Old school was in session.

LL Cool J, Ice Cube, Public Enemy and De La Soul -- four of the greatest hip-hip acts of all time -- combined forces during a wonderfully nostalgic evening of music as the Kings of the Mic Tour hit Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View on Saturday.

How great was this lineup? The rock 'n' roll equivalent would read something like the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen and AC/DC. I'm serious. All of four of the Kings of the Mic acts rank among the top 40 most important hip-hop artists of all time -- with Public Enemy, arguably, belonging at the very top spot.

What really made this show special, however, was its variety. Each of the acts has helped define a different area of old-school hip-hop. LL is the pop star, specializing in love jams. Cube is gangsta rap. Public Enemy is fiercely political. De La Soul represents the alt hip-hop world.

All four acts scored high marks, yet Public Enemy was clearly at the head of the class. The newly inducted members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame delivered a powerful set of longtime fan favorites, each of which still sounds potent.

De La Soul got the party started in fine fashion with a number of tunes from the 1989 debut "3 Feet High and Rising," a record that is routinely listed among hip-hop's all-time best. However, the trio -- consisting of original members Vincent "Maseo" Mason, David Jude Jolicoeur and Kelvin "Posdnuos" Mercer -- wasn't initially pleased with the reaction it was receiving from the crowd.

"This is how we do it nowadays?" Maseo said to the partially seated crowd. "We too old to stand up?"

Public Enemy had no such issues, since the audience was in master rapper Chuck D's corner from the moment the group hit the stage. Chuck D was an absolute marvel on the mic, head and shoulders above any of the other legendary performers of the night. No one else could touch his ferocity, conviction and power. Later in the evening, Ice Cube referred to the Public Enemy frontman as his favorite rapper and LL Cool J called Chuck D "the greatest of all time."

It wasn't just Chuck, however, who made the Public Enemy set so stupendous. The whole ensemble -- which included a rocking live band, turntable guru DJ Lord, the dancers/bodyguards collectively known as "The Security of the First World" and, of course, hype-man extraordinaire Flava Flav -- was on fire throughout the set. The elaborate production was riveting, providing an important contrast to what was delivered by the other acts, which mainly just rapped in front of DJs.

Ice Cube was nearly as impressive, slugging through one gangsta rap classic after another. Sure, his string of film comedies like "Are We There Yet?" and "Barbershop" has clouded his legacy somewhat. Yet, he was "Straight Outta Compton" in this set, sounding as menacing as ever on cuts from both his NWA and solo catalogs.

LL Cool J had a hard time following Cube and Public Enemy, coming up way short in terms of thrills and excitement. The rapper-turned-actor, who recently generated much controversy by appearing on the Brad Paisley song "Accidental Racist," did exhibit much charisma as he filled the headlining set with both classic love jams and up-tempo hits.

In all, it was an old school show for the ages. I can't wait for the class reunion.

Follow Jim Harrington at http://twitter.com/jimthecritic, www.facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.