"I Am Music II Tour"
With Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, and Travis Barker
BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
View a 49-picture slide show of the concert here.
Better than: Charlie Sheen's "Violent Torpedo of Truth"
"I am your helluva motherfucking time," Lil Wayne declared outright amid a four-hour-plus hip-hop revue dubbed the "I Am Music II Tour." And in truth, everyone was in that building -- either as ticketholders or supporting cast -- mostly because Weezy wanted it that way. Some focus on the trouble that follows the recently incarcerated
28-year-old -- rumors of Drake quitting the Young Money family, a $5.6
million tax bill -- but the helluva show must go on.
Just to air out the dirty laundry early, Miami resident Drake showed up plenty during the evening, even before he stormed the stage in a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt to perform "Miss Me" and "Forever" with Weezy. The dude has his imprint on so many music video visuals shown on the massive 12-screen display behind the stage that it would take quite a feat to erase this talent from Young Money. "I've got love for Drizzy Drake," Wayne acknowledged (much like on the Washington, D.C., tour stop) on more than one occasion, and their interplay backed it up.
As for Lil Wayne's tax woes, his business manager, Sharlene Clark, was in the crowd. And if she was worried about her famous client, her smiling face didn't show it. "Those reports are based upon inaccurate information," she said. "They don't have all of the facts." All right then. This information made the Matrix-style dripping of neon-green Benjamins on the screens seem a little less contradictory.
No one can rock red Vans, a white T, and dark-blue denim hanging off his rear end quite like Weezy. Couple that with his diamond-encrusted smile and this is not the picture of a guy in turmoil. And this is to say nothing of his complete and utter command of his verses. With a backing band that looked like the Roots in winter wear, the rapper chased himself from corner to corner of the wide stage and then up to the second and third tier of the video screen display behind him. His virtuosity as a rhymer on "A Milli" made for even bigger puffs of lyrical smoke than those exploding around him.
Among several grandiose statements to the crowd, Wayne imparted "three important things." "One, I believe in God. Do you? Two, I ain't shit without you. And three, I ain't shit without you." This did receive a warm response. As did, "Cool if we take the ceilings off this bitch?" Even the BankAtlantic Center itself seemed open to it.
The "I ain't shit" philosophy carried over to the many, many guests who kept things in motion. Aside from Drake, we had two stage bombs by DJ Khaled performing "Welcome to My Hood" (also during Rick Ross' set), the tween-magnet Lil Twist, Ace Hood for "Hustle Hard," another Young Money teammate splitting the difference between Janet and Ciara named Shanell, as well as Mack Maine and Jae Mills providing vocal support without cutting Wayne too much of a break.
In the early going, it was Blink-182's Travis Barker's new live show, which is much like the TRV$DJAM collaboration he had with the now-departed DJ AM. Now with Beastie Boys associate Mix Master Mike controlling the decks, the pair took up two speaker-shaped cubbyholes in a giant boombox stage setup. With the video screens set up behind them, it was literally TV on the radio. This mix of nonstop bashing by Barker is paired with popular tunes by Nas, the Ramones, and Outkast for an experience that's a tiny bit Girl Talk and a whole lot of fist-pumping. He brought out Chicago rap duo the Cool Kids to perform a few, including "Bundle Up" -- although in Florida, this means Chuck Inglish was rocking a Panama hat.
Everything Ross projects is part of his bigger-than-rap lifestyle -- the
Ferraris, the Rolls-Royces, and of course the two-seater featured in
the slow jam "Aston Martin Music." That silky beard of his probably
costs $10,000 a night to bring it to his silky extreme. Before he came
out, under the weight of massive, booming bass, an enormous banner of
himself rose to cover the back of the stage. If Rawse seems big in
person, imagine him blown up so much that it's a 20-foot toothpick
sticking out of his mouth.
During one grill-shaker after another, Ross makes his direct statements feel as bold as possible. Not one to get all emotional onstage, he did admit that "I really do love you motherfuckers" to the crowd. And it felt even more sincere than the moment he asked the crowd, "You know what I love most about my city?" And then he answered his own question, "Every day I'm hustling" before launching into his breakout single, "Hustlin'."
If you want a sense of how Nicki Minaj introduces herself to the people, this is it. For a bit, it looked like the person inside the robe was actually her -- judging by the orange nail polish. And yes, that's Gladiator playing on the big screens.
Nicki Minaj is undeniably a star already. It's perfectly clear why other female rappers can hate her so much -- she does everything well. Aside from the ideal curves for pulling off a green-rainbow zebra spandex suit and a half-pink, half-black Bride of Blackenstein wig look, she opens the door for an equally schizophrenic mixture of genres and styles focusing on her Pink Friday album. Part Gaga, part M.I.A., part Rihanna, and still all original. Songs like "Super Bass," the soulful belter that proves she has pipes; "Save Me," her duet with Drake (no Drake onstage), "Moment 4 Life"; and her verse on Kanye West's "Monster" are big, badass stadium anthems, and as soon as she has a couple more, she can headline.
This sort of brash, strong female presence brought out some of the fiercest responses from the crowd. A woman within earshot kept yelling "what up what up what up" over the course of Minaj's set. And she was ready with banter:
"What the fuck is really good?"
"Ladies, I want to come down and touch your boobs, sign your boobs, and squeeze your boobs."
"Let me introduce you to my dancers. Yes, I have sex with them."
"I need a boy to give a lapdance to. I need a real stallion."
For that last one, Wayne rolled back onstage on a golf cart and drinking out of a styrofoam cup and took the throne. Still, Minaj is shining pretty bright at the moment, and he was happy to cede the stage back to her and a team of dancers in football helmets and daisy dukes.
Lil Wayne's night naturally ends with Lil Wayne. Back in a Pittsburgh Pirates cap, yellow T, and khaki shorts -- take that, Wiz Khalifa -- Mr. Carter dropped "May 16" in our ears several times for the coming of his next studio album. That and a collection of the following requests to the "bad bitches" in the crowd:
"If your pussy stink, be quiet." Loud applause.
"If you on your period, be quiet." Louder applause.
It was a tad awkward seeing a bunch of brace-faced teenaged girls singing along to the explicit, penultimate chorus to "Every Girl" -- look it up if you must -- but the song still was a spectacle featuring the Young Money family at nearly full steam. Ditto for "Bed Rock." With the only snag in the whole evening being a few Rebirth tracks and a little well-masked guitar noodling, a now-shirtless Weezy closed strong with Cory Gunz next to him for the "Day-O"-sampling "6 Foot 7 Foot," his first single off Tha Carter IV. Rapid-fire right until the end, Lil Wayne finished his night with a freestyle and for the first time all night raised his sunglasses. "Do you see you see my headlights?" he asked. If we did, it's now his taillights, because he blew right past.
Random detail: The plumes of fire exploding from the stage during Wayne's set were so hot that my eyebrows felt a lil torched by the end of the night.
Personal bias: I did not head to section 121 to get my picture taken with Lil Twist despite many opportunities announced over the public address.
The crowd: Suburbanites of every creed. Some in limos, even more in stilettos. Bros in Miami Heat jerseys, gals with homemade Nicki Minaj shirts, grown-and-sexy ladies with tattoos of their family members peeking out below their dresses, cool dads with their teenager kids, anyone who likes varsity jackets.
Overheard (online): "Dear Nicki Minaj, I will never be the same after seeing that ass."