Meek Mill, Rick Ross, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, Kendrick Lamar
Power 106 Cali Christmas
Ah, the holiday season in L.A. — a crisp chill is in the air, every twinkly light installment and bit of tinsel available has been vomited onto that particular property on Los Feliz Blvd. and Power 106 radio host Yesi Ortiz squawks about “sold-out Cali Christmas” after each song.
We trudged Grinch-like through a cold mist to get to the concert last night. But we ended up feeling touched by the spirit. It might have been the midgets dressed as elves handing out candy canes, the girl in the sequined Santa hat passing back her blunt, or the pair of people who proposed marriage on the Jumbotron above.
Yet, we weren't entirely swayed by all the warmth and fuzziness. Since it's the end of the year, we decided to give each performer at the show a grade. Warning: a couple are getting coal in their stockings.
Is there a less interesting rapper than Meek Mill? We feel a little sorry for the guy. His camp, Maybach Music Group, apparently considers him so unable to hold an audience's attention that cardboard cutouts promoting his boss Rick Ross were held up on both sides of the stage throughout his set. Meek (unfortunate name) did a bunch of songs that bled into each other, until YG sauntered out for the ratchet anthem we're somehow still not sick of, “Up,” and then Meek performed the sole enjoyable single he released this year, the irreverent spiritual “Amen.”
Gang threats supposedly prompted The Bawse to cancel several appearances earlier this month, and we've long held that he shouldn't have to do live shows anymore. Instead, Rick Ross should be holed up shirtless, Scarface-style, in a Miami mansion surrounded by women wearing wisps of clothing and feeding him grapes as the shimmery, opulent “Amsterdam” plays on repeat. See, being onstage seems too much work for Ross. After dancing out last night to “I'm a Boss” and stealing whatever thunder Meek Mill had, Ross's animation faded and he let his hypeman (who was wearing a huge chain oddly reminiscent of a Mario Bros. mushroom) handle shit. Ross padded around the stage, stopping to stare up at the crowd … but he just looked dazed. Go on home and kick it with your bag of money, Rozay.
The Atlanta rapper just signed a rumored $2 million dollar deal with Def Jam, basically on the strength of his probably deadly serious single “All Gold Everything” (the best analysis of it you will read comes from our own Shea Serrano: “Trinidad James raps like how it is when you try to ride your bike as s…..l……o…..w as you possibly can without letting it fall over.”). Dude pedaled out last night on a tricked-out tricycle, performed that song with more charisma than half the other artists combined and triked off. He's our hero.
Here are the memorable moments of Big Sean's set last night:
1) He was dressed as an urban lumberjack, ie Tims, a wool beanie and a sleeveless plaid flannel that probably cost more than my car.
2) A guy in a lion mascot costume, complete with paws, came out for a few songs. We have no idea.
3) Sean encouraged the crowd to tell people who try to hold you back to “suck your dick” before initiating a moment of silence for the children killed in Connecticut.
4) He did a herkie during “Ass.”
Full disclosure: despite our best efforts, we like the song “Guap.”
2 Chainz is responsible for at least three-fourths of rap's catchphrases this year. “Bad bitch contest, you in first place,” “She got a big booty so I call her 'Big Booty,'” “All I want for my birthday is a big-booty ho,” “Pull up to the scene with my ceilin' missin',” “I love bad bitches, that my fuckin' problem” — the list goes on and on. He played almost every hit he has last night, had a better stage presence that anyone who preceded him and, in transforming himself from 1997's Tity Boi to 2011's 2 Chainz, is basically the comeback story of the year. Who cares if none of those phrases makes any sense?
It's no secret we love Kendrick Lamar, but it's not just because he's the hometown hero. The only rapper who didn't seem to use a backing track last night, he not only played the more easily digestible songs from his debut album good kid, m.A.A.d city (“Poetic Justice,” “The Recipe”), he also performed “m.A.A.d city.” Not only did he bring out every other member of his TDE team — Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock — he made room for J. Cole, E-40, Too Short and Lil Wayne to do their own songs during his set. Yeah, the weird tunic he had on looked borrowed from Kanye or A$AP Rocky, but whatever. He's an artist, maybe the best rapper and smartest lyricist of this generation, and he sold 241,000 copies of a dense, intelligent debut in its first week. Sometimes the good guys do finish first.
See also: 2012 Was a Landmark Year in L.A. Hip-Hop
The crowd: Girls spilling out of Ace-bandage tight dresses, guys sagging their skinny jeans.
Random notebook dump: There's nothing like a girl falling off the toilet in the stall next to you and, moments later, taking a bathroom mirror selfie.