Tim Kubick / For The Lantern
“For the record, I’m having a ball,” declared Rick Ross midway through his set at the Schottenstein Center, as if that wasn’t already glaringly apparent to the thousands of twerk-happy fans in attendance.
Ross, whose real name is William Leonard Roberts II, alongside “little brothers” Meek Mill, whose real name is Robert Williams, and Wale, whose real name is Olubowale Victor Akintimehin, kicked off the Maybach Music Group (MMG) Tour – Ross’s first tour as a headliner – Friday. Resplendent in a leather coat and 10 “Jesus pieces,” Rozay, a nickname for Ross, entered to the explosive “Hold Me Back,” scoffing at fortune-fabricating haters. The beginning, along with the rest of the concert, was complete with enough fireworks and smoke for an Independence Day show.
The MMG kingpin stampeded through his set, treating the audience to everything from the 2006 single that catapulted him to stardom, “Hustlin,'” to 2011’s “I’m Not A Star,” which denies stardom altogether with lyrics, “I’m not a star, somebody lied.” Chart-toppers such as “All I Do is Win,” “I’m On One” and “Stay Schemin'” prompted impassioned sing-alongs, while deeper cuts such as “911” delighted Ross traditionalists.
Mini-sets from Wale and Mill preceded their Boss’s performance. Ambitious as always, Wale challenged the crowd to recite every word of his “No Hands” verse, something it did very well. Philadelphia native Mill – oddly decked out in a New York Knicks varsity jacket – took every chance he had to promote his album “Dreams and Nightmares,” which released Oct. 30.
Mill’s fans were much, much louder than Wale’s, but to be fair, Mill raps much, much louder than Wale. “Racked Up Shawty” and “Young & Gettin’ It” were particularly resonant, especially to someone in my section who felt the need to pull me aside and state, “These are my anthems.” Mill’s rendition of “Actin’ Up” felt more like a persuasive speech every time he repeated the line “These hoes be actin’ up!”
After Ross’s lengthy solo set, Wale and Mill rejoined him to perform a number of their collaborations. The rappers boasted about how closely their significant others resembled a bag of money on “Bag Of Money,” while arm ink was at a premium during “Tats On My Arm.” Any doubts regarding Ross’s frequently referenced status as a Boss were quickly put to rest with “Ima Boss.”
They didn’t forget the ladies, either. Ross demanded a dimming of the lights for “Diced Pineapples,” quite possibly the only song about sex to ever spoil my appetite for canned fruit. Wale followed it up with the equally seductive “Lotus Flower Bomb,” delivering his second verse a cappella. It was his strongest performance of the night by a mile.
Ross’s shining moment was “Blowin’ Money Fast.” For three joyous minutes, Ross had everyone thinking they were Big Meech. Sadly, he didn’t perform anything other than the aforementioned “Stay Schemin'” from his brilliant January mixtape “Rich Forever,” but I can’t argue with the songs he settled on for the show.
The show ended with gold confetti plummeting from the ceiling and DJ Sam Sneak continually playing the Australian-accented “Maybach Music” intro that’s become an essential component of every good Ross record. For MMG, it must have felt like the group won the Super Bowl. Fans begged for one more song, and their magnanimous Boss obliged. “Anything for my people,” assured Ross, who proceeded to take the crowd on one final victory lap in his Aston Martin before disappearing into the night sky, with his song “Aston Martin Music.”