Diddy Dirty Money with Lloyd and Tyga at Epic, 4/13/11

Diddy Dirty Money with Lloyd and Tyga
April 13, 2011
Epic Nightclub

For this write-up, I could have skated by making jokes about how Diddy changed his name three times during the show or whatever -- but I'm a journalist dammit, not Jay Leno.  I came to check out the Dirty Money show because I was honestly interested in where Diddy was going with this. 

The show started off smoothly, with Raw Villa affiliate Shioneas hosting everything.  Opener Tyga from Young Money had some great energy, the kind you need as a young and hungry rapper who's opening for a big name.  Lloyd reminded me of my distaste for most post-Usher R'n'B, with his attempts at Michael Jackson dancing and Michael Jackson's songs.  He helped sum up the idea behind the sound of the show to come. 

Opener Tyga warms up the crowd
Opener Tyga warms up the crowd
Opener Lloyd
Opener Lloyd

Diddy's latest album, Last Train To Paris, with the Dirty Money singers Dawn Richard and Kalenna Harper (who was on stage for the first time tonight), is a high-minded stab at Kanye's latest approach to soulful hip-hop that mostly holds its own.  With it, Diddy is making an effort to get his name back in the audience's mind as an artist, and last night was the first stop on his tour to promote the album and his new sound. 

The show is indeed a whole new experience, probably for Diddy as much as us.  The concert is an over-the-top performance worth seeing for the spectacle alone.  If the parts that seem lip-synced bothered anyone else, I justified it by comparing the show to a DJ spinning club beats with live instrumentation, dancers, video screens and a celebrity host.  Don't get me wrong, there was quite a lot of performance on stage.  If Diddy indeed was inspired by Kanye for this new batch of songs, it seems lately he's been inspired by newcomer Lil B as well, with "swag" shouted as an aside several times and even a rendition on B's cooking dance.  The two rappers do share a sense of underlying positivity, an approach to music, and a pleasant ridiculousness, and the new generation seems to be invigorating Diddy's latest material. 

As I type this, Diddy is on Twitter posting fan's pics from the show, and is clearly very excited about his Minneapolis stop.  He even stopped his set briefly in the middle to profess his love for our city, and especially Prince and Purple Rain  This is not the first time a visiting artist has done so, but how often do these artists jump right into a deep cut from Prince's 1999 immediately afterwards?  Diddy did just that with a cover of "Something In The Water (Does Not Compute)," which indeed revealed that this wasn't just lip service; Diddy is clearly inspired by the Purple One. 

Diddy Dirty Money with Lloyd and Tyga at Epic, 4/13/11

Writing off Diddy's album as bitten from Kanye doesn't include the whole picture.  The main thing Diddy lifted was the ambition.  As he said at one point during the set (while drawing attention to the fact that his pants had split up the leg), "this is work.  Ya'll paid your money, right?  We ain't just gonna walk back and forth and grab our nuts; this is gonna be a show,"  And suddenly I saw shades of Doomtree, and the work ethic that permeates in underground rap.  Between the set and the encore, Diddy reminded us where he once was with a touching tribute to Notorious B.I.G., replaying the highs and lows of the early part of their career together via video screen.  When he came back out, he let classic Biggie verses rock for a bit and had the audience rap along. 

Tyga and Lloyd were both done with their shift and were watching the show from the VIP section upstairs.  After the Biggie tribute came the classics; all the Bad Boy era stuff that made me go "Oh yeah, that song!"  The breadth of Diddy's music is pretty impressive.  Prior to this show, I don't know that I ever fully appreciated just how much he's done.  The context help made his closing songs, Paris singles "Coming Home" and "Good Morning," sound that much better. 

I had mediocre thoughts about the album initially, thinking the generic rapping and love-lorn lyrics lacked an emotional specificity, and that moments that were specific ("Have you ever made love in marmalade?/Are you sure that's what you wanna do?") were, um, interesting.  There's a lot of good stuff on it, but it didn't really hit until I saw the Dirty Money show in full.  This is spectacle music; if it didn't seem strong to me, it's because I didn't see Diddy in his wife-beater doing synchronized dance moves and pantomiming crucifixion. 

The other main difference between Diddy and Kanye is that, while this is certainly ego-driven melodramatic club music, Diddy is able to play the back and let the singers, beats, or pre-recorded guest spots from Lil' Wayne and Rick Ross take the center.  It was exciting to see Diddy on his premiere show, and he was definitely appreciative of the responsive audience.  Everyone really seemed to be eating it up, and Diddy played off the reactions by amping up his energy.  As someone who's seen his share of lackluster rap performances, Diddy proved to me that flighty but ambitious beats talented and lazy any day of the week.  I would suggest anyone with doubts to check out Diddy's impressive stage show if they get the chance.

Diddy Dirty Money with Lloyd and Tyga at Epic, 4/13/11

Personal Bias:  This is sort of a permanent personal bias that all arts journalists have, but I didn't pay to go to this show.  The door price was $50, but I'm reviewing what, to me, was a free show.  The $10 "The Diddy" cocktail (his brand vodka and lemonade, which doesn't seem like a drink that needs it's own name) I purchased set off my natural cheapskate alarms, and my opinions of the show might be different if I had wound up spending 6 times that tonight.
For more photos: See our full slideshow by Erik Hess.

Set List:

Yeah Yeah You Would
O Lets Do It (Waka Flocka Flame cover)
Ass On The Floor
Strobe Lights
Last Night Part 2
I Hate That You Love Me
Your Love
Loving You No More
Hate You Now
No Ordinary Love/Soldier Of Love (Sade cover medley)
Something In The Water (Does Not Compute)  -  (Prince cover)

Verse Medley:  I Need A Girl Part 2/All Of The Lights/No. 1/I Get Money Forbes 1, 2, 3 Billion Dollar Remix/All About The Benjamins Remix/Feel So Good/Only You/Welcome To Atlanta Coast To Coast Remix/All I Do Is Win/Bad Boys For Life/ We Praise You, We Lift You Up/Satisfy You/The World Is Filled/Mo Money Mo Problems

Biggie Tribute:  Every Breath You Take/One More Chance/I'm Fucking You Tonight/Get Money

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