Saturday Night: Slim Thug, Z-Ro & J-Dawg At Arena Theatre

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Slim Thug, Z-Ro, J-Dawg Arena Theatre January 22, 2011

Houstonians from the Northside, Southside and everywhere in between gathered at the Arena Theatre on Saturday night to celebrate two kings. January 17 was Martin Luther King Day, and the 19th was Southwest-side rapper and "King of the Ghetto" Z-Ro's birthday. Also known as the Mo City Don and, more recently, "ROther Vandross," Z-Ro marked his birthday by putting on a show with his Northside associate, Slim Thug.

After a rump-shaking, who-can-get-in-the-afterparty-VIP competition, The Big Boss of the Nawf moved through the crowd to the circular Arena stage accompanied by his "Not a Stain On Me" remix. OG Ron C brought us back to the days of the Kappa Beach Party with a "Before the Kappa" joint.

At his shows, the 6-foot-6 Slim Thugga is even more entertaining than he is on Twitter. He began by apologizing in advance for forgetting the words to some of his songs, blaming it on his current state of inebriation.

After doing his memorable verse from the classic hit with Paul Wall and Mike Jones "Still Tippin'" - how many times have we said "Hah!" like Slim at the end of that verse? - and a bit of "3 Kings," he asked, "Is this stage moving? It is? I keep seeing the same motherfuckers." When you're on the hunt for a thick girl that's caramel brown, a circling stage helps the pursuit.

Slim soon welcomed J-Dawg to the stage to join him for "Recognize a Player," before J-Dawg performed his own hits "Ride on 4's" and "First 48." When Slim took a quick break to catch his breath, he defended himself by pointing out that he was finally back to being "Slim Thug" thanks to daily runs at Memorial Park. Ladies, he's slim, faded and X-rated...and now you know where he runs if you haven't been following him on Twitter.

As he got into 2009 and 2010 albums Boss of All Bosses and The Thug Show, the crowd's energy continued to build. After his single "Thug," he began a personal rant against skinny jeans, insisting "Thug is still in style," before ending his set with his most recent single with B.O.B, "So High."

Slim prepared the audience for Z-Ro, telling us that we should sing him happy birthday. By the time we were ready to belt it out, "Associates" (from Boss of All Bosses) cut on and Z-Ro, looking incredibly dapper, joined Slim Thug onstage dressed in a suit. The two performed another track, "Gangsta," then Thugga left the stage to watch the rest of the show.

Z-Ro played two tracks, "Get Throwed" and "Comin' Up," as an homage to the late Pimp C, who was featured on both songs, as the crowd devotedly joined him in chanting "R.I.P. Pimp C!" Ro also had a band with him, production duo Beanz N Kornbread, who brought an organic energy to the show.

Ro went as far back in his catalog as "Fondren and Main" (from 1999 Guerilla Maab release Rise) and "Up In My Face," from when he postulated was 2000. Then he commented on how long he's been in the game, and asked his fans and haters to give themselves a round of applause.

His fan base is a dedicated one, no doubt. For over a decade, Z-Ro has supplied his fans with somber lyrics and an attitude that attests that says it's OK to get mad at people who have turned their backs, be saddened by losses and be comfortable with solitude.

Having recently resolved their issues with one another, Z-Ro welcomed his former fellow Assholes by Nature member, Trae, to the stage. Trae briefly acknowledged the crowd and took his place. Despite the fact that Trae was onstage and in the vicinity of a mike, Z-Ro performed two ABN songs solo: "Miss My Dawg" from ABN's self-titled 2003 release and "Still Gets No Love" from 2008's It Is What It Is. After his beef with Radio One and 97.9's ban on all things Trae, it's clear that Trae can't (or won't) even spit a verse at a show if The Box has anything to do with it.

When Ro finished his single "These Days," he ended it by thanking 97.9 for keeping in rotation. Although he may be better received at The Box than his former ABN partner, Aftermath can remember a "Long Time" ago, when Z-Ro called 97.9 "the biggest hoes he knew."

After a few minutes of built-up anticipation - the crowd seemed to know what was coming - there was no need to guess what the very last song of the set would be. If you can finish "slow loud and bangin' all in my trunk..." you should already know how the crowd was vibing by that point. "Mo City Don Freestyle" was 4 minutes and 25 seconds of no hook and all rhymes, and a brief glance at the fans still in attendance showed us that while the song may only be a few years old, it's already a classic.

The show sold out and even though it was his own birthday celebration, Z-Ro gave his fans the gift they were waiting for: A set of 33 flawlessly delivered songs from almost every album he's put out.

Personal Bias: Southside and Northside together in the same building: A beautiful thing. It would have been even better to hear Trae join in on the ABN classics.

The Crowd: Incredibly diverse, with every hood in Houston in attendance. Also seen: Gravy. You're probably unfamiliar with the rap moniker. We're referring to Jamal Woolard, who played Notorious B.I.G. movie Notorious. He was onstage dressed in Biggie's signature Coogi sweater and Kangol hat. He also has two mixtapes out called "Without a Doubt" and "Still Ready to Die." Oh, yeah, and apparently he used to ghostwrite for Lil' Flip.

Random Notebook Dump: Just added to the bucket list: Hang out with Slim Thug in real life one day.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

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