It was only the fifth night of Young Money Presents: America’s Most Wanted Music Festival but Young Jeezy already felt like an old hand as he pulled into the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater in a black Escalade. “I live on the road so I’m immune to it. But this is the biggest tour of the summer, you can feel the energy,” he told Rolling Stone, a cluster of groupies waiting willingly by the back gate. “When I hit that stage, I go all in. Then I give even more at the after party,” the Atlanta rapper said with a sly smile. “Even if we don’t have one, we make one.”
After two hours of opening sets from Jeremih, Pleasure P, Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em and Young Jeezy, the lights dimmed and the crowd and pyrotechnics lit up for headliner Lil Wayne. Six teenage girls in customized Wayne T-shirts stood on their seats squealing. A blond with “Weezy F. Baby” scrawled in black marker on her shoulder with a heart around it shrieked and shook like she lost her marbles, or was giving them graciously to the Best Rapper Alive.
Wayne dramatically closed his opening track “A Milli” like a rock star that had landed on earth to deliver a prophetic message, taking off his sunglasses, placing his purple baseball cap over his heart. “Before I get started, I must get three things off my chest. The first one is, I believe in God, do you?” he asked, the crowd affirming that they did. “The second one is, I ain’t shit without you, so make noise for what you’ve created! And the third, most important one is, I ain’t shit without you so make noise for what you created! Now if you came to have a good excellent muthafuckin’ time say, Fuckin’ right!”
An image of a dollar sign was projected on the screen behind him as Weezy chanted that “the sky is the limit” during “Ride 4 My Niggas” with five dancers behind him in Daisy Dukes. As he whizzed through hits, Wayne seemed to have morphed from a spiraling madman into a calculated mastermind, commanding the stadium with clear ease, intention and no trace of insanity.
Female fans erupted with appreciation when Wayne tore off his T-shirt during “I’m Me” and Birdman later joined his surrogate son for “Pop Bottles,” “We Takin’ Over” and “Always Strapped.” Then Wayne introduced the next generation of his adopted family, his “Young Money All-Star team” — rappers Jae Millz, Tyga, T-Streets, Gudda Gudda and the “Young Money First Lady” Nicki Minaj. Before the young’uns of the crew, Lil Chuckee and Lil Twist took the stage, Weezy repeatedly asked the audience, “Is there anyone 17 and under tonight?” Loud screams from tons of teens.
Next, as the crowd anticipated the arrival of the hottest rapper of the moment, Drake, Wayne delivered the big news, and disappointment, of the night. “Before I go any further, I must let you know, we had a technical difficulty yesterday,” Weezy said of Drake’s onstage stumble in Camden, New Jersey, which had already been posted and spoofed several times on YouTube. “A nigga fell, he got a bad ass right leg and the nigga stepped on the leg the wrong way and he broke another ligament. So the nigga going to surgery tomorrow,” Wayne explained. “Keep in him y’all prayers, ya dig? This for my nigga Drake!” The stadium screamed upon hearing Drizzy’s name, realized that Drake was a no show and quieted, deflated.
Wayne attempted to mask the setback by performing most of last year’s Tha Carter III. During “Mrs. Officer,” he was harassed and handcuffed by sexy cops while on “Tie My Hands” the screen flashed scenes from Wayne’s flooded hometown of New Orleans — boarded up homes spray painted with PLEASE STOP “HELPING” ME, THANKS. GO AWAY! and MAKE LEVEES NOT WAR.
“I don’t know if y’all approve of me saying nigga, but fuck it, say, Hell yeah, nigga!” Wayne ordered. He brought Young Money back to close the show with “Every Girl,” a fan’s enormous leopard print bra swinging around Weezy’s neck. After a brief Michael Jackson tribute, he reminded the crowd to keep “my nigga Drake in your prayers” and exited, bra in hand, like a precious souvenir.