Rain at an uncovered, outdoor concert undoubtedly blows, but something just felt right as the sky opened up about halfway through ubiquitous rapper 2 Chainz's headlining set at Jannus Live on Monday. Chalk it up to his penchant for hilariously terrible sexual innuendos or the utter debauchery practically required on the night of St. Patrick’s Day, but that rain made a surprisingly memorable set even more solidified in my brain for a long time to come.
Deemed the 2 G.O.O.D. to Be T.R.U. Tour, Monday night’s concert worked as one long, raunchy, and satisfying crescendo of up-and-coming and revered hip hop. It all started innocuously enough with a short set from New Orleans R&B-er August Alsina, who wikipedia says is best known for his single “I Luv This Shit” with Trinidad James. He sounded like a low-rent Usher, and would do this thing where he’d banter between songs, usually about women, before ending with a question, then answering that question by singing the answer, which would, of course, be the beginning of the next song in the set. It reminded me of Aziz Ansari dong an impression of R. Kelly, except this was real life, and this guy was serious.
The great thing about rap shows is how short sets like these are, and how quickly they can go from one performer to another. Monday night was no exception as G.O.O.D. music signee/former half of Clipse Pusha T barreled his way onto the stage with like, zero intro, launching into a fierce rendition of “King Push," the Kanye-produced opener of his latest album My Name is My Name. From then on, it was straight business as Pusha, alongside a surprisingly well-utilized hype man, delivered bits of his most memorable verses like they were holy scripture.
Everything from the hard-as-bricks “Millions” to his vocal-only opening verse on the “Don’t Like” remix, both guest verses on Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (“So Appalled” and “Runaway”) — even the Chris Brown-featuring “Sweet Serenade” all sounded near-immaculate as Pusha made the most of his short set time, delivering his brand of sordid street wisdom that’s well-represented both on-record and live. Closing out with Clipse’s classic “Grindin’,” Pusha T proved his worth and more as a solid live presence in rap today.
By about 9:30, the sky started teasing what was to come with a light mist of rain between Pusha T and 2 Chainz's set. The air cleared soon enough, as 2 Chainz descended down the stairs from what I can only guess (or hope) was a floating cloud of weed smoke hovering just out of sight behind the stage. As footage of Rocky, Bruce Lee, Michael Jordan and Ice Cube emanated from the screens behind him, 2 Chainz crossed the stage and soaked in the excitement before jumping into “Fork” from his latest, B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time. Like most of his work, it’s an absurd banger, marked up with Chainz simple nursery rhyme-like cadence and all-out love for himself.
It’s all kind of like this, and it’s all amazing: 2 Chainz towering over the crowd (dude is 6’5”) as they rhyme along with snippets of his highlight reel, including “I Do it”, his song-stealing verse from Drake’s “All Me;" “Riot;" the “Bands Make Her Dance” remix, and more. Then, the rain starts pouring down—hard. It doesn’t really seem to faze anyone. Girls still grind on no one in particular in the rain; one guy tries to fire one up with the help of small huddle; nearly everyone stays focused on the magnetic onstage presence that's pretty much taken over pop and urban radio in the past two years. The song snippets continue for a solid hour as 2 Chainz regales everyone with the probably-fake news that he’s going to record the first-ever 3D sex tape (with a Go Pro on his head) between the hits. He leaves no opportunity unturned, playing everything from “Feds Watching” to “Where You Been” and a handful of easily recognizable guest verses.
Playing for an impressive 90+ minutes, 2 Chainz gave the modestly packed but dedicated crowd pretty much everything they could ask for. Was it the most meaningful hip-hop show, or even the most skilled? Not even close, and thank god for that. 2 Chainz has solidified himself as the cocky court-jester of today’s hip-hop world and, as Monday night proved, it works, even when the circumstances dictate otherwise.