PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island -- Lil Wayne returned to the stage as a headliner for the first time in more than a year on Wednesday night (March 16), and the superstar MC let the Rhode Island concertgoers know just how grateful he was to be kicking off his I Am Music II Tour in their town.
"I swear to God, I was in a place a few months ago, I couldn't imagine this sh--," Wayne told the sold-out crowd, referring to his time behind bars. "But now that I'm here, it's better than I could have imagined."
To say the feeling was mutual would be an understatement.
The New England crowd cheered Weezy's every move, from his otherworldly rhyming to the array of guests he invited onstage, including Young Money members Shanell, Jae Millz, Mack Maine and Lil Twist.
Sporting a white V-neck tee, jeans, bright Vans and a fitted cap and shades, Wayne looked trimmer than he did upon his release from prison in November. His dreadlocks appeared longer, and the rapper was lucid. As a result of an Arizona case, Wayne is forbidden from drinking alcohol or partaking in any activities involving drugs.
The added clarity served him well. He was agile throughout his verses on "A Milli."
"He's a beast, he's a dog, he's a motherf---ing problem," he rapped. "OK, you're a goon, but what's a goon to a goblin?/ Nothing, nothing, you ain't scaring nothing/ On some f---ing bullshit, call him Dennis Rodman."
After running through "Look At Me Now," "I'm Going In" and "Got Money," Wayne revisited his standout mixtape, No Ceilings, before ceding the stage to Nicki Minaj.
The Young Money empress was ready for combat. She entered to a blistering scene of "Gladiator" playing on the enormous LCD screen behind the stage. An unknown person in a monk's outfit walked to the front of the stage followed by Nicki's barbies in their pink bobs.
Rising through a propelled entrance underneath the stage, the Pink Fridaystar rocketed onto the stage to "Roman's Revenge." Sporting a white-and-pink body-hugging one-piece suit and a Bride of Frankenstein-like wig, Nicki was flamboyant in her "Roman" persona.
She took a football onstage and ran through a cadre of her dancers --clad in helmets, while Nicki wore shoulder pads -- en route to a touchdown and spike.
The "Moment 4 Life" star was also flirtatious. She invited a man onstage with her (after another one tried to rush the stage before security escorted him off) for a lap dance.
"There's three rules," she told the lucky participant. "Keep your legs open, hands behind your back and keep your mouth shut."
Then, as Sean Kingston's "Letting Go," featuring the Queens lyricist, boomed on the speakers, she teased her guest with a dutty-whine thrust.
Wayne returned to the stage after 30 minutes, and after a brief Rebirth set, the benevolent CEO invited Lil Twist out for their new collaboration "Love Affair."
Mack Maine, Jae Millz and Nicki joined the boss for "Bed Rock."
Young Money's latest signee, Cory Gunz, proved to be the most energetic of the crew when the Bronx upstart arrived next for a frenetic rendition of "6 Foot 7 Foot."
Rick Ross and Travis Barker rounded out the bill. The Blink-182 drummer was joined by Beastie Boys DJ Mixmaster Mike for a heart-racing set. Barker performed his set inside an oversize Ghetto Blaster radio as he pounded on the brass for the title track of his solo debut, Can a Drummer Get Some.
Miami Don Rick Ross was as breezy as a Florida sunset. His 30 minutes included his breakout hits "Hustlin' " and "B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast)."
"I need a moment of silence," Ross told the audience. "Life is a beautiful thing. There's nothing more beautiful than life."
Wayne was just as effusive about his circumstances toward the end of the show.
"Make some noise for Tupac," he announced. "Make some noise for Biggie. Make some noise for my n---a Nate Dogg. Make some noise for Michael Jackson, y'all.
"All the people I named taught me one thing," Wayne added. "And that's how to hustle."