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Lil Wayne at 1st Mariner Arena: Random observations in between or during raging

First, a note: I didn't go to this concert as a reviewer. I bought my ticket with a group of friends, all big-time Wayne heads. We drank beers and spent most of our night JAMMING. But work was never too far away: I took mental notes, so here's my attempt at remembering them.   

Most notably, one of the coolest moments of Lil Wayne's gig at 1st Mariner Arena last night was watching the crowd erupt — no, seriously — when Wayne's DJ, DJ Four Five, cued up the deeper-cut fan favorites (Da Drought 3's "Ride 4 My N-----", Tha Carter III's "Phone Home"). There's something surreal in the tough-to-describe way when watching a huge, very diverse crowd zone out to their favorite artist. When Wayne ran through a No Ceilings medley, there was rapture — fans wildly animated, out of their seats, straining their voices. "You ain't never safe / stop playin' with a gansta ... "

I missed Travis Barker's set and I wasn't even mad.

There's no question Rick Ross has hits (sleeper jam "Here I Am" rang off into a huge sing-along, Lex Luger's "MC Hammer" instrumental scared the children) and he owns theirs hugeness just as a boss should. Ross' character has become more believable than almost any other hip-hop persona today, and no amount of Smoking Gun photos could smother it. Through luxurious, cinematic beats and twisty, consonant-obsessed rhymes, Rick Ross has become Teflon.

After last night, there's no denying Nicki Minaj's star power. She's heard it her entire career, but it's mesmerizing to witness live: the Live Nicki molds her complicated collection of personalities together, showing her humor, tenacity and sexuality in the same 16 bars. 

The highs of Nicki's set matched the heights of Wayne's 90 minute victory lap. She closed her set with her star-turning "Monster" verse, but she had the crowd most frenzied during "Did It On 'Em," a record that roid rages in person. Nicki's low points glared — "Fly" and "Save Me" left me unmoved, but the girls around me were visibly drawn into the earnest renditions. Including the Taylor Swift/Selena Gomez-approved "Super Bass" was a bonus. Overall, a win.

Lil Wayne is a superstar of the highest order. I saw Jay-Z at 1st Mariner two years ago, and both MCs commanded their crowds with ease. A huge key is having hits, and like Jay, Wayne's catalog is deep. On paper, it's mind-boggling Wayne does only one "older" track ("Go DJ" from Tha Carter). This is the guy who coined "bling bling." The rapper who stole the show on Juvenile's biggest hit. But Wayne hung close to YMCMB's recent era of ubiquity. Drake wasn't there, but his loyalty to Young Money was honored: Wayne joyously did his "Miss Me" verse and, best of all, rapped Drake's "Money to Blow" spot ("I like running on E, ahh ..."). Or he half-rapped it; the other half was left for the crowd. We obliged.

Lil Wayne is committed to his Young Money team. He gave unwarranted stage time to Lil Twist, a high-pitched Wayne teen-clone more known for his hair, and R&B singer Shannell Shanell, who didn't make a case for her solo career. They momentarily sucked the life out of the show with shocking proficiency

His argument against monogamy, "I'm Single," has quickly become an essential Wayne cut. The connection he made washed over the woozy crowd. It was unmovable.  

The show's low point came during a medley of Wayne's rock album, Rebirth. If you're familiar with that album, that should come as no surprise. It was right before the show's finale so the memory was still fresh when we walked out. Rebirth makes me queasy.

Wayne's latest single, "6 Foot, 7 Foot" is a fitting closer. It's Wayne showing off his dexterous flow and zany id, with a clearer mind and throat than he's had in years. He's well aware listeners were curious if jail would take a step from him. It didn't, and he's using this tour to happily announce it. Call it kiss and tell. 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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