Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa
Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek, Raleigh
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
“How many of y’all smoking right now?” Snoop Dogg asked a packed crowd during his set on Tuesday night at the Coastal Credit Union Music Park in Raleigh. The question might as well have been rhetorical. Even through a steady drizzle of rain, dozens of thin clouds of smelly smoke enveloped the amphitheater from all sides. Cops and venue security patrolled the venue with anxious looks, visibly aware of the absurd situation at hand. What do you do against an army of stoners?
Snoop and Pittsburgh weed rap maven Wiz Khalifa are currently in the midst of what they call the High Road Summer Tour, perhaps the most on-the-nose branding since their straight-to-Netflix stoner comedy Mac & Devin Go to High School. After a stop in Charlotte on Sunday, the caravan arrived to the Triangle early, when local fans spotted a grinning Wiz bowling Monday night at The Alley on Hillsborough Street.
In a way, this summer tour links two separate generations. The heavy-dreaded twenty-eight-year old Khalifa has clearly inherited Snoop’s throne as the nation’s premier marijuana advocate. That’s quite a feat, considering that the forty-four-year-old Snoop once said he smokes eighty-one blunts per day. Yet for the most part, they make different music. While Snoop has increasingly deigned to the world of modern pop, particularly in the last decade with Top Ten hits like “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and “Sexual Eruption,” on Tuesday we were reminded of his nineties catalog, of why people liked him in the first place. With his textbook silky-smooth delivery, he eased through gangsta rap classics like “Who Am I (What’s My Name),” “Gin and Juice,” “The Next Episode,” and “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang.” He then brought out a couple of forgettable pop-rap singles from recent, lesser-loved albums, plus a bit of DJ Khaled “All I Do Is Win,” which felt jarring and unintentionally humorous given his aforementioned G-funk material.
The excess of that Khaled song paired better with Wiz, who channels the anthemic songwriting and larger-than-life percussion of trap music and EDM into goofy-faced stoner raps. His songs hit you in the face, but in a way that suggests you already can’t feel your face. It makes sense that this show was packed with high school kids, and that the teen-centric clothing store Zumiez stocks a variety of Wiz-related products, because his lovable, perma-baked persona, matched with his of-the-moment production, seems near focus-tested to appeal to a certain kind of stoner teenager. “See You Again,” Wiz’s biggest hit and featured heavily in the advertisements for Furious 7, only adds to that.
Together, Snoop and Wiz executed a fantastic co-headlining tour setup. The two traded off stage time for the first half of the set, with Snoop leaving and returning to play songs in between Wiz hits like “Bake Sale” and “We Dem Boyz.” These were paired with appropriately trippy imagery like cupcakes and rotating plants. For the second half, they shared the stage for a variety of covers and originals. Their energy performing together is undeniable, and it’s a wonder that they haven’t dropped a full-length project together. Eventually we got “See You Again,” the night’s only moment of reflective pause. Khalifa asked the audience for unity, and presumably, to remember former Fast and the Furious actor Paul Walker, whose death inspired the song.
The openers did a strong job of prepping the crowd for Snoop and Wiz. The often highly controversial Louisiana rapper Kevin Gates, who achieved a mega-hit this year with “2 Phones,” electrified the crowd. Appropriately, he opened that song with the iPhone ringtone sound, taking two different phone calls from two different phones. He closed with “I Don’t Get Tired,” his undeniable internship-pump-up anthem and a perfect lead-in to the last two sets. Although pairing L.A. songstress Jhene Aiko with four energetic rappers felt like a mismatch, Aiko did bring along a full live band, which helped to flesh out her glittery, mid-tempo R&B songs. The crowd sat mute for most of the set, though they perked up when she played an extended version of her verse from Omarion’s “Post to Be.” People love groceries.
Casey Veggies performed a solid, if forgettable opening set. Instead of promoting a CD or world peace at the end of his set, he promoted his Instagram. This felt appropriate for Veggies, though, who was one of the founding members of L.A. internet rap collective Odd Future and who probably knows the value of a strong web presence better than anyone.
Less forgettable was the moment of the evening when I watched a cop jump off the side of one of the amphitheater pillars to grab a kid’s arms and arrest him for weed possession. Right behind that scene, at that exact moment, Snoop Dogg exhaled a blunt on four Jumbotron screens. What a strange universe to live in.