Fuck the leopards. Jungle Island's never seen anything as wild as what Rick Ross, Maybach Music Group, and Tidal unleashed on Miami Monday night.
The Teflon Don didn't just take the stage. He stole it, broke it into pieces, and shared the loot with his friends.
Rozay, the Bawse — whatever you want to call him — is a man that makes sure everybody eats. He pays homage to his forebears and puts his little brothers on his massive shoulders. He shines a searchlight on his whole city, grabs the face of America, and makes it look Miami right in the grill.
It's no wonder that, at 10 years old, his debut album Port of Miami stands firm as a certified classic. But last night's live-streamed concert was much more than just a celebration of 19 songs. It was a confirmation of a decade's worth of hustle and a promise of even bolder things to come. It was an unbridled coronation of a most unrelenting and benevolent King — nah, a Bawse.
By 6:45 p.m., the Jungle Island entrance was crawling with urban scenesters. The collective cost of their footwear alone could feed most families for a year. It was strange to see so much ice and excitement at a place usually reserved for families and field trips.
The original idea for the concert was a bit different than what actually happened. The plan had been to place Rick in the midst of the literal Port of Miami, preferably on top of a shipping container. Fans blamed bad weather reports for a last-minute change of venue, but logistics and reality seem to indicate that a true Port of Miami concert would have been completely impossible. Security alone — especially to accommodate a man still flaunting an ankle bracelet — would have been a nightmare. The new Jungle Island location wasn't announced until hours before opening. It may have not even been secured.
There was an air of insanity about the whole thing, as if everyone in attendance felt the need to unleash their own inner-Rick Ross. Flashy people asserted their status. Everyone seemed to know someone who was supposed to let them upstairs. A man set up a speaker and a mike next to the Hurricane Simulator and the restroom and rapped like his lungs might give until security shut him down. Local radio stations 1035 the Beat (WMIB-FM, 103.5) and 99 JAMZ (WEDR-FM, 99.1) set up booths and live DJs, the soundtrack of madness being Renzel deep cuts.
The main event would happen upstairs in the Treetop Ballroom, the space converted into a concert hall and production studio with a cap that couldn't have been much more than 500. The event was open only to Tidal subscribers and industry insiders who could manage an in. The back of the room was dominated by giant cameras and bored sound engineers. On the balcony, fans ate $5 hot dogs and sipped liquor-based drinks while taking in the sunset over the real Port, just a stone's throw to the east. Somewhere in the back, Ross prepared.
No hip-hop show in history has ever started on time. This one was only late by an hour, which, all things considered, ain't too bad. By 9 p.m., a video flashed images of Ross, Tony Montana, and the shining waters of the Port. Cheesy '80s music gave way to the opening chords of “Push It,” and when Ross finally appeared, all hell broke loose.
The opening song ended and Ross addressed the crowd. “What I was talking about, as soon as I got the opportunity, I was going to push it fucking somewhere it had never been. I am the biggest boss. 305, make some noise.”
He boomed flawlessly through “Cross That Line,” “Blow,” “I'm Bad,” “Where My Money,” “Get Away,” and “Hit You From the Back” before taking a quick breather. A video of Ross talking about his decade in the game briefly broke the pace.
After the quick intermission, Ross' DJ Sam Sneak announced that it was “time to take this shit to the next level.” A giant singalong broke out to “Hustlin,'” the biggest hit to come from Port of Miami and one of the hardest hip-hop songs ever recorded in the history of music.
“Words are very powerful — be careful how you use them,” he told the crowd before going into “White House,” “Pots and Pans,” and what he called his favorite song on the album, “It's My Time.”
The show slowly transformed into a rotating cast of characters. Dre, Duece, and Lloyd appeared for their Port of Miami collaborative tracks, but the first real heart attack came when Jeezy walked on stage to do the “Hustlin'” remix. He stayed to perform “Lose My Mind” before disappearing. Ross' childhood friend Gunplay touched mike for “It Ain't a Problem” along with Torch, and for a moment, the crowd seemed disappointed when Lil Wayne didn't materialize for “I'm a G.”
No matter. Shit was about to hit the fan.
“Can I get a Rozay?” he asked. “Can I get a hruh?” The setlist ended with a short prayer from the MMG leader, telling about his favorite bible verse, about letting others eat of your flesh. He shouted out his team, he said he wants to see everybody get rich, and that's what his mission has always been. That's what he did, and for a moment, it seemed as if things might be over. Maybe just one more song?
“This some big boy shit right here,” he told the crowd. "If you really know my career, if you were really there when I came out, there was another record, it wasn't on Port of Miami, but it did just as much for me, and it wouldn't be right if I didn't do this.”
Dre returned to rock “Chevy Ridin' High,” and the floodgates burst under the weight of greatness. “Big Meech” came next; then, Meek Mill ran out like a flaming tennis ball of energy and the duo dropped “I'm a Boss.” The second hour of the show became a veritable episode of This Is Your Life. Every friend Rick Ross had ever put on and every man and woman who gave him a chance came through to rock the crowd. After, every single one of them stopped to thank the big Bawse and urge the crowd to show respect.
It started with Meek Mill, and then it got insane.
“If you're a real nigga, don't ever count out positive shit,” Ross said. “I remember, at one time, niggas thought this would never happen... This some Miami shit. Salute the Mayor, Trick Daddy, let's get it.”
And out pops Trick Daddy, who doesn't look as spry as he once did but can still hype a crowd in Miami with the best of them. The city saluted until their backs broke, then saluted more when Trina inevitably came out to rap through “Na'an Nigga.” She gave the crowd “Da Baddest Bitch” before Trick worked in “I'm a Thug.”
Miami might expect Trick and Trina, but they certainly couldn't have foreseen Fat Joe and Remy Ma coming out to rock “Lean Back.” Shit went “All the Way Up,” and then we took it all the way back to “No Hands” so Wale could come to stunt. Jungle Island had officially turned into a house party. A crowd swelled just offstage, every face beaming with hysterical happiness. The hardest looking Gs among them were seen bouncing and dancing like school children.
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Suddenly “Ooh Ooh Ooh” started, and Rich Homie Quan was onstage. Ace Hood soon showed the stunned hundreds how to “Hustle Hard.” By the time Young Greatness took the stage for “Moolah,” the collective brain had been so desensitized, it was hard to compute. Luckily, Tory Lanez came to slow shit down and make it sexy, although his star power only added to the daze. The final guest was Maybach Music up-and-comer Skrilla.
“I always said once I get in position, I'll always show the next lil' homies some love, and that's what we're doing on Tidal,” Ross told the crowd. “Of course, I couldn't have done it without each and every one of you motherfuckers.”
With one final trademark hruh, it was actually and honestly over. Of course, it wasn't finished. It never will be. Even as he huffed into a chair, wiped the sweat from his big brow, grabbed a bottle of Luc Belaire, and allowed himself to relish in the moment, Rozay was probably already planning his next move. He knows how to pay respect, and he knows how to demand it. That's why Port of Miami remains a platinum classic worth celebrating, and that's why even ten years from now, Miami will remember where it all started.