Photos from Lil' Wayne's visit to the WinStar World Casino.
It’s half a mile from one end of the WinStarWorld Casino to the other, and that 800 meters consists mostly of slot machines. It really is a sight to behold – the overwhelming rings and buzzing of winners and losers, and enough neon flashes to rival Kanye West’s “All of the Lights” music video. It’s all so distracting that, while leaving, I overheard one older patron ask “Why are there so many damn kids in here all of a sudden?” apparently unaware that one of the planet’s most prolific rappers had just performed less than 500 feet from her for about an hour and a half.
I’m a miserable sucker for big-budget pop hip-hop, and the opportunity to shoot a major player like Drake’s boss proved too irresistible to ignore the two-hour drive to Thackerville. Unfortunately I found out when I got there that house rules prevented entry to the security pit near the stage, so I had to compete with a mongrel horde of iPhone-wielding nutjobs, but I think I got a few decent shots of the rapper.
First things first, Weezy, who makes me think he’s a gremlin who won an all-expenses-paid trip to Hot Topic whenever I see him, was sporting a cartoonish hoodie advocating Odd Future’s most mysterious member, Earl Sweatshirt when he came out onstage. He pulled “Tha Carter III” staples “Got Money” and “A Milli” out pretty early, as well as “Swag Surfin” off the excellent “No Ceilings” mixtape, all of which drove people into a frenzy. Unfortunately the mostly-Dallas crowd’s collective energy waned over the course of the show, as Wayne snuck away from his best material and into his newer, less interesting catalogue.
It’s been a good year for guest spots from the New Orleans emcee (arguably even better than most of the verses on his own “Tha Carter IV” album), and his contributions to Chris Brown’s “Look at Me Now” (gah, how awesome would it have been if he'd have pulled out that Busta Rhymes verse, too?) and Drake’s “HYFR” were sandwiched into the middle of the set with his own “John,” which is basically a Rick Ross cover anyway. A predictably lewd, comical R&B suite followed, punctuated by a cheeseball version of “Lollipop” complete with acoustic guitar and maracas, and his most recently regrettable song, “How to Love.”
And for the big, clumsy rock-and-roll near-closer Wayne strapped on an unplugged guitar and strummed it a few times for “Prom Queen,” which was really unfortunate considering much of “Tha Carter III” and the mixtapes immediately before it constitute serious low-culture art. But the people all around raged their faces off to the trumped-up tunes anyway
“6 Foot, 7 Foot” was the true final song of the night, and the dude just unleashed a deranged ferociousness that even extended to Cory Gunz’s hair-singeing speed verse that made me wish he’d attacked every song like that. Oh, well. I suppose there’s a price to becoming one of the world’s biggest pop stars, and only Kanye knows how to pay it without souring his musical output.
Here’s the best from a new year’s bumper crop of hip-hop mixtapes.
Hip Hop/Rap Matt Carney
My favorite hip-hop moment from 2011 was when the speed-rap once-superstar Busta Rhymes, now almost 40, resurfaced from the 1990s on Chris Brown’s excellent “Look at Me Now” single, as confident as if he’d been around all this time.
Canadian crooner raps less, slow-jams more on his visionary, 80-minute sophomore LP.
Hip Hop/Rap Matt Carney
If the minimal, Toronto R&B sound of Drake and collaborators Abel
Tesfaye (AKA, The Weeknd),
Boi-1da and Doc McKinney winds up as influential on hip-hop as many
critics seem to think, then “Take Care”’s legacy will be long-lasting