|Photo by Jonathan Mannion|
Epic Nightclub, Minneapolis
Friday, May 18, 2012
Since his undeniable hit "Hustlin'" in 2006, Miami's Rick Ross has banked on the legend of his namesake by crafting a string of street anthems touting his wealth and ability to move drugs in large quantities. While the subject matter has certainly been covered ad nauseam in rap music, Ross' displays of excess and towering presence on a beat set him apart from the herd.
Last year saw Ross in town at the Xcel Energy Center with Lil' Wayne, Keri Hilson and Tyga
, playing to thousands of fans in a space where rap doesn't really translate. The massive stage show at Xcel included video screens and blaring lights that seemed to ultimately dwarf Ross the performer. Friday's headlining performance at Epic felt far more scaled-down in a way that allowed for the rapper's aura to truly be felt.
The show began slowly with DJ Enferno spinning some warm-up tracks to a rather small audience. Local openers OBF had the "six guys on stage rapping to backing tracks" style down pretty well, but the audience didn't seem to respond much to their songs. "Ladies, if your pussy clean, I want ya'll to scream," went a typical parlay with the crowd. The openers gradually improved, as Selfish came onstage solo with better material and energy, and the numbers on the floor began to steadily increase.
Final opener Buddah Bless came out with the most effort in his stage show, complete with props touting his latest album and dancers accenting his songs about ass. The openers vibe served as decent prep, but even Buddah himself seemed to be able to tell that people were getting antsy to see the bawse: "If ya'll ready for Buddah Bless to get the fuck off the stage," said Buddah himself before his final song, "Make some noise!" DJ Enferno returned to spin the hits he'd saved for this portion of the show ("Beez In The Trap", "You Want Deez Rackz", "Same Damn Time", et al), and had as much, if not more, energy than the rappers that preceded, dropping the beat at various moments so he could scream the lyrics and dance along.
In a bit of smooth transitioning, Enferno began spinning Rick Ross guest appearances, culminating in Meek Mill's hit "I'm a Boss" during which Ross emerged to spit his verse. His introduction erupted in the crowd and suddenly the place had an entirely new spirit. Dancing got dirtier and more intense. Weed smells wafted from everywhere. A fight broke out and was quickly quelled by security, but an aura of violent expression remained in some. Most people knew the lyrics and Ross' already booming voice became that much stronger. Every song ended with a punch-up of an exploding car that was deafeningly loud.
Ross had an entourage with him but did most of the vocal heavy-lifting himself, which is not always the case with paid rappers. He accentuated the lines that he knew were his best -- "These motherfuckers mad 'cuz I'm icey" came with a cocky necklace shake, while "Fuck maintain, boy, I gotta keep BALLIN'" required a rewind so he could say it with more gusto -- and the crowd went crazy during nearly every line. As he worked his way through a long set of hits, his large white tee became soaked through with sweat but he seemed like he was ready to rap all night.
It seemed like things got pushed back a little initially (doors hadn't even opened by the time I arrived at 10 p.m., an hour later than posted), but Ross played a substantial set that extended past the official bar close. There was much more personality and individual style showcased here than could possibly have been gleamed from an arena show; the venue was big enough to hold the packed crowd but kept the intimacy necessary for an exciting rap show. It's a rare thing to see one of the top rappers in the game at this level, and he delivered in a way that surpassed my expectations.
Critic's Bias: I've always loved Ross' material on record and in clubs, but my worry, as with a lot of these types of shows, was that the man would rest on his laurels and turn in a mediocre performance. This was not at all the case.
Overheard in the crowd: "I'm tryin' to get seen tonight; where do you think Rick Ross' car is?"
Random Notebook Dump: A man in line literally gave someone the shirt off his back after hearing they wouldn't be able to get in wearing only a "Money Hoes Clothes" wifebeater.
The crowd: Mixed race and gender, mostly younger. I was definitely the only dork in the crowd with a bike helmet.
I'm A Boss
All I Do Is Win
I'm On One
Aston Martin Music
I'm Not A Star
Bag Of Money