NEW YORK — Lil Wayne has been a part of multiplatinum albums, made a ton of c.r.e.a.m. and helped sell out big venues (much bigger than the dressing-room-less Beacon Theatre in Manhattan, mind you). But a large portion of his success has come from working with the Cash Money Millionaires in the late '90s and early 2Ks.
On Sunday night in New York, however, he was the one. Weezy's show sold out quickly, despite having been promoted for only a few weeks, and some tickets were going over the $100 mark (that's New Edition, Jay-Z or Bon Jovi prices!). Given the excitement level, the gig definitely deserved to be called "a money show." Sunday night was a wear-your-best-sneakers-and-don't-care-if-they-get-scuffed atmosphere.
There was absolutely no doubt that the MC who evolved a couple of years ago into one of rap's most talented mic fiends had the city on lock. This is a rapper who dishes out so much nourishing mixtape material and guest appearances that, despite his next solo album not being due until next year (that's the word from him), he gets treated by fans as if he just sold a million LPs in a week. The respect level from his peers — such as the Diplomats, Fat Joe, Young Jeezy, Timbaland and Kanye West — is impeccable.
Wayne has shown that he's a star, and Sunday night was another chance for him to prove that he can live up to his loftier self-proclaimed title: "Best Rapper Alive." The New York crowd was very familiar with how he tears it up on MP3s, but could he do it for his first NYC solo headlining gig? Well, he almost didn't get a chance to, thanks to the NYPD (see "Lil Wayne Arrested On Gun-Possession Charge In New York").
Directly across from the Beacon on West 75th Street, Diplomats Jim Jones, Juelz Santana and various members of their crew held court chillin', while Ja Rule sat in his parked Mayback and Irv Gotti stood still a few feet away from the Harlem power unit. The cops, however, wanted everyone to move. The street had been blocked off for just the artists and media, but since none of Wayne's guests had wristbands guaranteeing entrance into the Beacon, they weren't allowed in — nor to congregate outside while they waited for the promoter to give them their proper credentials, the NYPD warned.
Jones and others told authorities they were there to perform, and clearly the coppers knew who they were: Several officers said Jones' name during side conversations, and one even asked for Lil Wayne's manager to talk to him. "Somebody tell Jim Jones he's not getting in under any circumstances," one of the policeman said.
The cops, who even pulled out horses, nudged the crew down the block to the cross-street of Broadway, where fans were waiting to get in. Finally, Jim decided to leave, and Juelz was going to follow, yelling at officers who he felt were harassing him along the way. However, while Santana waited for one of his vehicles at the parking garage, Wayne called him on the cell phone and persuaded him to stay. Wayne himself almost didn't enter the Beacon. The security was giving Cash Money CEO Baby a hard time getting in, and Wayne threatened to leave.
After everyone finally got in — well, at least those who were going to get in — the tension seemed to ease. A still-stone-faced Wayne gave Kanye a great big hug, and Juelz told Mr. West that he loved his record "Can't Tell Me Nothing" and even said he would be open to getting on a remix of the song.
Once he got onstage, Wayne's reception was nothing short of regal: so loud, so endearing. He told the crowd that it better enjoy the show, because he wasn't sure if he would be performing in New York again. The police and security treated him so poorly, they soured him somewhat. "I just went through the worst f----in' feelin ever with y'all police," he said. "This may be one of the only times you see me because of how they treated me."
Then, as if somebody had flipped his switch back on, Wayne — wearing a throwback Run-DMC T-shirt — yelled, "Hit me!," signaling the start of "Hustler Muzik." You could tell immediately it would be one of those shows, one in which the fans were so into it that they knew every syllable of each word he was rapping and weren't afraid to recite them.
The love gave Wayne even more reason to set the roof on fire and stimulated him to dance during "I'm a Dboy" by doing a long, James Brown-esque, one-legged slide. Pieces of records followed — Chris Brown's "Gimme That" and Fat Joe's "Make It Rain" — after which he freestyled. He did two more freestyles later in the show. "I pop early like firecrackers in the last week of June," he rapped. "Scarface with diamond teeth."
About halfway through the show, just when you thought Weezy might finally slow down, he took the show even higher. His mixtape freestyle "Sky's the Limit" was revered and sung aloud by the crowd as if it were a top 40 hit. "When I was 5, my favorite movie was 'The Gremlins.' Ain't got sh--- to this, but I just thought that I should mention [it]," he rapped with the audience. "You know that I'mma ride with my muthaf---in' n---as, most likely I'mma die with my finger on the trigger."
Ja Rule continued the momentum when he came out for his collaboration with Wayne, "Uh Oh," and his very own "New York."
Later, Wayne said he wanted to leave NYC with a lasting impression, so he brought out another top-notch guest: Kanye, who kept it short and sweet with "Can't Tell Me Nothing." Baby finally made his way to the stage for his and Wayne's recent hits "Stuntin' Like My Daddy" and "Leather So Soft," and for the latter song, Birdman Jr. actually sat down on a chair and played the guitar. Even Juelz Santana made it out for a little to support his partner in crime.
And although the crowd stayed on its feet for the duration of the concert, the undeniable highlights were the remix to "It's Me Snitches" and "Prostitute Flang," in which he sings about a lady of the night who he has fallen for. "Stay true to me and never lie to me," he sang with his raspy voice... I'm trying to share the rest of my whole life with you..."
The finale was DJ Khaled's "We Takin' Over," and Wayne and Baby ended the show with the song's two closing verses. "Feed me rappers/ Or feed me beats," Wayne frantically rapped to applause.
"Wow, man that was crazy," Wayne told MTV News moments after he left the stage, drenched in sweat. "It was a relief, but it was crazy at the time. It felt good."
Wayne also joked that he may need a bigger venue to perform in next time he hits NYC.
"It might have to be in Times Square or someplace," he laughed. "Nah, I appreciate that love [from the people]. They could hold [the concert] at the corner store, I'm gonna be there. They showed me a different side to them, and I won't forget that. Believe that."
After the post-performance bliss wore off, though, Wayne had more run-ins with the authorities. He was arrested on a gun charge around 11:30 p.m. after police searched his tour bus and found a .40 caliber pistol. The cops also arrested another man who was traveling with Wayne and charged him with possession of marijuana.
Ja Rule himself found in trouble with the law as well — he was arrested about an hour before Wayne on New York's Upper West Side after police found a .40 pistol in his Mayback, and he has been charged with criminal possession of a weapon (see "Ja Rule Arrested, Charged With Weapons Possession"). Two other men, Dennis Cherry, 36, and Mohamed Gamal, 38 were also arrested on gun charges.
Wayne is hot right now — so where does he rank on our list of "Hottest MCs in the Game"? Does he even rank on the list at all? Log onto MTVnews.com all this week from the beginning of the rankings and the debate. You'll be surprised by who got left off and who made it. Tune in to MTV2 on Sunday at 2 p.m., when the program airs, to find out who made it the #1 spot.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.