All in all, Powerhouse 2013 does the job

Posted: October 29, 2013

The 31st edition of Power 99-FM's Powerhouse 2013 Friday at the Wells Fargo Center was, as usual, an all-night affair (1 a.m.-ish) dedicated to the current state of radiocentric hip-hop and packed to the rafters. That's standard for Powerhouse, plus its long lineup, which this time found notorious lectro-crooner Chris Brown, rap's artiste du jour Kendrick Lamar, and Philly's Meek Mill atop its bill.

With those top-tier singer/MCs as headliners, strong support was necessary. Powerhouse 2013 featured openers that packed a punch, no doubt. Mario did his romantic rap thing for the ladies. K. Michelle was sassy in her appeal for empowerment. Ace Hood brought sex and violence in safe, small doses. Big Sean upped the ante on his soulful, sung-spoken hip-hop with a godly tilt and two drummers clacking their sticks as if leading a drum line.

The one problem with P-2013 was that some of its rappers, 2 Chainz and Wale, had been through town recently. Is that bad? Not really. It just seemed each had trouble igniting the crowd, though Wale wailed through adventurous (if soft) material from his adult chamber-rap album The Gift. 2 Chainz was actually boring compared to his usually kinetic level of performance. Thankfully, the lull was brief. Things snapped to life with locking-popping-robot-dancing Chris Brown and his buoyant, slick electro-soul on tunes like the Michael Jackson-sampling "She Ain't You." (He was still boisterous at 4:30 a.m. Sunday in Washington, where he was arrested on felony assault charges after a fight outside a hotel.)

Rap's poignant pimp-lyricist, Kendrick Lamar, brought a band with hard guitars, ethereal synths, and crackling electricity to color material such as the understated "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe" and the spirited "Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst." With Lamar's low voice and aggressive backing, Lamar & Co. recalled Public Enemy at their sharpest, a vintage feel that made Lamar's snippet of 2Pac's "Hail Mary" all the more toughly touching.

Then came Meek Mill and his band, proving their arena-ready worth with a smoke, confetti, and laser show and songs (like "Believe It") with arrangements enlarged to epic proportions. Though he was visited by (among others) his Maybach label boss, Rick Ross, and a leopard-print-clad Nicki Minaj (on "It's Me (I Be on That)," Mill proved he didn't need help conquering the big stage with gi-hugic cuts such as the aptly titled "I'm a Boss."

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