He was camouflaged in flesh, hidden behind behinds.
For a second there, Lil Wayne became lost and it didn’t appear as though he desired to be found.
The bare-chested rapper was barely visible, engulfed in a phalanx of curvy females who displayed their well-endowed bosoms and backsides like a jeweler does his wares: please look, don’t touch.
The ladies were selected from the crowd by Wayne’s crew to come up on stage as he performed his verse on “Pop That,” a frantic bit of sing-song debauchery from rapper French Montana — no relation to Hannah.
Before the tune began, Wayne bemoaned the fact that he was no longer allowed to pick the girls themselves, as he could mistakenly pick some underage fans who might then expose themselves in public, landing him in hot water.
“You need to raise your child better,” he admonished the parents of these would-be troublemakers, before dispensing with some telling advice. “Stop letting her listen to all that Lil Wayne.”
He delivered that last line with a laugh, his signature cackle, suggestive of a man perpetually in the midst of getting away with something.
Then the beat kicked in and the women gyrated into motion with spring-loaded force.
One of them wore a T-shirt that read “Sex, Drugs, Rap,” the hash tags of the evening.
“That was my favorite part of the show,” Wayne beamed afterward.
If the scene on stage was chaotic, so was the one in the stands.
The ushers looked overwhelmed, as if they were being asked to patch a dam burst with some hastily chewed Bubbilicious.
They labored to clear the packed aisles leading to the arena floor, where throngs of fans sardined themselves to get a better view of the man of the hour, a compact, sinewy dude with a much huskier sense of self, as well as make room for those undulating in their seats.
Dropping one’s derriere to the floor requires space.
There’s a reason no one twerks in a phone booth.
And so plenty of walkways at the MGM Grand Garden on Saturday became a gridlock of humans, a traffic jam of short skirts and long dreads, much to the exasperation of the venue’s staff, denoted by their green sport coats.
Still, this wasn’t an unruly crowd, just a deliriously jubilant one at a fever pitch, burning like a campfire with too many logs tossed upon it.
Their kindling was Lil Wayne, perhaps hip-hop’s most charismatic presence, equal parts carnival barker, Casanova, skater, stoner, wunderkind and wastrel.
He’s one of hip-hop’s most inimitable talents, a technician not limited by technique.
At the MGM Grand, it was as if he’d swallowed a jazz combo prior to taking the stage, a belly full of syncopation and spontaneity brewing in his gut.
If this whole rap superstar thing ever gets tiring for Lil Wayne, he could make a comfy living as a voice actor for the Cartoon Network, his cadence as an animated as their programming.
He pinched his voice into an icy sneer on “Got Money,” sang sweetly on the breezy, acoustic “How To Love” and let his words go with the speed and fury a boxer’s hands on “We Be Steady Mobbin’” (maybe he was verbally mimicking champion boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., who was sitting up front at the show).
On his records, Wayne has a keen ear for inventive, oddly shaped beats that alternately give his albums a hypnotic and off-kilter feel.
Live, this attention to detail gives way to full-on rock bluster, as a jarring five-piece backing band serves as the anvil on which the concussive rhythms are hammered into shape while deafening bursts of pyro approximate gun fire and skate boarders ride ramps at each side of the stage.
There’s a similar shift in Lil Wayne’s demeanor from his recorded output to how he comes across in the flesh.
In the studio, Wayne doesn’t care what you think.
“Some of us are lovers, most of y’all haters,” he rhymed on “Blunt Blowin’” “But I put up a wall, and they just wallpaper.”
In this context, he’s a proud, defiant egotist.
“I’m all about ‘I,’ give the rest of the vowels back,” he announced on “She Will.”
But between songs, he was gracious and even humble at times, consistently thanking the crowd for their support in a way that didn’t feel perfunctory, more earnest than obligatory.
When the music got going again, he was ceaselessly profane, dismissive of women as much more than a source of physical release and forever inebriated.
“My tongue’s numb, I can’t talk, no balance, my spine hurts,” he drawled on “Trippy.” “My mind surf, my eye jerks, I try different drugs, I’m diverse.”
But by way of introducing the song, he posed a question the crowd.
“Anybody get high?” he asked.
He called those who remained silent his role models.
Then he addressed the rest of the audience, the vocal majority, including himself in their ranks and leading them in a chant.
“Please don’t judge me,” he repeated.
How could they?
They were too busy dancing in the aisles.
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476.