Lil Wayne/Nicki Minaj/Rick Ross/Travis Barker/Mix Master Mike The Pageant April 10, 2011
Better Than: Whatever the hell else went on last night.
They came in jacked-up ghetto cruisers and sensible Hondas; they came in glute-hugging tube dresses, crisp white T's and homemade shirts. They came from Illinois, South Dakota, the county and the northside, and last night, they partied like it was November 4th.
It was Wayne's night through and through. It's easy to imagine that being part of the Young Money/Cash Money Billionaires empire comes with a few requirements--mention your latest project no fewer than three times, bring some famous and not so famous friends and for god's sake show some respect to the man who brought you here--Dwayne Michael Carter Jr.
Wayne proved himself worthy of his own lip service--he was sober and therefore clear-throated, and he performed for two solid hours without AutoTune; his rhymes were raw, which made his flawless execution all the more impressive. The night was not perfect, but Lil Wayne was. "You think it'd be cool if we take the ceilings off this bitch?" he asked, knowing full well there would be a riot if he didn't.
Mix Master Mike of the Beastie Boys dueled on the ones and twos while Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker flayed his drum kit. It was a shame that half the crowd was still milling around outside during the pair's frenetic old school hip-hop and rock set, which put Girl Talk's sample gluttony to shame. The early slot seemed like a waste of their time and talent. Their performance would have been better suited to keeping the energy up during between-set transitions.
Gravel-voiced Rick Ross took the stage next, playing a consistent set of his radio friendly jams, "Aston Martin Music," "Hustlin'" and his best earworm, "Blowin' Money Fast." DJ Khaled joined him for the aural crack that is "All I Do Is Win," and crowd favorite "Welcome To My Hood." All respect to Ricky Rozay, but somewhere between the 50-foot-tall promotional poster of himself, the "Maybach Music" sound bite after every song, and the number of times he proclaimed himself to be "self-made" (the name of his new album, obviously), it got to be overkill.
After Rick Ross finished
promoting performing, all eyes went to the silhouette at the top of the lit-up Hollywood Squares-on-ecstasy stage set, and the crowd went berserk as a disembodied female voice read Wayne's prisoner number. His fantastic band revved up, and after a few jarring pyrotechnic salvos, Weezy came out of the floor, wearing a Cardinals hat (!) and crouching coolly with mike in hand. The reaction was deafening even before he dropped his first beat, "I'm Goin' In."
There were varying volumes of crowd response last night, but if Wayne was visible, the noise level from the seats was ear-splitting. Ever the showman, Wayne curried favor by imparting "three important things."
"Number one: I believe in God, do you? Number two: I ain't shit without you. Number three: I. Ain't. Shit. Without. You."
Throughout the night, Weezy alternated between giving props to his crew (DJ Four Five, Birdman, his badass band, Mack Maine), egging on his protégés Shanell and Lil Twist, and hyping the room with umpteen call and responses. The calls were always different, but the response was generally same: "Hell yeah, nigga!"
His first set was stacked with enough hits that we nearly forgot dear old Minaj, at least until Wayne announced "I'll be right back, I'mma take these fucking clothes off."
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