JACKSONVILLE, Florida Clad in an orange jumpsuit and backed by uncle Silkk the Shocker, prepubescent rapper Lil' Romeo began his national tour Friday night with a $27 concert that ended up costing fans roughly a dollar a minute.
Romeo's entire performance lasted about half an hour, and it culminated with the inevitable performance of "My Baby," the smash single that revisits the Jackson 5's much-sampled classic "I Want You Back."
Like "My Baby," much of Romeo's other material borrowed (or, if you're a hater, bit) the beats and rhymes of other artists. The show opened, for example, with Romeo revisiting Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock's "It Takes Two," changing the words where convenient to make them self-referential.
In the past, this practice has caused some to accuse Romeo's father and mentor, Master P, of exploiting both his 12-year-old son and the original musicians. Whether you generally see it this way or not, you couldn't help but wonder about the significance of the show-opening cartoon a Warner Bros. "Merrie Melodies" in which a P.T. Barnum type requests a new circus animal and gets a rabbit named Lil' Romeo.
Romeo himself never appears to feel exploited he's always too busy slyly describing what it's like to be a young, successful rapper adored by a chorus of adolescent girls. Keeping with this practice, Romeo seemed to enjoy himself for the duration of his mini-show in Jacksonville, at one point encouraging several other youngsters to climb onto the stage and dance. When their time was up, Romeo dismissed them with a handshake or a hug.
Occasionally, Romeo interacted with the schoolchildren seated too far back to make it onstage. "Who makin' C's?" he asked. "Who makin' B's? Who makin' A's?"
Romeo had no props onstage, but he did show videos on two screens. So while he was pumping out such familiar material as "The Girlies," "That's Kool" and "Little Souljas Need Love Too," fans got to absorb images of Romeo walking through school hallways, rhyming between sets of lockers. The song "Somebody's in Love" continued the classroom motif, as Romeo dropped the line, "Her name was Keisha. She always sat by the teacher."
Lil' D joined Romeo for the lighthearted duet "Cotton Candy," and Silkk helped out toward the end, prodding the fans to cheer for the set-closing "My Baby." Incidentally, Silkk was the only high-profile member of the No Limit army to rhyme with Romeo. A promised "special appearance by Master P" apparently did not pan out.
Read about all of the shows we've recently covered in Tour Reports.