As a rock star he isn’t the great he wants to be, but as a rapper? Still almost peerless. Hammermith Apollo, London, Wednesday, October 7
Lil Wayne, the cult hero of hip-hop. While still holding on firmly to the ghetto-fab failsafes of cash, money and bitches, this former Hot Boy and New Orleans scene harbinger has made his name by being smarter and subtler than thick lad Fiddy and mentally stabler than crazy uncle Eminem. And, like Kanye, he’s unafraid of experimentation, as the grand unveiling of his new rock direction demands tonight. Thankfully there’s less risk of him making a massive tit of himself in the manner Mr West is so keen on.
In fact, for such a little guy it seems Wayne’s got one up on pretty much every other rapper out there… so why the fuck does he have to chuck all that goodwill in the dumper by maintaining the irritating hip-hop status quo and turning up to the Hammersmith Apollo half an hour late? Appeasing the crowd’s boos after his delayed start, dauntingly bassy gut-thruster ‘A Milli’ reminds you that aural violation is part of the reason you showed up. Shame, then, that the accompanying visuals look like a compilation of lo-fi GIFs nicked off the Bebo profile of a 14-year-old. Oh yeah, and there are some marching 100 dollar bills too.
That’s right. Marching. Like when the teacups came alive in Beauty And The Beast. But when Lil Wayne does hip-hop in the old-school sense, the results are deep and delectable. ‘We Takin’ Over’ pulses with low-riding vigour, while ode to blowjobs ‘Lollipop’ doesn’t cause a small commotion when a group of disgusted feminists don’t storm out of the overwhelmingly masculine crowd. There’s less good news for Wayne’s risky rockstar overhaul, as the slow dirge of grungey mud-swiller ‘Prom Queen’ bubbles insipidly past your senses like the waft of a particularly fusty fart. Come back Limp Bizkit, all is forgiven.
Wayne expresses gratitude and humbleness sorely lacking in other rappers, and when his hits hit big, it works. But cult is normally cult for a reason. Though the right elements appear in some form here and there, the perfect constellation for indisputable greatness never quite lines itself up, meaning tonight’s show falls short of cosmic.