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Lil Wayne Walks the Lonely Street of Dreams

April 4, 2007

The Street Dreams tour, headlined by Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne, rolled through Baltimore on Sunday with 92Q providing the usual massive advance hype. Although the lineup differed greatly from the Q’s last big show at 1st Mariner Arena, teen R&B revue the Scream Tour, the demographics at Street Dreams skewed just ever so slightly older and more male.

The other difference was a matter of efficiency. The Scream Tour rolled from act to act with minimal buffer time; Street Dreams dragged on a few hours longer than it needed to thanks to tedious pauses between performers, sometimes longer than the sets themselves. Pork Chop and the rest of 92Q’s on-air personalities did their best to stall entertainingly, spinning DJ sets, dancing, and singing along. And there’s something wonderfully surreal about watching an arena full of teenagers jam to even minute-long snippets of Baltimore club music, like a glimpse of a really exciting future.

The requisite local opener, TestMe, was an appropriate choice considering that, as was mentioned last week, the dude sounds eerily like Lil Wayne on record. TestMe even had the balls to perform his version of Wayne’s “Stuntin’ Like My Daddy” during his set, although the vocal similarity was much less apparent live. He teased the audience with hints of his big single “What It Is” before finally performing it, quickly learning how to work an humongous crowd. And he was generous enough to share a little of this big moment with another local teen rapper, A-Maz-On, with a quick performance of A-Maz-On’s single “Pose for the Camera.”

The house lights finally went down halfway through Alabama rapper Rich Boy’s first verse, but then, after the 45-minute lull between TestMe’s and Rich Boy’s sets, we understand if the lighting guy decided to take a nap. Rich Boy’s self-titled album charted as a Top 5 debut a few weeks ago, but there’s not much to recommend it beyond the beats of budding superproducer Polow da Don. And even though Polow wasn’t onstage tonight, he still managed to upstage Rich Boy when just about everyone sang along with Polow’s verse from the duo’s hit “Throw Some D’s.”

The only non-Southerner on the tour, Jim Jones has managed the unlikely feat of going from the third most popular rapper in his own crew, the Diplomats, to a bona fide star in just the past six months, mostly on the back of “We Fly High,” a repulsive catch-phrase record with a beat that sounds like something one of Lil Jon’s keyboards would spit up if it had a nasty cold. But tonight Jones got the arena rocking almost entirely on the strength of tracks from his three solo albums, only hinting at the fact he was nowhere near many of the Diplomats’ biggest hits. And the crowd ate it up, apparently all huge fans of marginal hits like “Crunk Muzik” and “Summer Wit Miami.”

Lil Wayne’s stature in hip-hop has undergone a meteoric rise in the past year, as well, despite selling more records back when he debuted in the late ’90s. Instead of sales, what Wayne has now is that moment every MC waits for: He can call himself the best rapper alive, and a good number of people actually agree with him. And he demonstrated how he earned that respect on Sunday by performing several of the countless remixes and freestyles he’s killed lately, as well as a sizable chunk of his ’04 album Tha Carter II.

Wayne’s set was ostensibly in support of Like Father, Like Son, his underrated recent album with Baby, his label head and creepy father figure. But Baby knows when to just sit back and let Weezy do his thing, only actually performing with Wayne on the album’s two singles. Unfortunately, for the live “Leather so Soft” Wayne opted to re-create the ill-advised video, making a feeble attempt to play guitar. A few years from now, this might be remembered as the moment when it all started to go wrong, and Wayne got on the road to becoming Andre 3000.

The stage set for the Street Dreams tour is lined with couches and coffee tables, odd considering that the room Jeezy and Weezy constantly rhyme about is the kitchen, not the den. But at least there was plenty of room for Young Jeezy’s crew to lounge onstage, because why bother standing if you’re just an unnecessary hypeman, anyway? No one’s ever going to call Young Jeezy the best rapper alive. In fact, he didn’t even bother to rhyme half the couplets on his last album, the insipid The Inspiration.

But his music might be the closest thing there is to stadium rap–aggressive beats, broad strokes, and long, drawn-out bellows of “yeahhhhhhhh.” If there’s any justice, Lil Wayne will headline the next time he plays a tour this big. But it’s hard to deny that Jeezy’s big dumb hooks fill out an arena better than Wayne’s squirrelly wordplay.

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