And while we didn't get all the answers Thursday night at Toyota Center, one thing was clear - Lil Wayne is the most important artist in the world. He is the epitome of what it means to be the idea of urbanity in a country run by an administration who disallows such ideas from being recognized as important. Lil Wayne means so much to so many people that it's hard to fully articulate his place in the diachronically diverse world of the anointed.
Standing in front of an elaborate yet simple set, if you compare it to the circus T-Pain brought with him, Weezy made his way through a good chunk of his catalog, going all the way back to the astounding mixtape years and continuing through his first solo record and on to the more well-known (and more accessible) stuff from Tha Carter III.
There were balletic fireballs dancing in sync to Lil' Wayne's rhymes; there were suspended stages stood upon by various musicians at various times (cellist, bassist, keyboardist, DJ); there were giant screens that were weirdly unnecessary; there were huge blasts of smoke shot up what seemed like 20 feet into the air; and there were of course the songs.
"Mr. Carter" opened the show, but it seemed only a prelude to what would come after, because the crowd wasn't fully engaged with the performance just yet; that changed when "Got Money" ended and T-Pain joined Weezy on stage for a battle that made what seemed like every person in the audience get up and start dancing.
There were the old standbys, of course; the songs where Lil' Wayne didn't even need to be there because the whole pulsing crowd knew every pulsing word to every pulsing beat - and the songs seemed almost better that way - "Comfortable," "Phone Home" and "Lollipop" being just three.
I think the highlight of the night, though, was "Mrs. Officer," which has Weezy singing and rapping about his tryst with the police. In it he sings, "And I know she the law and she knows I'm the boss/ And she know I can hide above the law/ And she know I'm raw, she know I'm from the street/ And all she want me to do is fuck the police."
Before you ask, yes, I agree, it's genius. Lil Wayne is a shark among surfboards in the hip-hop industry. Nobody can touch him, and he seems to know it, owning the stage and commanding the audience with such flair you'd think he was the glitter on a leopard print.
But it's not about the songs with Lil' Wayne, and it's not about the stage production. It's not about the guest rappers or the backup singers, and it's not about the pyrotechnics. It's about what he is doing for hip-hop. It's hard to explain his importance because he transcends linguistic signification. He is the symbol and the sign - something like an ellipsis graffitied next to the words 'You are Here' on the side of a subway train with the brake lines cut.
Wayne stands alone in a genre that is incredibly transient and saturated in such a way that implies strangulation, but he seems fully confident with his position on the throne. We were lucky to have him here Thursday night, like we all communally experienced something akin to seeing Michael Jackson in his prime. Lil' Wayne defines. - Brandon K. Hernsberger