Saturday, Aug. 11
Reverb contributor Max Genereaux is the owner of Ballard institutions The Sunset Tavern and Hattie's Hat.>"/>
Saturday, Aug. 11 The Paramount
Saturday, Aug. 11
Reverb contributor Max Genereaux is the owner of Ballard institutions The Sunset Tavern and Hattie's Hat.
By Max Genereaux
I was familiar with some of Nicki Minaj's hits and image due to mass-media bombardment, but really didn't know much about her before heading to the show at the Paramount Saturday night. Then I got into a cab driven by Mr. James, not only the youngest cabbie I've ever had, but a walking encyclopedia of rap.
While we drove from Ballard to The Paramount, James educated me in all things Nicki. He drove, talked, and played songs--from her career-launching bootleg mixtapes, her major label debut Pink Friday (2010), and its follow-up, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. He told me how Lil Wayne was her biggest influence, mentor and label leader at Young Money Entertainment and explained just what a bad-ass freestyler she was, much like Lil Wayne: "She don't write! That shit just comes out of her head! Hell, Lil' Wayne can't write, he's illiterate."
This gives me hope that I'm about to see something good. If Nicki could freestyle her way to a record-setting seven singles in the top 100 simultaneously, she must have talent. You can't fake freestyle live; even a 45-year-old classic-rock/old-country/teenage-girl-pop/old-school gangsta-rap-loving fool like me knows that. But I was still skeptical.
Like a dungeon dragon, Nicki roared onstage with "Roman's Revenge." The crowd exploded. The combination of the high-pitched roar of the mostly female 15-to-25-year-old crowd and the rumbling thump of the old-school bass vibrated every cell in my body. I haven't seen so many people having so much fun at a show ever, especially not in Seattle. Even the guy sitting next to me, whom I mistook for being a parent but ended up being a world-class NYC architect in town speaking at a conference and only attending the show to appreciate the architecture of the Paramount, was on his feet dancing with the rest of the crowd shortly after the show started. In her first set, Nicki blazed through hits like "Terminator," "I Am Your Leader," "Beez in the Trap," and "Stupid Hoe." She then slowed things down with "By My Side" and "Moment for Life" before heading offstage for a costume change.
While Nicki changed from her jean-shorts, pink-and-black tiger-stripe spandex leggings and white oversized T-shirt into a Like a Virgin-inspired white skirt and top, the DJ kept the audience totally engaged with David Guetta's "Turn Me On," which, of course, features Nicki Minaj. I've never seen a crowd more engaged with the star of the show off stage. The energy did not let down even when the change went long. As long as Nicki was being played, her fans were going crazy.
During this break the gay boy next to me, who had been dancing and singing every word, told me how he was waiting tables at a fine dining Italian place just one hour ago when he mentioned to his last table of the night that how he wished he was going to the show but couldn't afford a ticket. The next thing he knew, one member of the dining party bought him a ticket and took him to the show.
Any disappointment about the length of the costume change was quickly dispelled by that story, and Nicki opening the second set with the smash hit "Starships." Whether you know it or not, you've heard this song. The crowd energy tripled, pulling the two oldest guys in the room--me and the architect--along with them into euphoria. As the song says, everybody got "higher than a motherfucker" as they danced, sang and took videos and pictures. This is the kind of joy you don't see at large rock shows, and certainly not at club shows, where the crowd seems to be suffering the pain of being indie and hip.
Nicki continued the second set with "Pound the Alarm" and "Automatic." At this point, the show was a runaway train. Nothing could stop this energy. And I continued to be amazed at how positive the attitude in the room was. Unlike so much pop and rap, it's not purely sexual or posturing. Nicki takes breaks periodically to give thanks to the fans for buying her songs and records and, more pertinent to the evening, being at the show. "You could be anywhere, but you are here, and I am truly grateful," she says. She also tells the schoolgirls that the most important thing they can do is graduate. "Beauty fades and that push-up bra and those boys" ain't gonna be around forever, so you girls need to get an education and take care of yourself. And like everything Nicki has done tonight, the message to the schoolgirls is met with screams and adoration. Then it's offstage for another costume change.
And again, while Nicki is offstage, the crowd continues to go crazy as the DJ spins the Will.I.Am smash collaboration "Check It Out." Coming out for the third set in a '50s pink-and-white Marilyn Monroe dress and wig augmented by a very modern white corset. Nicki opens with two ballads, "Fire Burns," a song of heartbreak, and "Save Me," a song of love. Then it's off again for the final costume change of the night--a black, straight wig with bangs, big gold chains, and black and gold hip-hop gear. Looking like the rapper she is, Nicki goes old school, busting out some of her underground mixtape raps the cabbie had clued me in to. And even though they're underground, the crow still sings along with every word. The night ends with the super-mega-hit "Super Bass." The crowd once again raises the level of excitement, joy and adoration of all things Nicki.
The show's almost over and as the closing number says, Nicki has our "heart beat(s) running away". We all love her: me, the architect, the gay boy, the crowd, and the cabbie, and she's almost out the door. The capacity crowd at the Paramount has gotten exactly what they wanted: the hits, the looks, the Nicki. I'm so happy to be wrong, so happy that a rap/pop princess can deliver live. Maybe that's why the hip-hop powers that be don't call her princess. They call her the current Queen of Rap. And I see why.
As I exit the theater and walk down Pine Street looking for Mr. James and his cab, I ask those next to me if they enjoyed the show. It's unanimous; there is a new queen, and her name is Nicki Minaj.