Weezy focused on music for most of the show, but couldn't resist throwing some shade at Birdman in his closing statement.
The animosity between Lil Wayne and Bryan “Birdman” Williams has been intense and well-publicized. It started (or at least moved into the public eye) in December of 2014, days before Tha Carter V was set to drop, when Wayne accused Williams of delaying the completed album’s release. “I am a prisoner and so is my creativity,” he said, claiming he wanted out of his contract with Cash Money Records, but wasn’t allowed to leave.
The beef continued into 2015, opening up like a black hole to suck in newly-signed Cash Money artist and former Weezy disciple Young Thug. Thugger reluctantly joined the fight, which was immediately spun as a feud between Birdman’s sons, Wayne jealous of the attention Thug was receiving. Things turned ugly that April, when Thug’s friend Jimmy “Peewee” Winfrey allegedly shot at Wayne’s tour bus, although Thug and Birdman were never charged with anything.
Since then, the battle has moved to the courts, where Wayne had already brought a $51 million lawsuit against his former father figure for obstructing the album release and allegedly withholding compensation from Drake and Nicki Minaj. Birdman responded by filing his own $50 million lawsuit against Wayne in July 2015 over the release of the Free Weezy Album through Tidal. As a result of all this litigation, health issues, a battle with Codeine addiction, and the impartial wheels of time, Weezy’s creative output (along with its quality) has been significantly reduced over the past few years.
Despite all the drama, Wayne was able to put on his first annual Lil Weezyana Fest last summer for a sold out Champions Square. The festival was a success, exceeding the expectations of a city that didn’t know what to expect from its estranged, troubled hero. On Saturday, lawsuits still dragging on, he orchestrated Weezyana II, not quite selling out Champions Square this time, but still drawing a massive crowd.
After brief performances from an undercard that included LG, Migos, and Yo Gotti, there was a restless pause filled with run-of-the-mill DJs and some awkward stand-up comedy. Then 2 Chainz came on stage and the crowd roared to life, rapping along word for word to “No Lie.”
Soon it was time for the main event, who entered the stage in a Young Thug costume (long blonde dreads and an extendo tee), gleefully wheezing out the famous chorus to “Duffle Bag Boy,” which set the tone for a high energy set. Wayne and 2 Chainz went hit for hit for about an hour, taking short breaks from the crowd pleasers every few songs to perform tracks from their mediocre summer collab album ColleGrove. ("ColleGrove" is not only the name of the album, but also what the duo are calling themselves these days—a reference to 2 Chainz and Weezy’s respective native hoods, College Park and Hollygrove—in order to get around Lil Wayne’s legal inability to sell music under his own name.) While Wayne often shouted out “Day one Weezy fans,” he rarely ventured earlier than Tha Carter III, with the exception of “Go DJ.”
The second half of the set was more interesting. Wayne abandoned his newer material and mostly gave up the stage to friends and collaborators from the past and present. Of these, only Mystikal and Partners-N-Crime were listed. The rest were surprises, and there were quite a few.
To transition from the recent hits to the older stuff, Wayne brought out Baby E, a poor man’s Post Malone who kind of looks like the guy who played Stacy Peralta in Lords of Dogtown. Before playing their collab track “Finessin’,” he referred to Baby E as “one of the realest niggas I know,” eliciting laughs from the crowd. Up next was Young Greatness, whose 2015 breakout hit “Moolah” has already elevated him to legend status here, earning him a deal with the Quality Control label and, of course, a Weezy remix.
Then came the old acts, highlighted by No Limit legends Mystikal and Fiend, O.G. bounce/hip-hop hybrids Partners-N-Crime who brought up Ms. Tee for a funky rendition of “Tell Me Why” and performed “N.O. Block Party,” their classic spin on “Iko Iko.” “Surprise” acts like these were to be expected, but a truly unpredictable treat for hip-hop nerds and bounce appreciators came in the form of New York duo The Showboys, who played “Drag Rap,” the song from which the “Triggaman” sample—the backbone of bounce and a staple in New Orleans hip-hop in general—was derived.
The most high-profile surprise guest was undoubtedly Chris Brown, who reportedly ran into Wayne at a Miami hotel days before the show and agreed to perform. His shirt came off almost instantly and stayed off as he ran through a few of his hits, including "Loyal" and an uncomfortable acapella version of "Back To Sleep."
With all the commotion and personnel changes onstage, it was difficult to pin down a central theme or message of the show. There were brief mentions of flood relief and an uncharacteristically woke but still Weezyesque poem near the end: “Clothes don’t matter / Cars don’t matter / Nothing else matters / Because black lives matter.” But then in the final moments of the show, Wayne’s bitter agenda was revealed.
“I want to say three more important words,” he said, clearly relishing the weighted pause that followed. “Fuck Cash Money!” With that, a massive crowd of Weezy’s friends (or people who’d paid extra) rushed from backstage to join him up front, dancing out the remaining seconds as "No Worries" played in the background and the figurative curtain dropped on Lil Weezyana 2016.
The full Tidal stream of the festival is available below to both subscribers and nonsubscribers. The stream is free, but Tidal suggests an optional donation to victims of the recent Louisiana floods.