Not quite at dusk, we arrived at the Bud Light stage a couple songs into Atlanta-based rapper/musician B.o.B.'s set — he was leading the crowd in the chorus of his smash single, "Nothin' On You." The audience, notably the women in the audience, were singing the Bruno Mars hook. Turns out young Mr. B.o.B. is a multi-instrumentalist, who took occasion to alternately strum an acoustic guitar and sit down at a set of keys while rapping.
In itself, this skill was pretty impressive, but his hypeman/beat programmer kept harping on this fact. And, yes, just because B.o.B. himself is a little weird — he has a concept album named after himself ("The Adventures of Bobby Ray") and many of his ballads seemed to be about the death of this persona — that doesn't mean he is without large-scale hip-hop show conventions like repeatedly asking the ladies how they were doing, helming a trio of black-clad female backup singers who moved to their own choreography and bringing out two incredible dancers who seemed garbed in Memorial Day-inspired costume: red, white, and blue glitter bras, denim vests with blue and red sequin stars on them, and red spandex leggings.
Toward the end of his set, he directed the crowd to look at the sky above and pretend that the summer sun had set completely and that we could see stars, "I said: Can't you see the stars, what's up?!" This, of course, was just a gimmicky introduction to his hit song "Airplanes," which, followed by the lead single from his most recent album, "Strange Clouds," closed the set with rabid audience participation. He's a fun, clearly gifted, but not particularly enchanting performer—as I overheard a woman next to me on her cellphone blandly explain after his set, "How did he sound? Just like he does on TV."
More after the jump.
After the Jennings Osbourne Memorial fireworks display, which ended around 9:30, peppered with, at the Bud Light stage at least, the occasional sounds of Snoop's crew soundchecking over it, particularly during the concluding anthem by Lee Greenwood. The stage lit up during a local DJ's subdued twenty-minute warm-up set. Then, after a couple of rounds of calling the Hogs, an unrecognizable disembodied voice asked who, if anyone, in the crowd liked to smoke weed and, at that moment, everyone around us, even the middle-aged black ladies to my right, screamed. The the invisible emcee directed us, promptly, to "blaze it up" as the explosive sound of Carmina Burana played and we were treated to a dramatic montage of Snoop Dogg video clips on the jumbotrons on either side of the stage.
A familiar piquant aroma wafted above the crowd as if on cue and at the end of the video sequence, Snoop emerged, dressed in a Rasta-colored crocheted beanie and a pair of matching sunglasses. Most charmingly, however, he was clad in an oversize T-shirt that read "Go Hogs Go." His mic appeared to be made of gold and conveniently had a bejeweled nameplate on it, in the shape of a handle like that of a fancy sabre. During his second song, a mascot toddled onstage—a pot-bellied person in a plush puppy head that had high-arched eyebrows and two pigtail braids. Sometimes this mascot, who Snoop later referred to as "Nasty Dog" would do some vague popping and locking, but mostly he just shadowed Snoop and made hand gestures in accordance with the lyrics.
For the most part, a Snoop set appears to be like a breathless revue of his most beloved songs, pausing only between numbers to remind us where he was playing ("Little Rock, Arkansas!") and demanding us to smoke our weed. Once, he introduced a song simply by stating matter-of-factly, "This is what we do every day" and then went into "Gin and Juice" which was actually kind of funny. Then Nasty Dog started parading around with a giant prop joint easily the size of a grown man's arm.
Then, when that song ended, Snoop calmly said, "And now our National Anthem" and began "Ain't Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang," which, you know, God Bless America, if that were true. The backup dancers disrobed from their slim-fitting Adidas track suits revealing full-on fishnets and stripper gear, and promptly gave Snoop lapdances while he performed the uncensored version of his 2009 jam, "I Wanna Love You." I will not reveal what Nasty Dog paraded around stage at this point, but he earned fake censure from Snoop himself.
Snoop finally removed his sunglasses during his intense gangster song and, as soon as he finished his last verse, smiled knowingly at the crowd. He did this a lot, which causes me to believe that possibly alongside greats like James Brown or other consummate showmen, Snoop has this hypnotic ability to emphatically work through his repertoire without appearing too exhausted or like he's not having the time of his life. His enthusiasm is gripping, working back through his Doggystyle–era jams about being gangsta and womanizing and getting baked never feel like a pathetically old person revisiting the past in constant demand.
Plus, of course, he has a fairly chameleonic ability to alter his style with the times, winning some insanely infectious latter-day hits when almost no other rappers his age have been able to do so. It's not just because he's just that fucking cool, it's because he's clearly got something figured out, market-wise. There was a moment I felt vaguely disturbed by the middle-aged couples with children in tow dancing like crazy and singing every word until I realized that they were probably in college when Doggystyle came out in 1994. "Doggystyle," no matter how overplayed, is a racially and generationally uniting, indisputable classic. And, because Snoop is still relevant, folks get to bring their kids to see the chill, hilarious LBC rapper who's most recent hit dropped as recently as December.
Scandalous props, dog costumes, and chair-humping dancers aside, seeing Snoop Dogg was like one of those moments that's almost required for American citizenship. With the obvious age variety in the audience, this assertion may not be so far from the truth.