I Am Still Music Tour | Lil Wayne + Nicki Minaj + Rick Ross + Travis Barker, United Center | Live review
As though his “I am music” face tat, release from prison and new single aren’t enough, Lil Wayne wants us to know he’s still it. At least that’s what his post-incarceration “I Am Still Music” tour is all about, packed with an all-star team that stopped by Chicago’s United Center last night, only a few days after he announced his plans to retire at 35.
The home of the Blackhawks sold out, filled with Lil Wayne fans and pink n’ platinum Barbie girls, testament to the undeniable bill showcasing Nicki Minaj. Travis Barker (Blink 182) and Mix Master Mike (Beastie Boys) started off the night playing inside speaker cut-outs of a boom box stage setup, scratching and drumming back and forth between Beastie Boys samples and Barker’s solo debut Give the Drummer Some. The trip back to Bizkit-era rap rock was as unsatisfying as Weezy’s Rebirth flop, but a Ramones “Blitzkrieg Bop” sample and a quick appearance by Chicago’s The Cool Kids brought it home.
Surprise guests continued to pop up during Rick Ross’s set. The rapper was backed by a monster banner of himself, and he reeled the audience with D.I.Y. mantras (in advance of his upcoming Self Made) and songs like “Aston Martin Music,” “Every Day I’m Hustlin’” and the crowd-pleasing DJ Khaled joined up on “Welcome to My Hood.”
Though Lil Wayne’s efforts after Tha Carter III haven’t quite measured up, his trials with rock music proved to be made for the stage, where the rapper maxed out each song’s potential backed by the bass and sexy guitar solos. Weezy emerged from beneath the stage at 9pm with the fitting “I’m Goin’ In” and blazed through a 16-year discog of best-sellers and mix tapes, and all without auto tune effects, giving his more mainstream material like “Got Money” a great raw stage treatment. For this tour, it seems his efforts to ‘be the music,’ especially meaningful after his release from prison, is to bolster his own musical all-star family. Lil Wayne spent most of his two-hours of stage time highlighting and egging on protégés like Lil Twist, who was all nasals and fro-hawk on “Love Affair,” and Chanel who looked like a Wonder Woman-esque diva.
That family includes Nicki Minaj, of course. Her 10-song stint during the Weezy set got off to a great start, featured prominently her cotton candy pomp hairdo, opened with the fiery Eminem collab “Roman’s Revenge” with Minaj surrounded by her Barbie dancers who later conspired with her to give a lucky audience member a lap dance. But then it fizzled. Minaj is best when she lures us in with the pink then fierces it up with her rhymes. Here, she changed into a white tulle gown skirt during the ballad “Save Me” (c’mon girl, Wedding Barbie?) before dedicating it to those affected by the tsunami in Japan (Miss America Barbie?).
Bottom (pun intended) line: not enough set time or costume changes for the Gaga of rap, clearly a dramatic entertainer with numerous alter-egos (the gay boy Roman and his uptight British mother Martha) who only reemerged at the end of her set with the Pink Friday hit, “Moment For Life.” Minaj has reached a point where she needs her own headlining tour in order to really explore her persona(s). It's rumored that Minaj may join Britney Spears on her summer tour.
Minaj, Lil Twist and Mac Man rejoined with Lil Wayne for “Bedrock” during the second hour of his set, and Lil Wayne gave shouts outs to predecessors Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., even Michael Jackson, all with the presumption that we’re convinced he’s the greatest rapper in the world. He only reinforced it when he closed the set with the “Six Foot Seven Foot” single, previewing its surging loops from the upcoming Tha Carter IV. Weezy added, “You are being entertained by one of the greatest motherfucking entertainers of all time.” We’re not exactly sure why, but we believe him.