Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Snoop Dogg, Method Man and Redman, and Devin the Dude began their tour in Baltimore last night at Rams Head. Bmore Musically Informed's resident hip hop source Jason Tomassini joined me for Snoop's first show in Baltimore ever, and his detailed take on the event is below. All photos were taken by our always on-point, Chrissy Abbott. Enjoy:
Even with, Jay-Z, one of the few names in hip hop bigger than he, playing just a few blocks away Tuesday night, Snoop Dogg, playing his first Baltimore show ever, didn't walk onto the Ram's Head Live stage trying to prove anyone to anything. It sort of makes sense; at this point, Snoop really has nothing left to prove. He has classic albums, films (both mainstream and pornographic), community activism, a family and, oh yeah, millions upon millions of dollars.
But you sort of hoped that playing second banana to HOV would motivate Snoop to put on a party that his brand of gangsta rap often soundtracks, as opposed to the type of party Jay-Z might throw, which at this point is closer to a corporate cocktail party than a Henny-and-Chronic-filled backyard BBQ.
But the first half of Snoop's show was pretty lackluster, running through classic's like Dr. Dre's "The Next Episode" and a decent version of "Gin and Juice" that came alive only because of the backing band, The Snoopadelics.
It was sharp contrast to openers Method Man and Redman, who swiftly ran through their brand of high-energy boom-bap, nailing their choicest collaborative cuts (Blackout's "Da Rockwilder" is always a fan favorite; new track "A-Yo," off 2009's Blackout 2, came off just as well). And they also hit some of their best solo cuts and a couple of Wu Tang joints that have become an obligation for its former members' solo sets. Meth and Red, who are among the few emcees smoother on the mic than Snoop, ran and jumped like mad men around stage, but always in sync, two-stepping in unison without it seeming choreographed. Red has embraced being a sort of master of ceremonies, taking on the sometimes arduous hip hop task of involving the crowd and keeping the set from growing dull (he introduced many songs with some kind of weed-related call and response; rap fans never pass on an opportunity to let everyone know they smoke weed). While on a smaller scale, they too have a sort of empire, with stoner movies (they say "How High 2" is coming soon), a shortlived sitcom and plenty of acting. But as they reminded us, this is "real hip-hop" and they treated it as such.
That dynamic was absent from most of Snoop Dogg's set as he slightly swayed in the midde of the stage, hitting all his lines like it was more of a chore than a privilege. He involved the crowd but basically asked some varied version of "have you been abusing chemicals this evening?" to which everyone of course said yes.
But with about 25 minutes left in his set he turned on some sort of rock star switch. It started with some voice coming over the PA, feigning a Baltimore Police Officer saying "put the weed down or we will stop the show." Playing up the joke, the lights went dim and Snoop and his band hid and at least a few people in the audience got scared as shit because they thought it was real. This led into a massive version of "Fuck Tha Police" and we officially had a party as Snoop bounded around on stage and nearly yelled his lines.
From that point on until he closed with a triumphant version of "What's My Name" it became clear what Snoop is all about. He's made his whole reputation on the laid-back weed-addled rapper and he's not about to change that. And at times this makes for a boring performance but you can't forget that he became Snoop Dogg for a reason. He can act like a bad motherfucker without trying to sound like one and he can start a party the same way.
Photos by Chrissy