At the beginning of De La Soul and Pharoahe Monch's Wednesday show at Nation, it seemed that all the components were in place to make it the best hip-hop concert in D.C. this year. For starters, the event was free, and by 8 p.m. a line of fans snaked around the side of the club. When fans were finally let in, they were met by guest deejay and rap legend Biz Markie. While Markie's turntable skills were debatable, his record selection was impressive. The result was a clublike atmosphere as opposed to the wallflower conventions that usually usher in local hip-hop shows.

By the time Pharoahe Monch hit the stage, Nation's cavernous main hall was packed. Monch opened with "Stray Bullet," a favorite from his days as a member of the duo Organized Konfusion. Monch was accompanied by Total Eclipse, who elicited applause from the crowd with a rousing exhibition of new-school turntablism.

By the time Monch finished his act, the crowd was salivating for De La Soul. But that group didn't take the stage until almost an hour later. De La Soul's band members are almost as notorious for their energetic stage show as they are for being tardy. Wednesday their lateness came back to bite them. The group offered hot renditions of "Ego Trip," "Buddy" and "Plug Tuning," but the crowd simply could not keep up with the seemingly tireless performers. The crowd's lack of energy was understandable given that the entire show lasted more than five hours. By the time the group finished up with its 1996 hit "Stakes Is High," half the audience had left.