Taking the stage in three shades of black and Timberland boots, Wiz Khalifa said the date of his Red Rocks show — the same day his album “Blacc Hollywood” dropped — was no coincidence. Having performed here earlier this year on 4/20, it’s clear Colorado and Wiz Khalifa share a mutual admiration for each other, and our recently legalized medical marijuana.
On Tuesday, partygoers flocked up the long, widening hill into the amphitheater in early waves for Mack Wilds, Sage the Gemini, IamSu, Ty Dolla $ign, Rich Homie Quan and Young Jeezy. Jeezy even brought out YG to screams and roars of approval.
Sage and IamSu were for the early crowd (and Mack Wilds, the super early crowd) and at times it was hard to differentiate their super radio heavy tracks like “Gas Pedal,” “Red Nose,” and others, but the crowd was more than giving with their screams of the lyrics and excessive bouncing. DJ Drama was the quasi-facilitator of the show and his booming voice echoed off of the bare rocks like explosions at one point.
Maybe it was the impeccable sound system at Red Rocks, but Rich Homie Quan’s voice was more melodic and clearer than even on the record. A Billboard charting artist, Rich Homie Quan has an arsenal of hit singles. “Walk Thru” was a major highlight, as he stalked the stage with exaggerated swagger. “Type of Way” is always a highlight, though he didn’t perform the entire song, and “Get TF Out My Face” would have been perfect with Young Thug, as would “Lifestyle.”
Young Jeezy was the crowd favorite but Ty Dolla $ign wasn’t far behind. Ty performed a surprisingly jazzy set, with his hits set against a piano driven backdrop. “Or Nah” was positively slinky and the sexiness was turned up a notch with “Paranoid.” It was clear pretty early on into his segment that Ty Dolla $ign can really sing and the ladies love him. He wore a coat with a hood and sunglasses for most of his set but eventually opened up a bit as he warmed up to the packed audience.
DJ Drama seemed to be stalling for time as Young Jeezy did whatever a super famous trap rapper does before taking the stage. He entertained the crowd by embarrassing a lady audience goer with the “These Hoes Ain’t Loyal” song, put on a crass and poorly executed twerk contest and, well, stalled for time.
After the lights had been off for more than five minutes with no signs of Jeezy in sight, he emerged with a slightly hoarse voice and wearing a black “Snowman” jersey. “Put On” will never get old and the crowd knew all of the words. “Go Crazy” still has some of the best drum patterns in hip-hop and Jeezy grinned and postured with every syllable. He brought out YG for a rousing rendition of “My Hitta” and also let YG rock “Who Do You Love.”
It’s worth mentioning that these rap stars are the tipping point of “gangsta rap,” a fact not missed in the composition of their music direction. Everything was very rock-centered, with heavy guitars and flashing lights. Not at all the bass heavy, profanity laced domineering rhymes we’re used to.
Wiz didn’t take his time coming out for his headlining set. Opening with tracks from “Blacc Hollywood,” a lot of these songs were new to the crowd, but people were more than into it. As hands rose into the air and the lasers blasted, “Work Hard, Play Hard” and “We Dem Boyz” were instant highlights.
And on Tuesday, Red Rocks saw a different type of Wiz Khalifa, who has changed in the short time since his 4/20 set. Khalifa used to take the stage channelling Steven Tyler with a scarf tied to the microphone. But for this set he posted up on a square platform with a cordless mic. He seemed more mature on stage, playing “Roll Up” and “On My Level.” His breath control was professional and there even seemed to be less smoke on stage. Throughout his extended set, Khalifa never tired out once, likely fueled by the excitement of his album release that day.
Ru Johnson is an arts and culture music writer living in Denver. You can follow her on Twitter here.
Glenn Ross is a Denver-based photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. See more of his work here.