Is America, in three wars and on the fringes of ongoing recession, ready to embrace a character embodying unabashed hedonism, casual sex and drug use? It’s a question I read about the Arthur remake, but if Lil Wayne’s monstrously extravagant “I Am Still Music” tour is any indication, then the answer is hell yes. Weezy, Rick Ross, and Nicki Minaj descended upon a Verizon Center packed to the gills and ready to bow down before the pulpit of hip-hop’s most bankable stars. If you missed my incessant, perhaps annoying, livetweets on Sunday night, check below for the gory details and glorious pics.
The show opened with Mixmaster Mike, best known for his work with the Beastie Boys, and Blink 182’s Travis Barker performing together in what looked like a giant boombox. Mike manned the tables while Barker drummed along, each inside one of the speakers. The kids around me looked bewildered which I interpreted as “What the hell is a boombox?” and “Who the hell is Mixmaster Mike?”
A Waka Flaka Flame tune inspired the crowd and some old heads got up for Sugar Hill Gang’s Apache (Jump On It) but the gimmick wasn’t really a hit. Reminded me a lot of the dancers at Atlantic City nightclubs playing drums or saxophone along to the music – what’s the point? Someone came out and rapped, awfully, but he rhymed something with Blanche Devereaux. You get a pass for that.
After an absolutely enormous backdrop of Rick Ross was raised to the sky, the lights dimmed and the DJ dropped Samuel L. Jackson’s Ezekial 25:17 speech from Pulp Fiction. A nice touch as the climactic gunshots were punctuated by erupting pyrotechnics on either side of the stage and Ross entered to the skull crushing bass of “MC Hammer” from 2010’s Teflon Don. Curiously dressed in a khaki outfit that you might find at a Bass Pro Shop, I’m going to assume he spent his money on his blinding watch, bracelet, and Maybach Music medallion.
A purveyor of dope game excess, even after being outed as a former corrections officer, Ross plays the role as well as anyone and it’s his absurd flamboyance that draws you in. Do we really think he expects us to take him seriously with an anthem like “Hustlin’,” his second song of the night? The crowd went positively apeshit because no matter what you’re slinging 9 to 5, it’s a workingman’s anthem we can all get behind. Ross asked everyone to hold their phones up as he segued into the guttural “9 Piece” off the recent Ashes to Ashes EP. Ever tech savvy, “I’m selling dope… straight off the phone!” There’s an app, I guess.
Ricky Rozay operates frequently within the confines of sluggish Lax Luger synch and bounce beats but as long as he’s dropping head nod anthems like “BMF” (which, awesomely, opened with Ross flexing his biceps gun show style while fireworks went off. My apologies if you were near me and got bowed in the face) he’s going to justify that new distribution deal he just got (records, y’all.) Grizzly as he is, he can play the smoothie too as with “Aston Martin Music” and it’s saccharine hooks. I bolted for a Diet Coke near the end of the set but I heard Wale came out which was a good look from Ross and made sense since he just signed him to his Maybach Music imprint.
Self-professed weirdo-Martian Lil Wayne took the stage flanked by a full band, a 3 story set, and 9 huge video screens. Kicking verses from “Going In,” Wayne raced from side to side of the stage and to the front of the crowd with the energy you’d expect from someone back on top after 8 months in Rikers. The crowd reciprocated, spitting every line back at Wayne and drawing some sincere thanks and praise from Weezy at the beginning and end of the show.
In a rare break from the night’s mayhem, Wayne removed his glasses and informed the crowd of his 3 rules: he believes in God, and rules 2 and 3 – “I aint shit without yall.” Wayne continued to run wild throughout a medley of his most popular songs of the last few years: “Right Above It,” “A Milli,” and “Got Money” which featured 90s style backup dancers. Always a plus.
The show slowed down as he showcased some of the Young Money roster including Lil Twist who looked like Kwame’s grandson and Shanel who rocked the Jane Child nose-to-ear chain. The only lasting impression was Shanel’s song, “Hair Down My Back Bitch.” Your move, Willow Smith.
Weezy jumped back on the mic for the brilliantly hilarious ode to text fighting and extraneous sexual conquests, “Single.” The crowd was fully involved, especially the ladies, giddily screaming along to “my girl acting like a brat, so when she call, I don’t answer I just write her back, she hate it when I do that shit.” Truth.
The girl in front of me pushed her man out of the way so she could grind on her friend. He tried to hold her hand down during the “Put your hands up if you single” line but it was not happening. As Wayne crooned, it was about to “get nasty. Pork rinds.”
Wayne made way for Nicki Minaj before returning with my favorite T shirt of the night: “I <3 Minaj” but the heart was upside down with a thong on it. He also brought out some higher profile guests like Brian “Baby” Williams and Canadian heartthrob Drake for their “Miss Me” collaboration. This brought on the shrillest shrieks of the evening that continued until Drakes exit. Not a dry seat in the house at this point.
The crowd stayed fully engaged for “Lollipop” and the self-affirming “I’m Me” which featured a 3 story montage of Wayne album covers. The screens shifted to a tropical sunset for closer “6 Foot 7,” the triumphant comeback single featuring Wayne’s machine gun flow over a Harry Belafonte “Day-O.” A fitting end but I imagine a few older cuts, possibly “Fireman” or “Tha Block is Hot” would have just slayed.
Nicki Minaj emerged from beneath the stage, introduced by a Gladiator clip and a druid throwing purple dust. It goes without saying that you’re either going to notice the purple Marge Simpson hairdo or her ample backside first.
Rihanna called it perfect and it’s got it’s own Saturday Night Live sketch.
Tearing into Roman’s Revenge, I wished her raps loomed as large as that ass. Her style is cribbed heavily from Busta Rhymes and rival Lil Kim and that’d be perfectly fine if the lyrics weren’t so dumb. “Hang it up haha like a plasma.” Stylistically, however, her performance had me rooting for her.
A natural on stage, she reigned over 5 backup dancers in an odd football routine as well as a hype man who had the lowly (or awesome?) job of keeping her hair up. She switched outfits, donning a Victorian dress for the tender “Save Me,” a highlight accentuated by a couple ballerinas.
She’s been maligned for these more vulnerable moments on her Pink Friday record but tonight they seemed the realest. She had the crowd wrapped around her pinky the whole time.
It may have been Wayne’s concert but it was most definitely Minaj’s concourse. 4-inch purple fur-lined stilettos, neon bodysuits and tube tops the size of one of my short sleeves were de rigeur. Got no pockets and 2 pink cocktails? That cell phone is going between your breasts baby. Khandi Alexander Couture, and we’re talking CB4 – not CSI: Miami. No idea why the guys weren’t decked out more but they probably heard my man with the Pegasus-winged pants and shoes was in the building and really, what the hell are you gonna do to top that? This being DC and all, the youth brought by their parents worked on GOTV with Wayne For President shirts too. Luckily Dakota was there to catch the fashion pics.
some more Nicki Minaj…