NEW YORK -- It didn't start out as De La Soul's night. But it sure ended that way.
Usually, De La Soul wouldn't have to work too hard to captivate hometown fans, but a tardy DJ, a restless crowd and a show-stopping cameo by A Tribe Called Quest rapper Q-Tip required the local rap crew to kick out nearly every jam they had at Thursday night's sold-out show at Tramps in New York City.
DJ Maseo's lateness considerably delayed the start of the concert, since he served as the scratch and sample man for both De La Soul and opening act Mos Def. The crowd booed lustily several times when promoters appeared onstage, and a few fans tossed candy wrappers at them.
Mos Def's set quelled the rowdies, however. But not for long, as Q-Tip -- Mos Def's special guest on one song -- turned the energy on high again as the audience moved to the groove of "Body Rock" from the new Mos Def album of the same name. The Tribe rapper's abbreviated rendition of "Scenario" and his short speech about the fire that ravaged his Englewood, N.J., home on Feb. 7, was a tough act to follow.
"Q-Tip stole the show," said Joey Marchesani, a Berlin native who attends school in Manhattan. "He had like five or 10 minutes on the stage, and he was great. He dropped lyrics in so many different styles."
But not a crew to be upstaged, De La Soul's Posdnous and Trugoy reclaimed the night, becoming a veritable jukebox of their greatest hits, rapping incessantly over the stripped-down beats from Maseo's two turntables and sampler on such hits as "I Am I Be" and "Supa Emcees." The three artists were characteristically laid-back, dressed in T-shirts and casual pants suitable for hanging out anywhere. But nearly two years after their last record, Stakes Is High, De La Soul were noticeably fresh, eager and determined.
Posdnous strode onstage wearing a knit hat that he would soon doff, his eyes buggin' out with excitement as he and Trugoy -- wearing a loose-fitting, cockeyed cap that he too would soon remove -- prowled the stage constantly, growling along with the audience to the opening snarls of "Ego Trippin' (Part Two)" from Buhloone Mind State. Posdnous was most expressive, clamoring with his free hand for the audience to fill in the samples missing from Maseo's spare beats on phat joints such as "Me, Myself and I."
He rolled his eyes in disapproval when the audience was too quiet and busted the crowd for not knowing the words to tracks by rap pioneers Public Enemy and Slick Rick during what was supposed to be a sing-along, old-school medley.
Trugoy played the clown all night, at one point asking, "Ain't we gonna do some Salt-n-Pepa? Ain't we?"
Special guests on and off mic -- such as rap duo Camp Lo, De La Soul producer Prince Paul and the Jungle Brothers -- added to the party atmosphere without crowding out the headliners. Posdnous and Trugoy were always out front at key moments, bobbing and swaying with the audience, getting everyone involved like good party hosts should.
They convinced the crowd to make like they were driving a car with one hand during "Pony Ride" from Stakes Is High and performed "I Am I Be" to about 40 fired-up lighters, which suddenly seemed a long way from having objects hurled at the stage in disgust.
With a cavalcade of familiar hits such as "Buddy" and "A Roller Skating Jam Called 'Saturdays,' " De La Soul did succeed in reclaiming some of Q-Tip's brief thunder, more than enough to charm the tough crowd.
"They had everyone, and the other rappers, in on the show without taking away from what they were doing," Brooklyn native DeLeone Lee said. [Sat., Feb. 21, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]