Juvenile, Mystikal Arena Theatre March 6, 2015
Mystikal is rap's James Brown.
Even if Friday night's Arena Theatre show was billed as one where both Juvenile & Mystikal brought their own brand of New Orleans funk and hip-hop to the city, by night's end it was Mystikal's affair while Juvenile made sure the atmosphere stayed firm.
Even at 44, Mystikal can command a room with the same physical nature of a stampeding elephant. He's warned people in freestyles and other tracks that if he and a bear are ever grappling in a forest, you'd better send assistance for the bear. He's a rap typhoon, a contorting, fire-breathing rap monster who has literally created his own drum and has kept people entertained with it for more than two decades now.
"Oh shit, the stage spinnin'," he joked in between songs, a set which touched on not only his No Limit heyday but his time spent as one of rap's greater voices post No Limit with his Let's Get Ready and Tarantula albums. "I used to do this all night long when I was in my twenties. Can't do that shit no mo! Y'all gotta know I'm not as young as I used to be."
The body may not be able to do what the mind wants it to sometimes but Mystikal knew what keys to hit with the ladies and men, most of them right along his age range and most clad in camo and gold grills. You see, both Mysitkal and Juvenile shaped my childhood. 1998 was the year for a brief moment where Mystikal became my absolute favorite rapper on No Limit with his "Make Em Say Uhhh" verse. Later that year, Juvenile delivered the greatest booty state of address that has ever existed by mouthing the preamble to the twerk constitution, "Cash Money takin' over for the '99 and the 2000."
See, that was 1998. The same adults (and grandmothers) who partook in Friday night's New Orleans rap revival knew it, and didn't care. Nor should they. They wanted to be rowdy, yell out lyrics to "The Man Right Chea" or "Here I Go" or even the neat twist where Mystikal turned to his DJ, KLC, to spin some of the No Limit tracks he produced - which in reality was damn near all of them as Beats By the Pound.
When he flipped on C-Murder's "Down 4 My Niggas," the crowd lost it. An even sweeter touch? Mystikal rapped Magic's verse, the man who's gruff voice sort of replaced the energy Mystikal had when he departed from No Limit.
From the time Mystikal closed with "Shake Ya Ass" (and at least ten grown-ass mothers started twerking on him) to the moment Juvenile kicked off his 11-track set with "Set It Off," something seemed off. Fine, so New Orleans essentially told the world they have better dance songs than Houston and women were twerking on chairs and stairs and tables and spinning stages to prove that point. It's fine; Houston people have far more memorable freestyles and body-rocking classics, as proved by DJ Rob G the General.
That off feeling? That there weren't enough rappers and hangers-on onstage, something it took all of ten minutes of Juve's set to prove me wrong. Thank God rap shows never cease to amaze me.
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Juve had to stop the set to escort all of the "family" of the stage. That meant twins, Houston benefactors, dates with prostitute bodies but grade-school minds, a pair of twins in matching camo outfits -- basically the goddamn circus had to exit the spinning stage. Then Juvenile got back to work. Nothing past 2006 mattered, and everything that drew immediate reactions from 1997 to 2005 got played -- "Soulja Rag," "In My Life," "Slow Motion" "U Understand." Everything clicked. Even though "Back Dat Azz Up" came in the middle portion of the set and Juve closed with the greatest 48 questions in Southern rap history with "Ha," people were satisfied.
Well sort of. It's 30 minutes apiece between two New Orleans rap legends. If you get a ton of guests, Lord knows those respective sets could have lasted hours. Point is, Mystikal might be in more of an alert place thanks to his appearance on Mark Ronson's chart-topping new album. Because that's James Brown. Juvenile? Still waving a Soulja Rag for everyone who understands why New Orleans is a central part of the rap universe.
Personal Bias: My first-ever dance (Missouri City Middle School, Spring '98) involved Mystikal helping me dance with a girl. It was awkward, but I didn't care because she wasn't the colonel of the mf'n tank.
The Crowd: A ratchet mix of paradise. Think colored weaves, loose-fitting dresses and heels. Pimps, phone clips, someone who probably pleaded out to two murders but still got let out just for this show.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I'm not impressed," said a woman and her friend who noticed another man and his "date." The date was blonde and pretty by most standards, an ass that barely crept out of the bottom of her dress (which was red) and short blonde hair. Still, you've got to be Halle Berry or higher to impress some women.
Random Notebook Dump: Right after the end of "Back Dat Azz Up," Juvenile not only noticed a grandmother who perched herself on top of the speakers near the spinning stage, but also a woman who had twerked and fell. It looked as if she almost fell off the top rope of a wrestling ring. "You almost ended up on YouTube ha?" he asked her. Make that the unofficial 49th question to "Ha," Juve.
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