The first of 2 Chainz to appear at the Palace Theatre Friday night was his elevated left foot and his broken left leg, levitating into view stage left.
His body followed, floating in a wheelchair pushed along by a helper in a revealing nurse’s outfit. The rapper rolled past the life size art installation of his pink trap house, flanked by Trapground dancers and the Trap Choir, which sang the chorus to “No Problems.”
Even seated, 2 Chainz was a turn up monster. He ripped through and lit up feature verses, including Drake’s “All Me” and his chorus from A$AP Rocky’s “Fuckin’ Problems.” Like Manu Ginobili, he’s an X-factor, a sixth man of the year with a fresh-legged lethalness.
“I broke my leg, yall,” 2 Chainz told us.
2 Chainz was clearly in need of convalescence, vacation. But he himself is a vacation, light yet sneakily resonant, funny but strong. 2 Chainz’s recent Pretty Girls like Trap Music is his best full-length distillation yet of this vibe, of his casual, winking directness. His bars have the cutting wit of the knowing jokester – he’s in the room with the likes of Kanye and Future, but he’s in the corner with a wry smile. The album title is as much social commentary as it is a good giggle. No matter where 2 Chainz shows up, he brings pure fun that’s not pure sugar.
The physical energy on stage was, of course, supplied by everyone but 2 Chainz. The wheelchair driver had a fun job, essentially doing 2 Chainz karaoke, and the rapper himself rolled aside to allow from some surprisingly transfixing interpretive dancing from his individual back up dancers. Eventually the impressionistic veneer of the pink trap house was scrubbed away, leaving a much more realistic building, replete with a chain-link fence, sidewalk, and functioning front door, through which the choir and dancers would appear and disappear.
The choir endowed songs like “Blue Cheese” or “Good Drank” with a warm soulful spirit that rolled over a party-ready crowd. The Twin Cities doesn’t just have a reputation as a welcoming place for comics and musicians because we appreciate the arts. We party hard. We fill venues to party. We go to all the shows to turn up.
Maybe sometimes we turn up a little too much. Things got iffy for 2 Chainz after a rollicking version of “Birthday,” during which the choir reimagined Kanye’s verse with a slowed down Pips-like chorus. In front, literally touching stage right, a commotion started. There was no music but people were moshing. It looked like a fight.
“Wait, as I’m talking good vibes, are you guys fighting?” 2 Chainz asked them directly. No answer, just hollering and laughing like they didn’t realize the guy on stage, 2 Chainz, 10 feet away, was talking to them.
The song on 2 Chainz’s latest album that most fully captures his ethos, the holistic optimism that underpins his carefree rakishness, is “Rolls Royce Bitch.” That track makes clear that it’s because of all the shit he's seen that 2 Chainz can concentrate on what's good, that after traveling the world what he cherishes is going to the mall with his family. When he sang “believe in yourself,” it was real and sweet, not at all corny. Somehow, 2 Chainz made hollering “Rolls Royce bitch!” sound not obnoxious but like a shout of self esteem, of looking around and finding the good, always with a wink.
Predictably, that was the song that ended the night. 2 Chainz asked us to believe in ourselves again and to sing along. The troublesome group in the front started going crazy again. People near them gave up and got out of the way.
2 Chainz was watching them. Everyone was watching them. In the middle of the first verse of “Rolls Royce,” 2 Chainz stopped and calmly said, once, “Fans don't go.” He didn't wait. After saying this he signaled to the nurse, who immediately took him off stage.
2 Chainz just stopped. He didn’t gesticulate wildly, didn’t grunt or moan or complain, or have a little remark, or drop or slam the mic. He just slowly left.
It was like when my mom would take me to Valley Fair and I’d complain about the line or my flavor of Dots ice cream, and she would just silently walk away, and my aunt would grab my shoulder and tell me not to follow her.
It was a great party, though.
Notes on the opener: Young Dolph (Dolph is short for Adolph which never gets old unless you are him, probably) has an 86-year-old man on stage with him. He calls the tour a family affair, and it definitely looks it. Dolph’s stuff is super amped, so going wild with an octogenarian on stage was quite the sight.
Critics bias: 2 Chainz makes me really, really happy. Like first day of vacation happy.
The crowd: From teenage to much older. There was a little couples section near the back, the average age of the cluster in their 40s. 2 Chainz is a grown ass man, so the diverse ages of the crowd made sense. There was one guy completely covered in blue spandex with a blue flag. Party people.
Overheard in the crowd: While DJ D-Mil was warming everyone up, he played Biggie’s “Juicy.” Go 95.3’s Mr. Peter Parker was yelling along on the mic till the classic ending line: “If you dont know, now you know, nigga." “I wont say that last word,” he joked, pointing to two black guys near him. “I’ll leave that to you guys.” Parker then walked to the middle of the stage to rev up the crowd. “Lets see who is ready, first this side, let me hear you,” he said. Just then, some 6’14” white guy with that exaggerated Aryan haircut screamed ”Shut up!” Parker walked to the edge of the stage, pointed at the guy, and instructed everyone to boo him, counting down the crowd two different times. Parker was visibly irritated. My skin usually crawls when another white guy like Parker preaches that he’s doing this or that for the culture, but this was an awesomely gratifying couple minutes to behold.
Random notebook dump: A little ore on the culture and how none of that matters here in the face of partying: Something weird happens between the Young Dolph and 2 Chainz sets. Three songs from Jay-Z’s 4:44 play consecutively – “Higher,” “Bam,” and “Moonlight.” No one seems to have ever heard this shit, an album that’s meant a lot to the actual culture the last month or so. In the middle of “Bam,” I recited a few bars and like 30 people looked at me. I legit nearly flop sweat from the unintentional attention. The guy directly in front me turned around to give me the “bump it” fist and a huge smile -- like, hey, you know this!
During Young Dolph’s set, the DJ did the thing of cutting out the sound as Dolph points the mic to the crowd so they can sing. Every time, there was only one person, a woman, who sang. It became this one- on-one call and answer. Dolph pointed the mic right at her, the crowd cheered on the woman. It was a very fun, very weird night.