Throwing a show in one of New Orleans' biggest theatres, the 2100-capacity Municipal Auditorium, on Mardi Gras night -- after the entire city has spent the day downing bloody marys and beers -- is a dicey venture.
That is, unless the city is celebrating the homecoming of its once and possibly future great hip-hop hope: Mystikal, the former No Limit and Jive Records recording artist who completed a six-year jail sentence less than two weeks ago.
The night's lineup was old-school and hometown, and read like a yearbook of 90's New Orleans rap. The Ghetto Twiinz did a set, as did No Limit artists Fiend and the vicious lyricist Mia X, who ran through an a capella version of her 1993 feminist screed "Da Payback." The 20-year-plus reigning king of local party music DJ Jubilee warmed the crowd up with his local club hits until finally, from backstage, came that unmistakable rasp: "Who y'all want?"
Mystikal appeared in a royal purple shirt, knit cap, and a glittering medallion with the logo of his new indie label, Big Truck. The venue was barely at half capacity, but they went nuts to welcome the hometown boy back for a tight thirty-minute set of classics.
Six years in the pen seems to have only honed his chops; he still raps at an unearthly speed with that trademark weird, guttural vocal bark, and though we didn't get any of the new tracks he's been allegedly working on day and night since his release (he's been camped out at former No Limit head producer KLC's Baton Rouge studio for the past two weeks), the Carnival crowd was there for the hits, and they got 'em -- plus lots of thank-yous and a little trash talk.
"Thank you for all them cards, and all the letters," he said at one point. "I been gone six years, listening to all the fools on the radio, watching all the fools on TV. I want them to know the competition just got stiff."
After a standing ovation for "Shake Ya Ass," he was out after a set that seemed far too short.
But Mardi Gras wasn't over yet: the Lil Stooges Brass Band took the stage and re-did the song street-parade style, as the crowd second-lined back out into the night for another drink.
U Would If U Could
Y'all Ain't Ready Yet
If It Ain't Live It Ain't Me
Danger (Been So Long)
Shake Ya Ass