When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life doing something else, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible. That might explain what happened to Lil Wayne on Thursday night at Jiffy Lube Live, where a man once considered the greatest rapper alive asked the crowd for forgiveness, played about a fifth of the songs he played the night before, finished his blunt and left the stage.
Was he done for the night or the tour? At the time, it was a mystery.
Let’s review how we got here. Twenty years ago, on a musical landscape that feels very far away, two of the biggest acts to break through were a teenage Lil Wayne and Blink-182, a group of twenty-somethings trying their best to sound like teenagers.
As they aged, Blink and Wayne hit peaks at different times, but their careers have intersected now, in 2019, in a trough that has taken the shape of a co-headlining tour.
Thursday’s bill had promised nostalgic fun: a chance to revisit the entirety of Blink’s “Enema of the State” and to catch a falling star whom the former teenagers in the crowd might remember as one of the brightest lights in hip-hop.
But, quickly, it became clear that no one on stage was having fun.
Wayne went on first, and the nightmare of Woodstock ’99 came alive as his band turned a handful of hits into rap-rock assaults. He had tried this on his rock-oriented “Rebirth,” back in 2010, but now the 36-year-old rapper seemed worn down by the uneven decade since.
He confessed he wasn’t used to playing shows like this. The crowds were “not my swag,” he said. The rapper thanked Blink for bringing him along but admitted, “This might be my last night.”
Some disappointed Weezy fans groaned and moaned, and a few hit the exits, but most of the crowd shrugged it off — as did Wayne himself, a day later, on Twitter. “Yesterday was krazy!” he tweeted on Friday. “But I want all my fans to know I won’t be quitting this tour! I’m having too much fun with my bros blink-182.”
His bros Blink-182 — bassist Mark Hoppus, drummer Travis Barker and guitarist Matt Skiba, who has been filling in since founding member Tom Delonge left the band to search for aliens a few years back — followed Weezy’s early exit with some road-weary antics of their own.
They went through the motions of “Enema,” an album whose sophomoric juvenalia was already tired when it was released. Back then, the band at least seemed to be in on the joke. Wasn’t that the premise of “What’s My Age Again?”
Midway through the show, Hoppus quipped that they were going to play more songs “because we’re contractually obligated.”
Blink-182, never punk enough for true punk, had become its antithesis: the ex-jocks who loiter around the high school recalling their past glories. In front of giant prop amps, Hoppus and Skiba traded the microphone and fumbled through their parts, which were muffled by the amphitheater’s sound system in a way their pristine records never were. Barker remains a virtuosic drummer, but his machine-gun volleys have no target.
That was never more clear than during his Tommy Lee-meets-”American Gladiators” drum solo. Barker strapped in and jammed out to trap-dubstep cacophony for four minutes. Appropriately, he performed this self-gratifying fantasy alone while Hoppus caught his breath and Skiba adjusted his fedora.
Blink closed the night with “Dammit,” serving their best song with an extra helping of nostalgia on the side: Hoppus squeezed in a chorus of TLC’s “No Scrubs.” The crowd seemed to enjoy it but didn’t seem too discerning. After all, nostalgia — whether for “The Lion King,” “Friends” or white hegemony — is so in right now.
We can do better. Even Blink-182 knows that. They sang as much earlier in the night: “Don’t let your future be destroyed by my past.”