilla House crew: crew singer Melanie Rutherford kicked a quick verse, DJ Dice showcased his DMC-worthy scratching skills, and Saukrates led the crowd in a sing-along on "I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman," along with spitting two underwhelming new songs.
Thankfully, Red quickly took over and reminded us why he can still pack the house on a Sunday night. He ran through a number of his '90s and 2000s classics with an energy level that belies his 41 years. Redman closed out his set in epic fashion with by Red/Meth hit "Da Rockwilder," leading the audience through the Method Man parts. Earlier in the night, Red claimed he'd rather be at the Rockpile than anywhere else in North America. By the end of the night, we all believed him.