ATLANTA — It took a few weeks for David Banner to get the word out about his Heal the Hood Hurricane Relief Concert, but in the end, he managed to round up Busta Rhymes, T.I., Nelly, Young Jeezy, Teairra Marí, Bobby Valentino — and thousands of fans, packing the Philips Arena to capacity.
Banner said it was difficult for him to even take the stage given the serious and tragic circumstances surrounding the event (see "David Banner Says He Has No Choice But To Heal The Hood"), but you wouldn't have known it as he took off his shoes and cartwheeled, back-flipped and jumped into the crowd during his eye-grabbing performance.
"I'm from the country, I been barefoot half my life," Banner smiled during his set, which followed performances by Dem Franchize Boyz, Boyz N Da Hood and 112.
Later he captivated the crowd with some serious sentiments, talking about how he almost died seven months ago because of high blood pressure and how his father is near-death right now. He also found time to sharply criticize the government.
"I wanna speak to my people in New Orleans for a few seconds," he said. "I want to speak for my people in the Gulf of Mississippi and Alabama. I need y'all to do something for me. I need y'all to make sure that you go back home. I'mma tell you why. These people are about to build casinos around the French Quarter ... they been waiting to tear our ghettos down and get our people away from our land ... they about to spend billions of dollars in our 'hoods, and we ain't getting a cent of it. Watch Mississippi — it's about to turn into the next Las Vegas."
"They call us good-for-nothing gangsta rappers," he added later. "And we ain't supposed to be cursing 'cause there's kids in here. But I just want to say it's a damn shame that a gangsta rapper can stand up for the United States before our own government."
Busta Rhymes spoke sternly onstage at times as well, except the fuss coming from Bussa Bus was directed at the fans, not the government.
"We gonna party for the 'hood right now," said Busta, flanked by Spliff Star. "I know y'all ain't come to heal the 'hood sitting down. Whoever is sitting down is disrespecting this whole function. We out here to heal the 'hood together. Anybody sitting down, I'm gonna get in your ass! Everybody put your hands up. We are going to collectively heal the 'hood."
Busta managed to keep most of the crowd on its feet with verses from the Pussycat Dolls' "Don't Cha" remix, and the energy seemed to be at its apex during "Break Ya Neck," but unfortunately his set was abruptly cut short when he ran over his allotted time and the mic was shut off.
T.I. and P$C carried Busta's enthusiasm over to their set with a flurry of hits like "Rubber Band Man," "Motivation" and T.I.'s biggest song, "You Don't Know Me."
"When I say 'King of the South,' I ain't just talking," T.I. said, addressing the crowd. "Anytime this region is in trouble, I'mma be the first person in line to do the most I can do. So when all these n---as running around talking that sh--, put up that money ... anything I can do for this region, you got it."
Tip would return later with the night's closer, Nelly, for "Get Loose." Nelly also brought Big Gipp and the St. Lunatics, as he usually does, and Jermaine Dupri crept onstage for his own "What Da Hook Gon Be."
"Nobody got paid, it's all donation, it's all going to charity," Nelly assured the spectators in the midst of performing crowd-pleasers like "Dilemma" and "Hot in Herre." "If we don't heal our own 'hood, who will? You already see [the government] won't look out for us. We gotta look out for our damn selves."
Banner echoed Nelly's sentiments backstage. "Instead of depending on America, it's up to me, my music, my peers, the radio stations that affect my peers and my community," he said regarding the disaster-relief effort. "It's up to us to do something for our community. I think it ended up being a blessing because this is the first time in a long time I seen communities get together the way they are getting together. Artists who've had big problems with each other came together today, hugged together today and said, 'We gonna come together and make this happen.' "
Banner insists the Katrina relief efforts will need to continue for years. He had another benefit show planned for Monday night (September 19) in New York at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill with members of the Roc-A-Fella family, Talib Kweli and Dave Chappelle. Banner's Certified arrives in stores Tuesday.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.