It's been roughly two weeks since Lil Wayne returned to the big stage with his I Am Still Music Tour. He's been tearing up venues across the country in the days that followed, but there was something sentimental about his two nights of sold-out shows at Long Island's Nassau Coliseum.
After all, just a few months ago, a little more than 20 miles away, Wayne was doing hard time at Rikers Island, serving a one-year prison sentence on weapons charges stemming from the 2007 arrest that followed his show at New York's Beacon Theatre. On Monday night, Wayne exchanged the 8-foot cell he was housed in at the Eric M. Taylor Center for a hockey arena and thanked fans for their support during his down time.
"A few months ago, I was stuck in this island," Wayne told to the audience. "This place called Rikers Island. It was people like Drake and people like y'all who made me feel like I was in a paradise of love. Shout out to the COs I'm cool with, but tell the warden to kiss my ass."
But in reality, Weezy showed no signs of bitterness towards the state he unwillingly called home for the majority of 2010. The larger-than-life MC appeared on stage sporting a blue and orange New York Knicks cap, his signature polo shirt and black leather pants.
Wayne closed out his New York run backed by a live band, unearthing a catalog of smash hits including "Mrs. Officer," "Go DJ" and "Got Money" as well as mixtape cuts such as "I'm Single" and "Bill Gates." With appearances by Lil Twist, Mack Maine, Shanell and Nicki Minaj, Weezy continued to make the point that his Young Money movement was reminiscent of previous rap powerhouse cliques who made their marks in the hip-hop game.
"Remember how Diddy had his artists? And Jay had Roc-a-fella, and Baby had all his artists?" Wayne asked. "Well, I have all my artists."
Halfway through his set, Wayne introduced Minaj, and the Queens MC ripped through her own records for her hometown crowd. Nicki ignited the audience with hits "Roman's Revenge" to "Did It on 'Em" to the celebratory "Right Through Me" anthem, for which she donned a wedding dress. And as she assisted Wayne on "Roger That" he appeared to be stunned by Nicki's tight, ripped-up jeans.
"Make some noise for the best rapper aliiive," Nicki yelled at the crowd, referring to Wayne as she exited the stage. "Make some noise for them pants!" Wayne shot back.
Preceeding Wayne's set, Rick Ross also ignited the coliseum with his array of hits and a surprise guest appearance by close friend DJ Khaled, who joined him for "We Takin' Over." Khaled also showed his New York support wearing a New York Yankees clubhouse jacket.
The show had emotional moments in between songs too. Wayne took time to send prayers for earthquake victims in Japan and acknowledged members of the military in the audience who came out to support the MC in their uniforms.
"We got a couple soldiers in here; make some noise for these men," Wayne said, removing his tinted shades as the house lights spotlighted the warriors.
On the night of his arrest years ago, Weezy vowed to never return to the Big Apple. But judging by the diamond-studded grin he flashed throughout the night as the crowd chanted "Weezy's Home," it's a safe assumption that the MC was happy to be back in New York.
"New York always showed us love," said Birdman, sitting in his tour bus following the show. "It was just unfortunate he had to come out here and do time. But the people always showed us mad love. New York is probably one of our biggest markets. They always supported us, and we always showed them love."