This past weekend, I had the chance to go to Eden’s Crunkfest, an afternoon long concert featuring many of today’s hottest artists. The lineup included Soulja Boy, Pleasure P, Jeremih, Young Jeezy, and Lil Wayne. I was especially excited to see Lil Wayne, whose reputation has ignited over the course of the past year. Of course, the person making that bold declaration was Lil Wayne himself, who headlined a lineup of hip-hop hit makers on the night. The concert only half-filled the St. Paul arena with 7,400 fans (mostly high school students) made the shows name laughable, but so were many other things about the show.
By the time Wayne, the dreadlocked New Orleans superstar delivered the all-bravado song "We Steady Mobbin" a half-hour into his nearly two-hour set, it was clear the little guy was at least the greatest performer of the night. Big whoop, though. Openers Young Jeezy, Soulja Boy, Pleasure P and Jeremih amounted to two hours of vapid, radio-oriented, money-worshiping rap and R&B music. These guys should have also opened Nas's "Hip-Hop Is Dead" tour to help prove the point. For one thing, the ratio of pre-recorded vocals to live vocals during the first three acts' set was about 4 to 1, with pinup rapper Soulja Boy going even higher. To be fair to Soulja Boy though: would you want to go out on stage every night and say the jaw-dropping lines in "Kiss Me Through the Phone"? Upgrading the musicianship with a live band, Young Jeezy was still a letdown in the charisma department, demonstrating why Lil Wayne (who once opened for him here) has passed him up. Jeezy is just one of the flattest rappers in the business. It was Jeezy who seemed absent as he dryly, vacantly rushed through such hits as "Put On" and "I Luv It.
Wayne, a k a Weezy, didn't exactly raise the social value with his opening fire-starters, "A Milli" and "Got Money." And he pretty well avoided the use of brain cells a few songs later with the martian code, "Phone Home." But Weezy at least proved he's a dynamic performer, one with an adventurous streak. He proved it as he bounced around the stage wildly during most of the show. He proved it as he breathlessly tore through "Tie My Hands" and "Shoot Me Down" late in the set. He proved it simply by having the smarts to take the stage wearing a NC ball cap. He also let his Young Money Entertainment protégés such as Shanell and Birdman take over the stage too often, but at least they were better entertainers than the better-known openers.