For the many hip-hop fans who understandably believe that Lil Wayne is the best rapper alive, his desire to be a rock star -- not a music star, not a rap star, but a rock star -- can be confounding. After releasing his breakthrough LP "Tha Carter III" in 2008, the Young Money giant decided to noodle around with a guitar and release the modern rock head-scratcher, "Rebirth," last year.
Yet no matter how many more copies "Carter III" has sold than "Rebirth" (about 2.8 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan) or how chorus-less rap tracks like "A Milli" and "6 Foot 7 Foot" seem to fit Wayne's skill set more than heavy headbangers, the rapper continues to push himself out of the genre that has defined him. Never has this been more evident than on his aptly named I Am Still Music tour, which hit Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center on Saturday (Mar. 26).
Unsurprisingly, Lil Wayne tore across the stage, tossed off complex rhymes with ease and generally delivered a thrilling performance, but sonically, the show was unexpected rock affair. The guitars were mixed high and injected into most of the hooks; meanwhile, "Rebirth" tracks like "Prom Queen" and "Drop the World" were given a prime spotlight at the end of the rapper's set.
Fortunately, Weezy's rock tendencies had a positive effect on Saturday's show: the bombastic guitar noise resonated throughout the giant arena and made each Weezy line all the more epic. Meanwhile, Nicki Minaj's set -- cleverly plopped right in the middle of Lil Wayne's, who seemed like he needed a reprieve after spinning around the stage like the Tasmanian Devil -- gave hip-hop fans a healthy dose of effective beats and rhyming. Minaj dipped into her pop material like "Moment 4 Life," but her set was smartly spotlighted by her rapid-fire guest verses on Trey Songz' "Bottoms Up," Kanye West's "Monster" and Ludacris' "My Chick Bad," while her weaker solo tracks like "Your Love" and "Check It Out" went unheard.
Hot off of his most successful album, last year's "Teflon Don," Rick Ross proved to be the ideal opener and even brought out Diddy, DJ Khaled and Philly native Meek Mill to join in on the fun. If Lil Wayne was earth-shaking showmanship and Minaj was standard hip-hop, Ross was a combination of the two: over the thundering beats to "B.M.F." and "MC Hammer," the Miami rapper walked around, delivered his lines, and stared menacingly into the crowd. Ross was a rock star on Saturday night, and he didn't even need any backing guitars.