Live photos: Lil Wayne at PNC Bank Arts Center
Wed Jul 27 2011
Photographer: Philip Walters
The multifaceted persona of New Orleans rapper Lil Wayne was on display last night at New Jersey's PNC Bank Arts Center. Weezy leveled the sold-out crowd at the out-of-the-way amphitheater as he switched from being a goofball prankster and guitar-slinging rock star to a cocky gangster and sensitive (yet misogynistic) ladies man. However, the most compelling aspect of the 28-year-old self-made millionaire with a personality disorder was his humble side. "Remember three things. (1) I believe in God. (2) I ain't shit without you. And (3) I ain't shit without you. Ya dig?" the megastar explained to his devout audience of drunk teenagers.
The prolific rapper's set was tantamount to a live action mixtape. He sprinted through select verses and choruses from legendary bangers like "Mr. Carter," "Duffle Bag Boy" and a poignant a cappella performance of "Nightmares of the Bottom" from his upcoming release, The Carter IV. He also touched on lesser-known cuts like "Swag Surf" from 2009's No Ceilings mixtape. But the strongest moments of Wayne's performance were the unexpected ones—like a acoustic-guitar-laden salsa remix of his chart-topping single "Lolipop," or the hard-rock assault of Weezy's live band on Rebirth's "Drop the World." Yes, even songs from that critically panned album held up well. His performance of "Prom Queen," which featured guest vocals from his new R&B protge Shanell, was so visceral and freewheeling it shook off the cringe-inducing, calculated marketing qualities of the recording.
However, there were a few weak spots. Like many great rappers such as Tupac and Jay-Z, Wayne's cronies are insufferable when they get on the mike. Mack Maine and Gutta Gutta couldn't even provide adequate support for Weezy as hype men. However, Young Money signee Tyga proved to be a great foil for Wayne—providing a cool counterpoint to Wayne's zany stage presence on 2009's "Bed Rock."
Holding true to the motto he voiced at the start of the show, the rapper fresh out of Rikers Island didn't close his set with another bombastic song; instead, he wrapped up his performance by giving his fans gifts. To the stellar sound of the opening track of his new mixtape Sorry for the Wait, Wayne tossed drums sticks and other personal effects into the crowd. His tattooed face beamed when a young child got hold of his Hulkish green Vans sneakers. In that moment, it was clear that Wayne truly believes he's nothing without his fans.