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Lil Wayne is back -- and back on top

Posted by James Reed  March 17, 2011 03:54 PM

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LilWayne1.jpg
Lil Wayne (Robert E. Klein for The Boston Globe.)

LIL WAYNE
With Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Travis Barker, and Porcelain Black
At: Dunkin' Donuts Center, last night

By James Reed
Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE -- The mouthful of sparkle told you exactly how Lil Wayne was feeling. Flashing his bling-crusted grin from ear to ear, the rapper (and, let's face it, rock star) was fired-up and in charge at the Dunkin' Donuts Center last night.

"This is my first time on a stage in over a year," he told the shrieking sold-out crowd, punctuating his words as if he didn't believe them. "I swear to God, I was in a place a few months ago I couldn't even imagine this [expletive]. But now that I'm here, it's better than I ever could have imagined."

Wayne was referring to his newfound freedom after serving eight months of jail time on a weapons charge. He was an inmate at Rikers Island as recently as early November, but last night he was back on top and selling out arenas.

The Providence stop kicked off Wayne's new tour, and his performance -- assured, steady, and oftentimes blistering -- signaled he's ready to be in the spotlight again.

It was hard to tell who was happier to have him back: Wayne or his fans, some of whom wore "Free Weezy" T-shirts featuring his mug shot. They roared as Wayne, backed by a tight band, sprayed his rhymes like machine-gun fire on "A Milli," "Bill Gates," and "6 Foot 7 Foot." But he also knew when to simmer; on the slow jam "Single," Wayne made an unconvincing case that he gets no love from the ladies.

Nicki1.jpg
Nicki Minaj (Robert E. Klein for The Boston Globe.)

After an intense half-hour, Wayne ceded the stage to Nicki Minaj, the rising rapper and singer whose set was as much about the music as her cartoonish theatrics. With a blond fright wig towering on her head and female back-up dancers swirling around her, Minaj revved up with "Roman's Revenge," spitting the words like she could no longer stand the taste of them in her mouth.

While eminently amusing, Minaj came rather close to sinking her own performance with an extended trio of sugary ballads ("Right Thru Me," "Fly," and "Save Me"). When Wayne reappeared for a second set, Minaj rebounded nicely on "Roger That," a rap battle with Wayne that proved their chemistry was sincere, their respect mutual. The song ended with both Wayne and Minaj bowing before the other. (Wayne wasn't just a fan of her rapping, though. He cracked a joke that Stevie Wonder had texted him the other day to tell Wayne he had seen Minaj's derriere.)

RickRoss.jpgRick Ross (Robert E. Klein for The Boston Globe.)

TravisBarker.jpgTravis Barker (Robert E. Klein for The Boston Globe.)

Earlier in the night, Miami rapper Rick Ross was larger than life: big presence, big beard, and big beats ("MC Hammer," "9 Piece"). Meanwhile, Travis Barker held court for 30 stealth minutes drumming in sync with a DJ and posed the age-old question: "Can a drummer get some?"

James Reed can be reached at jreed@globe.com.

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The latest news, commentary, and reviews on music in Boston and beyond.

Contributors

Sarah Rodman is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.

James Reed is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.

Jonathan Perry is the Globe's Scene & Heard columnist, covering local music.

Michael Brodeur is the assistant arts editor for the Boston Globe, covering pop music, TV, and nightlife.

Julian Benbow is a staff writer at the Boston Globe, covering sports and music.

Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.

Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.

Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.

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