Cam'ron, Curren$y, and Teyana Taylor added their two cents to this weekend's bucket of NBA-inspired, pre-Mardi Gras delirium at Petite Bourbon.
[Updated] The NBA All-Star Weekend was a series of increasingly surreal events, a bizarre juxtaposition of cultural crème de la crème and nitty-gritty New Orleans hustle. Saturday’s “Classics in the Courtyard” at Petite Bourbon—a Reebok and Footaction promo featuring Cam’ron, Teyana Taylor, Curren$y, and two converging second lines—epitomized the cultural mashup.
Outside the venue, which sits unobtrusively off the corner of Toulouse and Bourbon, unsupervised kids banged on crates with drumsticks longer than their arms, impressing out-of-towners with their prodigious technical abilities. All-Star Weekend (like Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, and all the rest of New Orleans’ big ticket cultural draws) is a perfect time to hustle on the street, but it also pushes the ever-present aura of Bourbon Street voyeurism to cartoonish levels. The tourist monolith created by the severe uptick in foot traffic granted passersby and lookers-on the anonymity to avoid their obligatory donations, it seemed. No drummer's tip bucket was quite full.
Across from Petite Bourbon at the Four Points by Sheraton, guests crowded the balcony to toss beads while someone shouted out a series of deals like a carnival barker through a megaphone. His cacophony was drowned out when two second lines converged on the corner, one coming from North Rampart and the other from the Riverwalk (both via Toulouse). Leading the mini-parades were two just-formed brass bands, paid for by Reebok and organized by someone from the laundry list of promotion companies hired for the event. They wore Yin and Yang-style inversions of the same black and white “Classics in the Courtyard” T-shirt and played shiny new horns. The second-liners were attractive and well-dressed. The whole scene was suspiciously slick for Bourbon Street on a Saturday afternoon.
Inside, the VIP room appeared to have been waxed industrially with an oil drum’s worth of see-through shoe polish (brought to you by Reebok). The show doubled as a pop-up shoe store, with rare offerings for the sneaker heads piling in through the door like wolves or lambs to the slaughter. A catering team walked the floor with hors d’oeuvres ranging from fresh sushi rolls to chicken nuggets, and drinks flowed freely from a fully stocked bar with no tip jar in sight. The eternal paradox of wealthy people’s obsession with free stuff (or the illusion of free stuff) was on full display.
The concert itself was held in a quaint little patio out back, the kind of spot where you’d attend a wedding reception. The Reebok aesthetic worked, though. Shoes hung from wires along the back wall and provided a surprisingly tasteful backdrop to the action. Artists performed on an inner balcony above the crowd—a surprising choice, but a perfect one for the setting. The “stage” was narrow and the beams of the railings looked almost like jail bars, but none of the performers seemed constrained.
Curren$y started things off, smiling from ear to ear throughout a set of handpicked fan favorites from his absurdly prolific career. Among his crew were several members of his local collective Jet Life, including T.Y., the son of currently incarcerated New Orleans legend BG. Completely at ease amid all the boujeeness, the pair traded bars, cracked jokes, and started multiple “free BG” chants before their time was up.
Next was Teyana Taylor, who honestly could have just stood on the balcony and entertained the crowd by being the world’s most beautiful person, but instead put on a lively, engaging performance. Taylor’s rise to stardom is landmarked by an appearance in MTV’s My Super Sweet 16, a marriage to Cavaliers' shooting guard Iman Shumpert, and an iconic, barely-safe-for-work performance in Kanye West’s “Fade” music video. Before all that, though, she was already signed to Pharrell’s Star Trak imprint as a singer and aspiring songwriter.
Her vocal chops spoke for themselves on Saturday, and the songs all sounded like hits. Her moves were stunning and well-choreographed, and her back-up dancer doubled as an ebullient hypewoman, which allowed Taylor to maintain an aura of cool indifference without distancing herself from the crowd.
There was a palpable tension in the air when Teyana finished her set and left the stage, partly due to the overabundance of bubbling testosterone in the male-dominated crowd and partly because everyone anticipated a prolonged pause before Cam’ron took the stage. Cam confounded expectations, though (as Cam generally does), bursting from behind a balcony door in a bright red hybrid bath/boxing robe to raucous applause.
None of the original Diplomats came with him, but that didn’t stop him from opening with the classic “Dipset Anthem” and rapping Jewelz’ verse as well as his own; nor did it stop the rest of his crew (and most of the crowd) from rapping all his hits alongside him word for word.
Cam’s set was short but extra sweet. He followed “Dipset Anthem” with “Down and Out,” “Oh Boy,” and “Hey Ma,” arguably his three biggest solo hits all in a row. His voice, especially now that he’s a bit past his prime, is far from smooth, and his storyteller’s flow, bare-bones lyrics, and boom bap beat selection are far from current, but he’s still got enough charisma to somehow make bragging about a sexual conquest to a friend sound cool in 2017.
Just like that, it was over, and the hype beast crowd filtered out, on to more pressing locations—the Bud Light/Complex promo show on Royal Street featuring Ghostface, Raekwon, Mannie Fresh, and Curren$y (again), or perhaps the much less stressful Chewbacchus parade in the Bywater, or even the dunk contest at the Smoothie King Center! The luckiest stargazers made it to the hyper-exclusive Beats event at Latrobe’s On Royal, which hosted everyone from Guy Fieri to DJ Khaled to Kevin Durant (who apparently started a mosh pit). Luckily, though, there was enough stardust to go around for the whole city—even for us normal folk.
Updated 10:03 a.m.
Footaction was added to the text as one of the companies hosting the event.