When the ‘Greatest Rapper Alive' headlines a tour called ‘I'm Still Music,' you can bet that there'll be more than rival MCs on the bill.

And with that in mind, it's pop starlet-in-waiting Porcelain Black that opens the Vancouver Lil Wayne show to a virtually empty arena. Those absent made a wise decision. Combining the warmth and voice of Courtney Love with the looks, wardrobe and charm of a lunchtime shift pole dancer, Porcelain's appearance is wholly unappetising and mercifully brief.

The second act, pairing World Champion turntablist Mix Master Mike and Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker, seemed bold, experimental and exciting on paper; a pair of virtuosos reconstructing beats around vocal tracks from the Beastie Boys, Waka Flocka and Cypress Hill. In the flesh, it's merely distracting, noisy fun; Barker's bludgeoning hitting drowning out the best of the DJ's dexterous scratching.

It's the arrival of full-figured rapper Rick Ross that gets Rogers Arena bumping. Although, churning out beats and gangstaisms that sounded dated a decade ago, beyond the chirpy bounce of "Everyday I'm Hustlin,'" it's hard to understand the appeal.

Eager to tell us how much money he has and how fabulous he is at selling drugs, Rick somehow neglects to put on anything resembling a show. Instead, he wheezes and waddles around the stage, occasionally throwing a sweaty towel into the crowd and constantly reminding everyone to buy his forthcoming album. Perhaps the time has come for Rick to trade in one of his Rolls Royces' for an exercise bike?

Where Big Rick is flaccid and flabby, Lil Wayne is lean and primed for action. He has a four-piece band, a DJ and an array of dancing girls – all of who make their presence felt before Wayne arrives on stage. When he does rise up through the floor, he's wearing a Canucks jersey and baseball cap.

"I am Lil Wayne," he announces. "There are three things you need to know. One, I believe in God."

The crowd cheers.

"Two, I ain't sh*t without you."

He points at the crowd, who cheer even louder.


Wayne and his band launch into the electro grind of ‘A Milli.' Rogers Arena loses its collective mind. Game, set and match, Mr. Carter.

In Pictures: Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj in Vancouver

On the surface, it's all about charisma. There's a million dollar smile and a visible sparkle when he lifts the sunglasses that allow him to get away with anti-romantic tracks like ‘I'm Single' and ‘Popular'.

Even so, he's testing the edges of what he can get away with when he leaves the stage to his discovery, the kitsch-hop Nicki Minaj, for half an hour. Rising from the floor in a foot-high pink wig and rainbow bodysuit, Minaj's stage persona is hip hop Judy Garland: until she pulls out lyrics about bodily functions too gross to repeat and creases up the entire arena. Admittedly, while the show does grind to a halt during a directionless ‘lap dance' section, it's still a challenging interpretation of where hip hop still can go.

When Wayne reappears in droopy shorts and odd socks, he's pushing the envelope again. The rhymes get funnier during ‘Bed Rock' and ‘Mrs. Officer,' but it's the bizarre phrases like "We are not the same, I am a Martian," from ‘Phone Home' that ensure he's more than a mere entertainer. It's the misses, as well as the hits, that make him so fascinating.

"I am one of the greatest things to ever happen to music," he implores after strapping on a Gibson for an over-dramatic one-finger guitar solo. Moments later, a heartfelt lyric, delivered a cappella, "Life's a course, and I'm shooting for par."

Mortality challenges morality. Modesty spars with megalomania. Strength wrestles with insecurity. Genius and madness stare at each other from close range.

Pretty far out when you consider at least 50 per cent of Lil Wayne's set was about booty.