Review and photos: Lil' Wayne proves rap belongs on the stage
Let’s be realistic. Rap that’s on the radio right now (the pop-leaning, pitch-corrected kind) is meant for the club dance floor, the car speakers or the cell phone ringtone, and not so much for the live stage.
But for two deliriously grand hours Saturday night, Lil’ Wayne, a.k.a. Weezy, a.k.a. Weezy F. Baby, a.k.a. Mr. Make it Rain, a.k.a. Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. quashed all notions that the words “rap” and “concert” aren’t meant to go together.
Our parents tell us about when they saw the Beatles. Will teens and twenty-somethings tell their kids how they saw Weezy in his heyday? (The ‘07 mixtape track I Feel Like Dying, in which Wayne imagines playing basketball with the moon and diving into a sea of codeine, is a lot like Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds when you think about it, too).
It’s not so ridiculous if you consider just how big the Wayne enterprise has become. He now receives an automatic $25,000 for just 16 bars on a guest track, rumor has it. Really, you’re kidding yourself it you don’t think he’s one of the world’s biggest artists.
The Ford Amp’s giant television monitors captured Wayne’s behind-the-curtain strut up to the stage. The heavily tattooed 26-year-old rapper, outfitted in a black tee, saggy jeans and Ray-Bans, got down to business with a thunderous, snare-crackling A Milli. Dayglo dollar signs flashed in the backdrop as Wayne jumped from platform to platform between agile, witty verses – “even Gwen Stefani say she couldn’t doubt me.”
After a screamy guitar solo conclusion and a little riverdancing, Wayne took some time to share information about himself with his fans. “One, I believe in God. Two, I ain’t s*** without you, and three, I ain’t s*** without you,” he said.
Though the words “the best rapper alive” lit up the screen on multiple occasions, it was refreshing to find Weezy isn’t too proud or too hard to show his supporters major love.
The crowd (near capacity for the reserve seats) did the “this-a-way, that-a-way” pointing on Got Money, and an all-smiles Weezy stripped down to a tank on a smokin’ hot, albeit short version, of Fireman.
A DJ named DJ 45 and a muscular, shirtless rhythm section backed him on most songs. Apparently Wayne took note from Jay-Z, because Auto-Tune was barely employed, if at all, throughout the night. And even from the back of the house, it wasn’t tough to decipher Wayne’s extra-croaky vocals. Another win for the rap concert.
During the “rock segment,” Wayne picked up a glossy red guitar to cover Walk this Way, which segued into his own rock single, Prom Queen .
After a booty-shaking interlude with DJ 45, Wayne returned for a fogged-out Kush and an indulgent Pop Bottles. Birdman (a.k.a. Baby) joined on We Takin’ Over.
“I hope you’re having a great, spectacular, wonderful time,” Wayne said.
Other than a couple of mixtape tracks (there was a Mike Jones song in there somewhere), the set was heavy on hits and on songs from Tha Carter III, the Grammy-winning, best-selling album of 2008. Those included Mrs. Officer -- “I said lady what’s your number, she said 911” -- and a lively rendition of Lollipop, complete with pole-dancing ladies.
A highlight of the evening came on the slow, somber Game collaboration, My Life. All 5 feet, 6 inches of Wayne seemed gigantic when he gestured for quiet. “Dear Lord you took so many of my people, I am just wondering why you haven’t taken my life,” he sang earnestly.
Wayne also paid tribute to the greatest rappers in his eyes, Tupac, Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z. He honored his hometown, New Orleans (he was raised in the rough Hollygrove neighborhood of the city's 17th Ward), too with a photo collage of the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina.
Finally, on Every Girl, the whole Young Money crew took the stage (he had introduced them individually earlier in the night in an unnecessary segment). But for Lil’ Twist, Lil’ Chuckee, T-Streets, Jae Millz, Tyga, Gudda Gudda and Nicki Minaj, it’s going to take some major work to become heirs to the throne of Wayne.
-- Carole Giambalvo, Soundcheck contributor
Lil' Wayne Kicks it off at the Ford Amp. [Photo by Luis Santana | tbt*]