Last Night: Lil Wayne & Friends At The Woodlands

Lil Wayne, Rick Ross (feat. Bun B, Trae & Ace Hood), Keri Hilson Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion September 11, 2001

"Three things I want you to know about myself," Lil Wayne told the Woodlands Pavillion at the start of Sunday night's show:

1. "I believe in God."

2. "I ain't shit without you."

3. "I ain't shit without you."

Wayne took the stage around 9 p.m., following a string of heavyweight openers. We weren't lucky enough to catch Lloyd, but we're sure his baby hair looked amazing. After going through a TSA-style patdown ("Sir, please pull up your pants and roll down your socks"), we finally made our way in just in time to see Keri Hilson simultaneously singing and grinding.

Rick Ross followed with a set that sounded like a thousand elephants stomping on a cornfield. Bun B and Trae took turns sharing the stage with the Maybach Music General, performing a crowd-assisted "Big Pimpin'" and "Gettin' Paid" respectively. And when a pint-sized, dreadlocked rapper joined Rozay for "Hustle Hard," the venue erupted. The ecstatic cheer vanished as soon as the crowd realized it was Ace Hood and Ace Hood realized he needs to stop dressing like Lil Wayne.

The real Wayne showed up at exactly 9:12, rocking blue cutoff jean shorts, striped knee-high socks, green skateboard shoes, and a red skully, which he would later trade for a baseball hat. backed by a four-piece band throughout, Wayne stood in front of a ginormous screen with epilepsy-inducing graphics - spinning cubes, rotating film reel, a massive inferno - and opened with his blistering verse from Eminem's "No Love."

With the opening cuts out of the way, he took some time to joke with the crowd. Wayne was drunk with appreciation Sunday night, and understandably so. His newest release, Tha Carter IV, was certified platinum in just one week. He thanked everyone who bought Tha Carter IV, before offering the album for zero dollars.

"Since I sold over a million copies," he told the audience, "I don't even care if you bootleg the muthafucka."

As the show wore on, it became apparent that his set list was a ball of confusion, a common pickle for any artist with an extensive catalog. Though he played early hits like "Go DJ" and rap-rock missteps like "Prom Queen," Tha Carter II was absent from the bill.

Surprising, since Wayne's strong solo run started with the second installment of Tha Carter series. Undoubtedly his most complete album yet, Carter II solidified Wayne's role as a bonafide solo star."

The heavily auto-tuned Carter III nudged him further into pop territory, while Carter IV completely deteriorates into doggerel. Rock-rap experiments like Rebirth are proof he doesn't need to record every single idea he conceives.

Regardless of the album or tune on hand, Wayne proved himself to be a remarkable entertainer. All the classic elements of a show were there: Crowd participation, charisma, crisp vocals, etc.

He also kept it playful. He brought his deck and skated around the stage throughout the night, though he never attempted any of the tricks that led to his faceplant and stitches last month. During "Mrs. Officer," he was joined by Young Money's Shannell and a group of scantily-clad women in cop uniforms.

Deep within the levity, though, there was a mature guy striving to heighten his self-imposed sense of complexity. Noting the significance of the date, for instance, Wayne paused to salute those who died on 9/11, but not without injecting his own conscious spin.

"As a black man," Wayne professed before the mostly white crowd, "it's hard to root for the home team, given what we went through for this motherfucking home team. But I still can proudly say, I'm a motherfucking American." The crowd responded with deafening approval.

Just about anything Wayne did Sunday night elicited cheers, a point he punctuated by randomly striking poses simply for the sake of relishing the fandom. Many rappers would kill for this type of adoration.

Even if you've never seen Lil Wayne live, you've probably heard that he isn't just, well, like any other hip-hop artist. He differs markedly from his peers in personality and style. He's a household name who doesn't carry himself like one. And how better to separate yourself from others than by keeping your live shows light and lively?

Sunday's show ended the same way it started - with Wayne professing his endless love for those generous enough to buy his music and dole out big bucks to see him live.

"Three important things I want you to know about myself," he reminded us:

1. "I believe in God."

2. "I ain't shit without you."

3. "I ain't shit without you."

Overheard in the Crowd: "Lil Wayne's a Republican!"

The Crowd: Demographically representative of Weezy Nation.


I'm Goin' In Look At Me Now Bill Gates A Milli Right Above It Got Money Go DJ Swag Surfin' Wasted Ice Cream Motivation My Button Hair Down My Back John I'm on One Steady Mobbin' Mr. Carter Miss Me Mrs. Officer Single Lollipop How 2 Love Fire to Blame Money to Blow Every Girl Bedrock Prom Queen Drop the World Nightmares of the Bottom Six Foot Seven Foot

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