ATLANTA — Local radio station Hot 107.9 did exactly what it should have when putting together the biggest ATL concert of the year: make sure that almost all the big names from the city were onstage performing. T.I., Ludacris, Usher, Young Jeezy, DJ Drama, Gucci Mane and newer favorites Soulja Boy Tell’em, Shawty Lo, Gorilla Zoe and Rocko were all paraded out in the Philips Arena on Saturday for the station’s annual Birthday Bash concert.
The Bash is in its 13th year and was originally devised to celebrate the birth of the station. What started out as a small party in the park is now one of the city’s most anticipated events, and with fans turning out in the tens of thousands every year, the concert needed a big venue: Birthday Bash is to Atlanta what Summer Jam is to the New York area.
In addition to the hometown performers, out-of-town reps such as Game, Kanye West, Akon, Plies, Trina, Lil Boosie and Webbie, DJ Khaled and his artist Ace Hood appeared on the bill as well.
The biggest moments of the show came courtesy of ATL’s newly dubbed Prime Minister (according to his new mixtape, anyway), Young Jeezy. The Snowman has been promising a huge show for weeks, and he lived up to his word. Concertgoers in the floor seats were greeted with Snowman T-shirts that read “My President Is Black” on the front, with the American flag in black and white instead of red, white and blue. On the back, the shirts advertised Jeezy’s upcoming LP, The Recession. Jeezy’s set commenced with a video of police chasing him through the streets in his two-seater until he arrived at the arena.
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Finally, Jizzle jumped onstage, inciting the crowd with street bangers such as “Get Ya Mind Right” and “Bottom of the Map.” The-Dream was Jeezy’s first surprise guest, joining the MC for the “I Luv Your Girl” remix. Jeezy — who, along with his entire crew, was dressed all in black — doled out his trump cards gradually with anthems such as “I Luv It,” “And Then What” and “Soul Survivor.” Then uncontrolled uproar ensued when Usher came out for “Love in This Club.”
Ush had been in Japan but flew in especially to hold Jeezy down. Later, when the MC was doing his sing-songy delivery — “I put onnnn. I put on for my city! On, on for my city!” — the crowd erupted again when Kanye West came out to perform his part in “Put On.”
“You got that big fame, homie, and you just changed, homie/ You can ask big homie, man, the top so lonely,” Kanye rapped. The fans responded by shouting out Kanye’s ad libs: “So lonely, I, I, I, I-I-I-I-I-I-I!”
“I put on for my city. Tell them catch up!” Jeezy yelled after West’s verse. Jeezy then let Kanye give the people a taste of “Can’t Tell Me Nothing.”
“Two years ago I brought out Jay-Z — this year I brought out Usher and Kanye,” Jeezy boasted. “Catch up, n—as! I put on for my city!”
T.I. closed out the Bash. Recently, Shawty Lo had said he wanted to take their rivalry up a notch with a competition at the ballyhooed concert: L.O. said he wanted to issue a challenge to see who had the best performance. During his set, Lo incorporated theatrics such as a video and being lowered onto the stage from about 50 feet in the air along with his highly touted ’hood hits “Foolish,” “Dunn Dunn” and “Dey Know” (Ludacris came out for his verse on the remix). After his set, a sign that said “A new King has been born” was seen on the video screens alongside his photo.
Tip, however, was too polished and established to battle. The King of the South started with “Help Is Coming” and transitioned to “Beat Down Low.” With just 30 minutes to do his thing, Tip could only give samples of most of his records, but he had plenty of material in his arsenal.
“Do these people in the house know this is my Birthday Bash?” he asked. “I own this sh–! I been doing this sh– since I had a song called …” On cue, the music for “Rubber Band Man” came on.
“All the haters in the house: You better watch your muthaf—in’ mouth, man!” That was a segue to “Watch What You Say.”
Tip’s only guests were people down with his Grand Hustle label: He introduced the legendary 8Ball and MJG, who are his newest recruits , along with Young L.A. and B.O.B.
“N— a, it’s the muthaf—in’ King and the hustle ain’t over!” Tip said triumphantly. After “No Matter What,” confetti dropped from the air as he closed with “What You Know.”
Earlier in the show, Trina gave the fans an eyefull of her … er, beauty. “The Baddest Chick”’s blue dress started flying up, Marilyn Monroe-style, as she walked across the stage. The unplanned wardrobe malfunction caused her to blush, but she soldiered on with records such as “I Got a Thing for You” and “Single Again.”
In Atlanta, Gucci Mane’s songs are as big as nationwide #1 hits: Underground records such as “Trap House” and “Bird Flu” were — as they say in hip-hop — ringing off. The whole audience was reciting them line for line, cadence for cadence.
The primetime playas began hitting the stage at around 8 p.m. America’s number-one goon, Plies, showed why he may be the number-one hip-hop superstar the mainstream hasn’t got a strong grasp on just yet: Most of his harder-edged catalog hasn’t quite hit the radar of the masses, but they are familiar with his hit singles. Plies’ set had the fans on their feet from beginning to end.
“N—a owe me some money he ain’t gotta pay me,” Plies rapped, performing a record from his recently released Definition of Real. “Got something for you f— n—as, who playa hatin’/ N—a claiming he don’t like me, but it’s all gravy/ Keep playing with me and I’mma [play with] your ol’ lady.”
Later, he played to the ladies.
“You don’t know what I’m finin’ to do,” the shirtless Florida native said directly after telling the of-age women in attendance to get their cameras ready. “I might get muthaf—in’ naked.” He then warned all the underage females to turn their heads; this ended with him doing a suggestive gesture that garnered screams. Just so the thugs wouldn’t get too restless, he gave them “Goons Lurkin,” a cinematic revenge narrative. “Bust It Baby Part 2″ ended Plies’ set.
The Game, however, got the best audience participation of the night: He brought up several elementary school-age children and one took the mic, rapping “Game’s Pain” in its entirety. “Put your dubs up!” the youngster yelled. “L.A.! L.A.! Compton! Where you from? Get money! Compton!”