Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Monsters of Rap Tour

  Actually, the tour is called "I am still music" but my idea would have worked too. I was at the Sprint Center last night for an incredible lineup of performers: Lloyd, Far East Movement, Keri Hilson, RIck Ross, and Lil' Wayne, featuring Birdman.
  In front of the Sprint Center, good ol' 95.7 The Vibe had a tent and a game to win a free CD. I walked up and won the new Britney CD on a single roll of the dice! (We all have our guilty pleasures. It was either that, or Gaga, so it was an easy choice.) They also gave out a ridiculously star-studded, 37-track DJ mix CD with all my favorite artists. The night was already looking good...
  Lloyd kicked off the night with an all-too-short set. (Leave 'em wanting more, I guess, huh?) He performed all of his biggest singles, like "Cupid" and "Lay it Down."
  Then Far East Movement came on strong "So What?"—essentially the Beastie Boys' "What'cha Want"... and maybe better than the Beasties! These guys could really rap! Of course, "Like a G6" got everybody moving. FEM was the best surprise of the night for me. They were the one act I wasn't as excited about, but they turned out to be my favorite!
  Lloyd helped out with the high notes in "Rocketeer" and the guys remixed their own songs, putting a new spin on them. Another short set, but a surprising & great one.
  When Keri Hilson came out I started noticing how low the production values were for the whole show: each performer had a banner with their name behind them, and that was about it. (FEM's said "Free Wired World," Keri's said "No Boys Allowed," Rick's said "God forgives - I don't.") The upside to this was that the spareness allowed them to change performers very quickly with little downtime.
  The problem was that they also cut corners that affected the show: too much was recorded: no background vocals, they didn't do many crossover songs—and seriously, why would you get this group together and not have them perform together onstage? And even the headliners sang for only a fraction of the time they were onstage. I guess that's the downside to a genre that relies on vocoders and samples; even if the performers have great talent (and I believe these all do), the production overshadows the artistry.
  Rick Ross sounded great when he was singing--which unfortunately was very little of his show. Someone needs to tell his DJ to lay off the MacBook and reduce the horn/glass breaking/"Maybach Music" sounds. He played them so frequently that the whole set became a joke. The so-called Bo$$ has an incredible voice, and I would have vastly preferred to hear more of it.
  Lil' Wayne was Lil' Wayne: racous, irreverent, profane, arrogant, and with the talent to back it up. In the KC Star, Bill Brownlee called him "the most consistently compelling pop star of the past decade," and cited "his lyrical and musical inventiveness and ferocious work ethic." During the show, Lil' Wayne proclaimed himself to be "the best rapper alive." Honestly after seeing him perform, I agree that he's right up there.
   But my opinion wavered as he talked between songs. I began to get more disturbed as he continued to swear for no good reason and make misogynistic comments, like joking about f***ing a girl on her period. Really? Is that what we paid to hear? I looked around me and most in the audience were much younger than me. Girls as young as 15, I'd say. Shame on their parents for allowing them to attend (the ones around me were apparently without chaperone; and some were drunk, some were smoking pot...)  And shame on Lil' Wayne. He is only 29, and a self-made millionaire, as he himself proclaimed. He recently was released from prison. Clearly he has not had a normal life, so I'll give him a pass on some of his immaturity. But he's playing a very influential role in our society, and he NEEDS to take it more seriously.
   One of the things I love about rap and hip hop are the personas the performers create, the characters they play; the fantasy of a rich, profanely excessive, normally-unattainable lifestyle full of confidence & swagger; having all the women, money, power, anything they want. The problem is, hearing Wayne's comments, I began to realize that it wasn't a fantasy... this is how he thinks of himself; how he behaves and how he lives his life. It's his reality. I felt a little sick.
   So while I'll continue to enjoy the music I enjoy, mostly the upbeat stuff with irresistible hooks that keep me churning while I'm running or working out, I will be grateful to shut out any thoughts about the lifestyle that may or may not be behind the artists. Good music and good living aren't one and the same.

Lil' Wayne's set list included (among others): Bill Gates, Go DJ, 6 Foot 7 Foot, Prom Queen, Motivation, Lollipop, Nightmares of the Bottom, and Mr. Carter. Rick Ross's set included: B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast), MC Hammer, (Larry Hoover Hallelujah One nation under god), Aston Martin Music