Lil Wayne, T.I. & 2 Chainz at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 8/18/2013
Photos by Jim Bricker
Lil Wayne, T.I., 2 Chainz Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion August 18, 2013
There comes a time in every boy's life where he learns an inadvertent anatomy lesson with the help of some overzealous audience members, their crotches, and a jumbotron.
Sunday night was that night for many a Houston boy, because children were running everywhere at the Lil Wayne/T.I./2 Chainz "America's Most Wanted" concert while the dank ran thick in the air, and one very naked crotch was splayed across the Pavilion's huge screens. Congrats, folks. Your boys are now men at the ripe old age of eight, and they've learned the word "jumbogina."
I suppose I should have expected it; this was a Weezy concert, after all, not church, but it was still kind of jaw-dropping to see a giant, very nude crotch being shoved in Lil Wayne's face as he tried to rap. That's kind of how the night went, though. All three artists produced jaw-dropping moments, but perhaps in more of a puzzling way than anything else.
The rest of the night was just kind of all right, with one big exception: Lil Wayne.
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From the moment 2 Chainz, the first of the three bigger names on the bill, took the stage, there was a bit of a strange vibe from the crowd in response to his performance. Some folks were really hyped and into it, but for the most part, the crowd's energy was super-low energy. It was pretty obvious that most of the audience members weren't there specifically to see 2 Chainz, and it was easy to see why.
The Atlanta rapper's music doesn't translate very well into a live venue; its studio production is laid on with a heavy hand, which is what makes helps 2 Chainz have such a draw in the first place. So when he's performing "Beez In the Trap" or "Birthday Song" -- both of which he did -- in person, without all the technology-added frills it's hardly a moving experience. He just kind of yelled into the mike, and it was hard to tell what song it was, even with the help of his onstage DJ and the crowd. Also, he didn't play "Mercy," which was really disappointing given it's been his biggest song to date.
After his short 50-minute set, T.I. was up. By this point, the sun had gone down, the air had cooled off, and the vibe in the venue had changed from mellow and sanguine to more of a "fuck yeah" feeling. Perhaps it had to do with the four band members T.I. has onstage, or the two hype men he uses as filler, but the crowd definitely responded with much more enthusiasm from the first song.
It's hard, though, to rap over a live band, and T.I. is no exception to that rule. There were some sketchy points where it was difficult to tell just what the hell he was rapping, and the song choices -- stuff like "U Don't Know Me" and "What You Know" -- were great for getting the crowd hyped, since they're some of his more popular tracks, but they were perhaps a bit too much of a throwback to his old stuff. He's got a new album out, but he didn't pull much from it.
He did, however, throw in a couple of his newer songs. They were in somewhat of a weird juxtaposition to his older, more thug-life themed stuff, but well-performed and -received nonetheless. His verse from Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" is a standout both on the track and in concert; it was -- dare I say -- cute to see T.I. kinda hopping around all jacked from the pop-heavy tune. Perhaps if he'd been given a longer set, we would have seen more than a set heavy with older songs, but his time was limited to make way for the headliner.
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Lil Wayne, for his part, is one of the most prominent rappers on the scene right now. His name is everywhere. If he's not dropping an album, he's rapping on other tracks and usually vastly improving them, making them instant radio hits. As he took the stage amid a half-pipe, skateboarders and pyrotechnics, it was easy to see just why this guy is everywhere. He's kind of mesmerizing.
Wayne is this little firecracker of energy from the jump. His dreads are flying, his rhymes are so unique and on point, and he's just fuckin' likable, even if you don't care for rap. He's Weezy: charismatic and silly, and straight New Orleans in a miniature form. It's awesome.
Tunechi's catalog spans what feels like centuries -- his music travels back all the way to the days of Juvenile and the Hot Boys, but ironically, where we got quite a bit of T.I.'s older stuff, we got a heavier dose of Weezy's newer tracks. He did throw in old favorites like "Lollipop" and "How to Love," but gave Sunday's crowd way more of the current stuff.
There were some pretty rad moments, though. Tunechi brought on Birdman, whom he calls his "father," to assist him on "I'm Still Fly," a track to which every single member of the audience knew the words, and it was cool to see him pay such respect to someone onstage. It was quite a humbling moment for him, I think.
Weezy has had quite a year between his seizures, the flack he received over the flag-stomping, and his lyrics on the song "Karate Chop." That controversial song, "Karate Chop," made an appearance -- a questionable choice, given the controversy over the Emmett Till references -- but it was endearing to watch Weezy perform it while leaving out that reference and humbly apologizing to Till's family during the song.
Wayne seemed to understand the depth of that controversy, and was apologetic for it. It was refreshing to see a more down-to-earth side of this over-the-top tornado of a rapper, if only for a moment. And yet even with those more real moments, I still found myself holding out hope for some of the Hot Boys' music in addition to the newer, more tech-heavy jams -- "Karate Chop" included -- but we were only given snippets of those old, badass songs courtesy of the DJ as Wayne took a break for a costume change.
Once Weezy returned to the stage, sans the sweaty Mickey Mouse pants he'd been sporting for the first half of the concert, he introduced those soon-to-be infamous members of the audience, who were pulled up to help him along by twerking and dancing around the stage while he rapped by acting as stand-in backup dancers. Little did he know that in addition, he'd get a naked crotch in his face along with it.
Even Lil Wayne, as desensitized as he is to every pseudonym for the word crotch, seemed slightly thrown off by the friendly gesture, and joked once the women made their way offstage that he's a "nasty motherfucker," and he was about to "bite it." I don't know if he even knew what to say about all that business. I certainly didn't, and don't. It's always too early for a concert crotch-shot, I guess.
I can't imagine what the parents of the young children in the audience were thinking at the moment that bare womanhood flashed across the screen, but they had plenty of time to contemplate, because the cameraman made sure to flash the bare meat a couple of times for good measure.
Hopefully those parents were rethinking this whole "child at a rap concert" thing, because it is quite a questionable choice, even if the crotch shots were removed from the equation. The word "pussy" should be limited to the 18-and-up crowd, no?
Luckily for us, this was Lil Wayne we were watching, with his skate park and sheer lunacy on stage, and he's so charismatic, that even in awkward jumbogina moments, he keeps all eyes on him. He kept that concert raging on, despite the momentary naked hiccups, and he killed the rest of the set.
Makes sense, though. He's like a little rapping superhero, that Weezy, and if I had one guess, well, I'd guess he's just New Orleans.
Personal Bias: I love Weezy's earlier, more raw stuff, and although I know he isn't real jacked to play it, I wish he'd do me the solid one of these days. Please?
The Crowd: Man, I'll give it to them. This concert pulled in a crazy diverse crowd, and it was awesome to see everyone just hanging out, dancin' around to Lil Wayne and company with no reservations. Minus the children, of course. I still find it a bit unnerving to have kids at a concert where the word pussy is dropped on a dime.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Wow. That dude had a three-week-old infant at this concert. Woooooow."
Random Notebook Dump: If you're going to pray at the altar of Weezy, wear panties.
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