Concert Review: Havoc (of Mobb Deep) at The Rockpile in Toronto

Photo by Jen Ford

Earlier this year Hip-Hop lost one of its legends when Prodigy, one half of the duo Mobb Deep, passed away.  Before Prodigy passed, Mobb Deep were apparently working on planning another Canadian tour, but rather than cancel their plans, Havoc decided to honour the legacy of his partner in rhyme by embarking on the tour by himself.  Starting in Vancouver and making his way east, these shows in Canada would be among Havoc’s first performances since losing Prodigy.  Even though this stop in Toronto was on a weekday and people had to work in the morning, it felt like Hip-Hop fans had to come out and support Mobb Deep during their tragic time.

Not only did Toronto’s Hip-Hop heads come out to represent, but The Rockpile put together a lineup of some of the city’s finest local artists to support Havoc on this stop of the tour.  There were familiar names I hadn’t seen perform in a long time like Mohammad Ali and Dustin Wareham, a showcase by Hamilton’s In Tha Kut Radio, and of course the Rockpile’s favourite host Stacee Brizzle there to guide the crowd through the long list of performers.  Many of the artists picked to open for Havoc were standouts at other shows I’ve reviewed, and the lineup looked to have all the ingredients for a night filled with authentic Hip-Hop that would suit a celebration of Prodigy’s life well.

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We showed up a little late and missed some of the openers, arriving to find a group called General Tazz spitting some sharp rhymes on stage.  Despite the dope performance, the crowd was hanging back by the bars rather than filling up the dance floor.  Next up was Mohammad Ali, who’s known to rap about a lot of social issues, but still pumped a ton of energy into the room by rapping over M.O.P.’s “Ante Up.”  His flow was on point and he had some hooks in his songs that demanded crowd involvement.  After his set was a group I had just seen open for R.A. The Rugged Man back in August, #THC.

#THC had a much larger group of emcees than what I remembered, but the extra voices on stage didn’t sound cluttered at all.  You could tell they put in the practice to know exactly when to provide hypeman vocals for the primary emcee on each verse, and they all got to shine with crisp deliveries.  A crowd started to accumulate on the dance floor as Mookie and John P from In Tha Kut Radio began their showcase, which included a history lesson on Prodigy & Mobb Deep’s influence on music, as well as various emcees joining them on stage to spit verses.  One name I recognized was Gene One, who got on and killed a verse over Nas’ “One Love” in the middle of a Queensbridge segment of songs.

After In Tha Kut took us on a tour through the sound of Queens-based Hip-Hop and other artists influenced by Mobb Deep, there were a couple more openers that had been on tour with Havoc, including a group from Nova Scotia.  They gave the crowd some good energy as the building got packed with fans waiting to see the Havoc.  The anticipation built as the time for the headliner approached.

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Photo by Jen Ford

Havoc had some fellow Queensbridge legends with him for this tour, as producer L.E.S. got behind the turntables to warm up the crowd.  He got the headlining set started by spinning some classic songs he’s produced over the years, including “Life’s A Bitch” and “Black Republican” by Nas, who was just in town a couple days prior.  Soon after, he brought out Queens emcee and longtime Mobb Deep collaborator Big Noyd, who performed some solo tracks as well as some of his notable guest features.  In a fluid transition, the beat from Mobb Deep’s 1995 classic “Survival of the Fittest” dropped, and Havoc came out on stage rapping Prodigy’s opening verse.

Havoc proceeded to go through several Mobb Deep classics, performing both his own and the late Prodigy’s verses on every song.  The crowd showed a lot of love, helping rap along to P’s verses as Hav took them through their work from the 90’s.  Starting with the 1995 Infamous album, he performed “Eye For an Eye” and “Give Up The Goods (Just Step),” with Big Noyd slaying his standout guest verse on the latter track.  Noyd stayed on stage and filled in as a dope hypeman to back Havoc as they moved on to 1996’s Hell On Earth album, performing “G.O.D. (Pt. 3)” along with the title track.

After quickly touching on a couple tracks off of 1999’s Murda Muzik, Havoc jumped ahead to 2014’s The Infamous Mobb Deep album, performing “Say Something” and “Taking You Off Here.”  He then took it back to the early 2000’s with “Get Away” and “Win or Lose,” then went all the way back to the 90’s again with “It’s Mine” and “Temperature’s Rising.”  The crowd enthusiastically waved their arms and rapped along as Hav and Noyd kept hitting them with fan favourite after fan favourite.

Making this a true Mobb Deep tribute show, Havoc did their 2004 club hit “Got It Twisted,” and even took it to their G-Unit era with “Outta Control (Remix).”  Even though it may not be the most loved part of Mobb Deep’s discography, the crowd still got down to the beats, and the energy levels only got higher when Havoc went back to the classics.  He performed their most famous songs, “Quiet Storm” and “Shook Ones Pt. II” before closing out the show with a new song paying tribute to Prodigy.

Overall, Havoc did a wicked job giving the fans what they wanted to see.  There’s not much more you could ask for – he touched on every Mobb Deep album, slayed his own verses, and did justice to Prodigy’s rhymes.  It was also a nice touch bringing Big Noyd on tour to perform his guest verses.  The Rockpile was the perfect venue for the grimy, underground vibe of Mobb’s classic tracks, and the local artists they booked to open for Hav brought that authentic Hip-Hop spirit needed for a show like this.  Toronto definitely showed up to support Havoc on his first Mobb Deep tour without Prodigy.


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