Under The Influence of Music Tour Feat. Wiz Khalifa, Jeezy, Rich Homie Quan, Ty Dolla $ign, IAMSU! & Sage the Gemini, Mack Wilds Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion August 15, 2014
Either I've gotten older or Wiz Khalifa doesn't exactly do it for me anymore.
That's not a slight to Khalifa, as far as charting of his evolution from stoner kid who used to rap with a spitfire energy and rasp to arena-rocker. It's more an overall assessment of where my fandom with him has lain over the years. It was at its apex maybe three years ago, right as his Kush & OJ mixtape became a late-night soundtrack and "Black And Yellow" became an inescapable hit record.
Ever since then, it's lowered and watching him live -- for the third time this year, no less -- it's clearly evident he's more in a rocker kind of mood than a rap star.
The Under the Influence of Music Tour rolled into Houston Friday night, with all seven of its billed acts hitting the stage promptly and not running over. If Khalifa was the show's actual headliner, it certainly didn't feel that way from the crowd overall. Fans on the Pavilion's lawn were given a show, no doubt, as Wiz left the stage to join them during "No Limit," but it was mostly young fans, teenagers, who kept their energy up throughout.
Me? I sat down and enjoyed a bag of popcorn. It's weird to look at Khalifa as a bore, but as he stood clutching a golden microphone and stand, he stood and sang amped-up records like "Work Hard, Play Hard" as serious as can be. I knew Nine Inch Nails and company were set to arrive in Houston the next day, but would imagine Wiz thought he was in his own world for his 90-minute set.
He gyrated and flicked his tongue during "Incense," showered us in black and yellow confetti during "Black and Yellow," and stared a girl down on cue when a certain lyric from his summer record "We Dem Boyz" clanged off the sound system. He wanted to seem and feel like a rock star, dropping minor anecdotes about free spirits and living your life and uplift in between nonsensical-at-times "trap Wiz" records such as "Like Jimmy" and "James Bong."
One completely understands why Khalifa would play insular rock star on a stage that sort of demanded it. His fan base is smoked-out teens and twentysomethings, those who immediately became fans of his when he was rapping over Empire of the Sun samples and looked from afar as he became a mainstream star.
Jeezy on the other hand, knows how to be a rock star without compromising the idea.
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"If you aren't under the influence the motherfucking exit is that way!" the Atlanta rapper said, pointing towards the stage-right exit. He asked us if we were smoking, drinking, anything to not think about more serious matters. He should have just stood at the center of the stage, behind his own makeshift billboard, and preached to us.
Out of any trap rapper when the subgenre entered its boom period almost a decade ago, Jeezy has sustained the longest. Any Jeezy record from his debut Thug Motivation 101 on will immediately make you want to run through a wall, uppercut your supervisor at your job and then file those TP9 reports. Backed by a band with some serious amplified drums, Jeezy kicked off his 45-minute set rattling off hits "Put On," and "Lose My Mind" before a large medley of TM101 cuts from "Trap Or Die" (minus Bun B) to "Soul Survivor."
I stood before the pulpit of Reverend Snow, and thought for about nine seconds about flipping a brick. Or lazily watching Scarface again, take your pick.
So What About the Rest? Plenty of things could have make Rich Homie Quan's set even more memorable, outside of him not even knowing what the hell Young Thug is saying on their "Lifestyle" record. He could have brought out Propain for "2 Rounds", hit a medley of singles of where he's on the chorus, or explained why he has a bucket-hat Buddha for a rap friend onstage at all times. Any of this would have worked, but Quan kept it to the mixtape cuts which have made him a burgeoning star.
True to his nature, Ty Dolla $ign proved he was a child of both R. Kelly and Nate Dogg. He riffed on the "Feelin On Yo Booty" refrain for the close of "Or Nah" and sang about taking other people's women and ultimately being that guy throughout his set, especially through "Wood & Leather" and "Paranoid," Nate Dogg created West Coast misogyny in rap and while that's a larger argument for another day, at least I found time to put my brain on airplane mode for a second.
IAMSU! and Sage the Gemini are Bay Area favorites, the opposite end of ratchet music where dances are key and fun is to be had at all times. Thoroughly enjoyable throughout their joint set, the duo reminded people why "Red Nose" and "Gas Pedal" cracked speakers across the country and how cuts like "Function," "Only That Real," and more became party mainstays.
Also, we need to continue feeding Mack Wilds NYC rap cuts from the '90s to sing over. As the opener of all openers, he had to deal with a sparse crowd and some who may have felt unfamiliar with him. No matter -- he at least had one woman behind me singing and dancing with glee.
Personal Bias: I miss "mixtape Wiz" maybe more than any other rapper who broke big via free tapes.
The Crowd: Young, not wearing much and high as hell.
Random Notebook Dump: Where I was sitting, you couldn't help but be entertained. Behind me was a family of all ages, an older woman dancing hard to Mack Wilds among them.
It wasn't until asking a few questions during an intermission that I found out that all of them were related to IAMSU!: cousins, aunts and even the rapper's mother who had flown in from San Francisco and affectionately called him "Tootie." His oldest aunt therefore became my new best friend. She did everything short of the Bernie and rapped Drake's "0 to 100" with me. Family is so damn awesome.
WIZ KHALIFA SET LIST
Work Hard, Play Hard Roll Up Memorized "Damn It Feels Good to Be a Taylor Bout Me feat. IAMSU! Taylor Gang Raw James Bong Like Jimmy Foreign Black And Yellow 23 Staying Out All Night Young, Wild & Free You & Your Friends feat. Ty Dolla $ign KK Incense No Limit We Dem Boyz Medicated (Encore)
JEEZY SET LIST
Put On Lose My Mind Superfreak Go Crazy Trap Star Get Ya Mind Right Trap Or Die Bottom of the Map Bang My Hood And Then What Who Dat Soul Survivor Go Getta I Luv It Dey Know (Remix) My Nigga I Do RIP
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
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