Since that’s what most of y’all are gonna be looking for, I’ll start this out by running through last night’s famous guests. Let’s see, in roughly chronological order: Wale, Ryan Leslie, Mobb Deep, Lloyd, Jeremih, Juelz Santana (Does he count as a guest if he came out during Lloyd Banks’s set?), Swizz Beats, Tyga, Kevin McCall, Busta Rhymes, Vado, Chrissy, Maino, Travis Porter, Mack Maine, Gudda Gudda, Lil Twist, Lloyd again, Jae Millz, Baby, Cory Gunz, Drake, DJ Khaled, Ace Hood, Diddy, Meek Mill, Wale again, Jadakiss. Something like that. A couple more might have been lurking in Dipset’s barely able to fit onstage posse, but I couldn’t see from where I was sitting.
Even if his set couldn’t match the excitement of Lil Wayne running in as his backing band played “A Milli” or the awesomeness of seeing an entire stadium full of people simultaneously do the Jim Jones “We Fly High” dance, Lloyd Banks’s time on stage might have been most representative of the event as a whole. He was great. He played all the hits from “On Fire” to “Beamer, Benz, or Bentley” and used his homefield advantage to bring out a small festival’s worth of friends (Including Mobb Deep, who came out for “Shook Ones (Part II)” and “Quiet Storm” and inspired a rush ofpeople from the second level to the field). R&B singer Lloyd stole the show for a minute when he joined Banks for “Any Girl,” then proceeded to take off his shirt in the process of some a cappella crooning. Ryan Leslie, out for “So Forgetful,” wore leather pants and funny sunglasses.
But there was also of an odd sense of malaise, particularly during Banks’s supposed throwbacks, “Warrior” and “On Fire.” Were these songs really released over seven years ago? Had he not announced them as his official “these are for my true fans” songs, those less familiar with the Queens MC might have easily mistook them for new material, jams that could fit into a 2011 radio playlist no questions asked. You couldn’t help but ask yourself if there has ever been a less creative seven-year interval in (New York) hip-hop? Is that even a question?
Maybe that’s why, aside from the circa 2003 tunes with which Dipset finished, no rappers produced as much excitement as three out of towners: Waka Flocka Flame and headliners Lil Wayne and Rick Ross. (Chris Brown, it should be noted, also had people pretty excited, particularly when an onstage lap dance led into neck kissing and that in turn led into some of the most forceful onstage humping I’ve ever seen). For Flocka, as epic as it was to hear songs like “Luv Dem Gun Sounds” and “Hard in Da Paint” coming out of speakers taller than some houses, dude should be banned from playing within 100 yards of any seating, or more than zero feet removed from the front row of audience members.
Lil Wayne, on the other hand, commanded the stage like someone who has been playing stadium shows since before he was old enough to drive to the stadium, which, I guess, he probably has. Despite never playing anything pre-Carter III (and after “A Milli” and “Got Money” opened the set, never anything from Tha Carter III), he proved himself to be a worthy headliner. Last night had Wayne, pushing 30 and recently released from a prison located only about 15 miles east, feeling a bit sentimental. Which was great when he was playing, say, the recently leaked acoustic slow jam “How to Love,” but, well, less than great when it meant him turning over to the stage to Lil fucking Twist, still most famous for cheesing around at a bowling alley with Justin Bieber in the music video for “Baby.”
Aside from the brief Biggie tribute (featuring Diddy) that preceded “Tupac’s Back,” there was nothing sentimental about Rick Ross’s time on stage. “MC Hammer,” “B.M.F.” and evening-closer “600 Benz” all sounded predictably massive, and even though the tens of thousands of rap fans in attendance were growing predictably tired, most managed to stay standing until the end.