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Lil’ Wayne comes up short in Greensboro Coliseum show

by Ryan Snyder

Lil’ Wayne comes up short in Greensboro Coliseum show

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Whoknew that technology developed to encrypt highly sensitivecommunications during World War II would eventually make its mark asone of the most irritating and worn-out pop music trends in recentmemory? I’m of course talking about that grating robo-voice effect thatsaturates hip-hop music these days produced from a little device calleda vocoder. Two of the most brazen culprits of vocal-tech abuse made anappearance at the Greensboro Coliseum on Dec. 29, in what was one ofthe last big shows of 2008 in the Triad. Ra-ra-ra-rapper Lil’Wayne (www.myspace. com/lilwayne) and rappa-ternt-sanga T-Pain (ww.myspace.com/tpain) were all over pop music in 2008 as two of the mostdownloaded, highest charted and ring-toned artists of the year. Thiswas thanks mostly to AutoTune, a vocoder program that can both correctpitch problems and create digital envelopes around vocals. In short,what they sing isn’t what you get. But Weezy and Pain weren’t the onlynames on the bill, as a few real vocal and musical talents joined themto help abate the headliners’ fakery. Longtime lyricist andbackground vocalist Keri Hilson (www.myspace.com/kerihilson) hasrecently made her name as a solo artist and gave a performance worthyof her credentials. One of the most anticipated acts of the evening,hip-hop band Gym Class Heroes (www.myspace.com/gymclassheroes) came outwith a ton of energy and did their best to wear out a crowd that stillhad a long night ahead. However noble and authentic there efforts were,the specter of AutoTune still loomed large. It seemed that theoverall show got behind schedule midway through, as R&B songstressKeyshia Cole (www.myspace.com/keyshiacole) hurried through her songswhile her technical crew seemed oblivious to the persistently spikingvocals. Her huge voice sounded shrill and invasive at its peaks forwhat was a wholly forgettable performance. To aggravate it evenfurther, Cole’s music videos came through the video feed on the venue’smonitors rather than footage of the actual show. If people wanted towatch television, they could have done so at home for free. Keeping inthe spirit of his album Thr33 Ringz (that’s idiot-ese for“Three Rings”), T-Pain’s stage was decorated with, you guessed it,giant inflatable circus tents. While Lil’ Wayne at one time might havebeen a capable performer, no one can perfectly explain T-Pain’spopularity. However, it might have something to do with howsongs with his name on them turn people into wild animals after a fewdrinks. It’s only when he takes the stage that you actually see him forwhat he really is: a performer lacking any real talent, shrouded inpretense. His stage show was one big spectacle of poorly conceivedridiculousness with a big price tag, nothing more. Here’s the token setlist rundown: He did some songs about buying “dranks” and being sprung.What was most interesting about his performance, however, was his utterdisregard for the quality of his own act. Now it’s no secret that mostpop stars utilize voice tracks onstage pretty often, but to break fromthe track mid-song is pretty shameless and T-Pain did it frequently.Just to keep score: his voice is synthesized, pitch-corrected, voicetracked and he still doesn’t make any effort to keep up. So what doesT- Pain do? He was a pretty decent dancer. That’s it. He triedto play piano, but only managed to produce the infamously stereotypicalOriental leitmotif and some rudimentary progressions. Hisstage show itself was an embarrassment worthy of his recording charade.Aside from his mic mimicry and the gun-blast sound effects that hepeppered the audience with, T-Pain stayed true to his love of hackneyedgimmicks by utilizing a crowd of little people to dance around him, thecircus ringleader. Not to hate on little people; even Bushwick Bill gothis start as a dancer for the Geto Boys. But the dwarf who resembled amix of Jessica Simspson and Jennifer Lopez (i.e. blonde hair and robustdonka followed by a pair of ankles) was clearly in a bikini for shockvalue, though she seemed pretty happy to be there. And thenthere was Weezy. The self proclaimed “best rapper alive,” despitehaving regressed more than Kanye in the past year, appears to possess aperforming ethos similar to his predecessor. He spent plenty of timeoff the microphone while his song’s voice track played, though hisstage show was much pricier to cover for it. His band was actuallygreat, all of whom were suspended from the rafters on separateplatforms with giant LCD screens behind them. If only Wayne weren’t sohalf-hearted in his delivery of what are already some of the mostmindless lyrics in all of hip hop. It was bad enough that Weezy tookthe spotlight with a slick green-and-white Fender without touching asingle string, but the “battle” between he and T-Pain was unintentionalhilarity at its finest. Wayne’s DJ spun 10-second bits of each of theirhit songs while each played hype man over top. Neither actualimprovisation nor any real rhymes came from either. Now Iunderstand the concept of the boast in hip-hop music perfectly well.But if Wayne keeps claiming to be the best rapper alive, 2009 is goingto be a lucrative year for Weezy diss albums. At that moment, Wayne wasnowhere close to being the greatest. With Phonte Coleman and Big Poohof Little Brother (www. myspace.com/littlebrother) only about an houraway, he couldn’t even take the title of best rapper in the state ofNorth Carolina.

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