Rick Ross Steps Up His Game for L.A. Tour Stop: Concert Review

Jonathan Mannion
Armed with a full band along and posse of staunch lyricists, the Southern rapper and Maybach Music Group founder puts on a rousing show, but falls short of reinvention.

Within a day of rapper Kendrick Lamar calling out the hip-hop industry to step up their game lyrically, Rick Ross performed in downtown Los Angeles and attempted to bring class back to the stage.

His props: a tuxedo and a live band, two elements rarely seen in hardcore rap, but used to great effect at the 2,300-seat venue.

The show, which also featured French Montana, Wale and Meek Mill, began at 9 p.m. sharp (punctuality: another rarity) with a dim of the lights and the first notes of Ross’ “Ice Cold.” Billed as "An Evening With Rick Ross and the 1500 or Nothin’ Band," the dapper Ross strolled on stage, his signature shades resting atop his nose as a grin formed across his lips. Singer Teedra Moses stood to his right as eight-piece band 1500 or Nothin’ did their best to add righteousness to his dense Southern beats.

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It was the first time Ross had ever performed with a live band -- and it showed. Fueled to kick Ross’ show up a notch, 1500 or Nothin’ sounded solid, but were often left struggling when playing alongside prerecorded tracks. This was especially apparent when the rapper tried to deliver “F*ckwithmeyouknowigotit” from Jay Z’s Magna Carta…Holy Grail. The track skipped, causing the band to miss their mark and resulting in an unfortunate lull in the show.

After releasing three albums that have debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, it was nice to see Ross finally attempt to craft a dense live experience. But, he should have taken a queue from veterans like Jay Z and Nas when looking to create a seamless live experience with a band.

Still, in his tux and bowtie, Ross did his best to rebut some of the weight he’s been carrying: he was blasted for the song " 'U.O.E.N.O." and what were seen as lyrics advocating rape -- rhyming about having intercourse with a woman after slipping her the drug MDMA. This resulted in Reebok dropping his endorsement deal and a looming stamp of disapproval from both fans and critics. But, his calm sway and smooth two-step awarded him a chic air instead of an abrasive one.

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The evening was also marked by plenty of deft feel-good moments -- Ross consistently praising of the band, performing most of his notable hits including “Magnificent,” “Aston Martin Music,” “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)” and bouncing around the stage with more agility following his weight loss. The spectacle also included emotional notes as Ross made mention of fallen friends and influencers like the late rapper Biggie Smalls.

Only taking off his sunglasses to wipe the sweat from his face, Ross took a breather before re-emerging in all black, except for the rose print on the sleeves of his t-shirt. It was during this portion of the show that Ross’ signature grunt became more prominent and his swag more aggressive. The show climaxed as guests French Montana, Wale and Meek Mill took the stage. But it was Diddy who ignited a sea of glowing cell phones when popping out to help Montana deliver the last few lines of “Ain’t Worried About Nothin.”

Wale, rocking his proper granola swag -- his dreds pulled up in a high ponytail while donning a snakeskin print shirt -- smoothed things out with his sexy track “Bad” before turning things up by bringing Ross back out for “Tats On My Arm.” As Mill stepped out the lights became dimmer and the screams became louder. His conviction, intensity and raw energy covered the crowd like a cape and when Ross returned to wrap the show with hit “9 Piece” and “King Of Diamonds” it all seemed to end too soon.

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