Live Review: Lil Wayne, T-Pain, Keyshia Cole - Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles
Mon, 22 Dec 2008 11:37:42
Who is hip hop's king of the hill? Is it the man with the hottest hooks or the man with the most raucous raps? Is it T-Pain or Lil Wayne?
Both names are so ubiquitous in pop and rap right now that a tour together was a no-brainer. In fact, the I Am Music tour might as well be Tyson/Holyfield for Facebook nation, since there's just as much fanfare surrounding it. When both men hit the stage together at the sold out Gibson Amphitheatre last night, it was as explosive as any big prizefight, well, minus the blood.
T-Pain hit the stage before Weezy, and he brought the whole circus along for the ride, literally. His setup featured a big tent, an old school organ and an elevated DJ booth. The stage became the ringleader's playground. He churned out hit after hit, blazing through nearly every song he's had a hook on since 2007. Those spanned the entire Billboard Top 100 chart—from "Low" and "The Boss" to "The Good Life" and "Kiss, Kiss." However, the hits weren't even the best part of the show. He brandished a bazooka and led camo-clad dreadlocked midgets into battle, as they danced in sync with the DJ's beats. "Mini Britney Spears" even made an appearance, because T-Pain "Couldn't afford the whole Britney."
For many other performers, the midgets might've stolen the show. That wasn't the case here though. T-Pain truly stood out on cuts from his latest full-length Three Ringz, including "Can't Believe It" and "Chopped and Skrewed." The two psychedelic hip hop tracks fit right in with the big top aesthetic, and they solidified T-Pain as the ringleader of this circus.
Then there was Lil Wayne. He's proclaimed himself the best over and over again, and he certainly does command a crowd. His band stood elevated on separate metallic platforms suspended by chains from the ceiling. Their playing gave the songs a vibrant, live panache. "Mr. Carter" certainly was the perfect opener as Wayne announced his arrival. A winding riff launched a raw "Got Money." T-Pain took to the stage on a motorized two-wheel scooter, and he and Weezy knocked out verse after verse and hook after hook. Their time together definitely was the most memorable moment of the show, and the bevy of chart-toppers illustrated just how prominent both men are.
After T-Pain bounced, Wayne ripped through the phenomenal mixtape cut "Ride 4 My ******" and dropped some science on "Dr. Carter." Meanwhile, he picked up a shiny guitar for "Prostitute," before putting on his war face again for "I'm Me." Keri Hilson came out for her latest Weezy fueled hit "Turnin' Me On," and it was equally as bootylicious as "Mrs. Officer" was. "Comfortable" showed the softer side of Wayne, while "Duffle Bag Boy" was as hood as it got, propelled by a massive guitar solo. Weezy had no shortage of hits, and he fired each one off successfully.
Supporting her latest offering A Different Me, Keyshia Cole's set was equally bombastic. She imbued a natural prowess into "Shoulda Let You," "Let It Go" and "I Changed My Mind." Dressed like a classy showgirl, she nailed the dance numbers, and her voice soared from the stage to the back of the amphitheatre. She blended a soulful sense of class with a hip hop edge for an R&B concoction that was undeniable live. With a knockout "Playa Cardz Right," Keyshia proved her mettle on the stacked bill. Ms. Cole certainly was the night's biggest and most pleasant surprise.
Before Keyshia, Gym Class Heroes threw down in energetic alterna hip hop fashion, shimmying through a short but sweet set that included "Cookie Jar," "Guilty as Charged" and "Cupid's Chokehold." They also brought their A-Game, playing tightly and tenaciously to keep the discerning fans' attention.
So at the end of the day, after such a diverse and dynamic road show, was it clear who stood as king of the hill? Not really, but democracy's still an option for hip hop, and there are even enough talented representatives to make it work.