Photo courtesy of BET
There were no double-stacked Styrofoam cups. No signs of shaky health. No itchy-palmed, hand-rubbing villain in VIP to worry about. In fact, save one blip near the end, so little out of the ordinary happened at Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz’s BET Experience show Saturday night, it was almost predictable.
But when it comes to Lil Wayne these days, predictable is a relief. Last January, after tweeting that he was a prisoner of Cash Money Records and Bryan “Baby” Williams, he filed a lawsuit against the label, suing for $51 million and a release from his contract. While Wayne was performing in July, a drink was thrown at him from Birdman’s section—but that was nothing compared to the shower of gunfire directed at Wayne’s tour buses that spring by a former tour manager for Young Thug, who’d taken Weezy’s spot under Birdman’s wing. At the beginning of the year, Wayne and Baby reunited at a club, but in April, Wayne cryptically tweeted, “in this war: I stand, I fight, I hurt, I die alone. One man army.[sic]” Saturday night, however, he left no doubt that shit is still very much fucked up.
As if the professional headaches weren’t enough, just two weeks ago, TMZ had the world holding its breath (it’s been a rough year for music legends) when their sources reported that Wayne’s plane was forced to make not one, but two emergency landings due to the rapper suffering seizures so violent, he lost consciousness. That Weezy not only showed up Saturday night—but also spazzed like my three-year-old nephew after I sneak him sugar behind his all-organic mom’s back—is victory enough.
Even as their performance was paint-by-the-numbers, Weezy and 2 Chainz were the most entertaining act of the night. To be fair, the cavernous Staples Center is not an ideal venue for a traditional rap show. Beyoncé or Chris Brown stadium tours, with all of the lights and water dancing and costume changes? Yes, perfect. A rapper and his hype man trying to reach the 18, 118th person up by the rafters? I was sitting on the floor 15 rows from the stage, and the space swallowed up most of the energy before it got to me.
The performers couldn’t feel us, either, which is why A$AP Ferg asked, after performing “Shabba” and bringing out Migos to underwhelming affect, “Is there any reason y’all can’t come forward?” Well, besides possibly inciting a stampede and general chaos, no, so: Come on down! A row of dudes with too much pent-up testosterone immediately started plowing into me. Next thing I knew, a fight had broken out beside me as “New Level” played, raining down a full vodka cranberry on me and sending my purse flying.
I’ll take that over Fetty Wap’s live show, though. While he sounds great—he sang a cappella a couple times and yes, he really does have a lovely warble—he meanders around the stage like he’s wandering through a mall. His teddy bear bud did his best to try and pull Fetty out of his (admittedly blissful-looking) Xan-like stupor, but Fetty was locked in. Honestly, his DJ could’ve just found “679” on Spotify and let it play and the crowd would’ve been cool—and for the last three songs, Fetty was nowhere to be seen (I still don’t know why he left the stage, but I don’t think anyone but me noticed) and that’s just what dude did.
Thirty minutes later, 2 Chainz appeared in a very fashion-y bumblebee sweater and after a minute or two of “I Luv Dem Strippers,” the familiar strains of the ghetto gospel “Duffle Bag Boy” rang out and Wayne bounded onstage in a raspberry shorts suit. In 2007, 2 Chainz was still Tity Boi and Weezy’s neck was still a blank canvas, and it was the duo’s first collaboration, relevant since the double headline bill for BET was in support of their recently released collaborative album, ColleGrove.
These guys are pros, so they knew to slip in newer tracks between their massive hits, of which they collectively have a ton both separately and together (“Rich as Fuck” and “Bandz A Make Her Dance” got the biggest response). It’s always fun to watch Weezy high-step and running man and Kid-n-Play kick his way through classics like “A Milli,” “Go DJ” and “Hustler Muzik.” He’s like a kid both energetically and in his need to please, and he clearly hurls himself into his performances. 2 Chainz was less active, but songs like “Birthday Song” and “I’m Diffrent” still get squeals and, combined with “Watch Out,” did a lot of the work for him. Beefing up the spectacle were two DJs on ‘roids, screaming and dropping bombs and breaking glass and cocking glocks and setting off sirens all at the same damn time.
Still, even two huge rap celebrities struggled to fill up all that space. Only once was I actually taken by surprise.
“Y’all know I’m goin’ through a bunch of bullshit with them bitch ass niggas, but as long as I got that [points offstage to his daughter] and them two little boys, look at my face,” Lil Wayne said, leaning his head back as if to bask in the sun while “No Worries” played. Hopefully that’s true.
Rebecca Haithcoat is a writer based in LA. Follow her on Twitter.