Show date: December 31, 2008 – January 1, 2009
@ The Wiltern
Los Angeles, CA
I make it my mission each year to best the previous one in taking my career to a new level. In 2006, I released my debut solo album and staged a legendary release party on the day it dropped. Then, I signed the Rawkus deal in 2007, which led to me appearing in XXL and all kinds of new opportunities arising. In 2008, I started to receive some mainstream airplay with “Dreams Come True” getting spins on commercial radio stations in the US and abroad. Still, I was looking for something extra that would push my year over the top. It came at the last minute.
Tuesday, December 30
Confession: This was my first time ever in California. The farthest west I’d been was Nevada for my college roommate’s wedding. As it turned out, getting to Cali wasn’t easy. At JFK, Timid was detained for having a Florida driver’s license, since the plane tickets were sent to his apartment in New York. His explanation that it was easier to renew his Florida license because it could be done online wasn’t cutting it, and the authorities gave him a hard time. Luckily, my address wasn’t on the tickets so my Virginia ID wasn’t an issue. He eventually got through, and we boarded. After a brief layover in Vegas where Timid stuck it to the man by winning $1.50 from an airport slot machine, we touched down at LAX. Due to the 3-hour time difference, it was still early afternoon upon our arrival.
“What do we do now?”
“Look for the man holding up a sign with our names on it.”
Cabrera. Goldberg. LA Resorts. There were men, and there were signs, but none of them read Pizon nor Timid. A few phone calls and dozens of minutes later, and our driver was supposedly on his way. He finally pulled up in a black Escalade, loaded our luggage into the vehicle, and opened the doors for us.
“Welcome to Los Angeles, gentlemen.”
“This is the police. Stop right there, and get the hell out of the car!”
We had just gotten to LA, and already the cops were on us. This is a common occurrence for Timid and me. In Florida, we were once held up for hours while the cops had us spread against a wall and the bitches sniffed all our bags. They invoked the Patriot Act by claiming we were suspected terrorists, but it was obvious they were looking for drugs. Even in the middle of Times Square, we were once stopped and questioned extensively for no valid reason. This time, they were sweating us purportedly because the driver had temporary tags (which we all thought were legal), but thankfully we avoided any prolonged scrutiny.
The driver was extra friendly, claimed to be in the music business himself, and slyly said, “If there’s anything you guys need in LA, let me know.” He informed us that the hotel at which we’d be staying was one of the best in the city. When we asked him what there was to do that evening — since our show wouldn’t be until the following night – he said all we had to do was go downstairs to the Skybar. After a half hour ride, we pulled up to the Mondrian on Sunset Boulevard. Timid tried tipping him, but he refused and said the company had taken care of everything. That was supposed to be the case with the hotel room as well, but there were some issues with missing paperwork and we had to wait around in the lobby for an hour and a half while everything got straightened out.
Losing my patience in the lobby
The hotel had a minimalist design. I didn’t even see a name outside the building. The front desk didn’t have any words labeling it as such, and people consistently stood in front of it asking where the front desk was. It was as if the hotel considered clarity beneath them. In their world, you just had to know. The room itself was incredible. I’m used to renting my own rooms at whichever local spots I could find, so just the fact that it had wooden floors exceeded my expectations. They didn’t even call it a room; it was a “studio suite.” It took us some time to figure out what the TV was, much less how to turn it on. As Timid commented in his video blog, they had us feeling like the Flintstones living in the Jetsons’ era. Not that we minded.
Some Poquito Mas tostadas brought us back to familiarity, and after a short nap we took the driver’s suggestion and checked out the Skybar downstairs. That’s where the waitress — who was beautiful and seemed quite wifeable, I might add — told us that “Things have been crazy ever since that guy from UGK died here.” I did a quick search on the BlackBerry and found that Pimp C did indeed die at the Mondrian, just one floor above where we were staying. That put a temporary damper on the mood, but it was hard to stay depressed before that breathtaking view of the city. Plus, the weather was nice and the girls next to us were hot. By the second free vodka cranberry from the waitress – to whom I was now considering proposing — I’d forgotten all about it. Timid went to sleep soon after, and I walked alone to Mel’s diner for a Reuben sandwich to soak up some of the alcohol.
We finally got the TV working!
Wednesday, December 31
I woke up to a slight hangover. It was now the day of the show, and we had to do soundcheck in the afternoon. The same driver picked us up and brought us to the spot. This time, DJ Girl 6 – who had just gotten into town — was also waiting downstairs. Originally, it was supposed to go down at The Lot in West Hollywood, but the venue was changed to The Wiltern at the last minute. We walked in through the artist entrance, emerged from backstage, and saw how huge the theater was. They had a sizeable dance floor spread across multiple levels that would make Kramer blush, and stadium style seating in the upper deck. While setting up Girl 6′s equipment on the massive stage, a man was hooking up a lighting fixture on scaffold. Between all the sound men, lighting men, and God-knows-what-else men running around frantically, there was much commotion in the space. Then, there were the carptenters building Travis Barker and DJ AM’s enormous set, which wouldn’t be rolled out until the middle of the show.
“You’re in the big leagues now,” said one of the organizers. He wasn’t kidding. We were told Dr. Dre and Axl Rose were both confirmed to be in the crowd at the show.
Snoop Dogg was performing at the House of Blues that night, which was next door to our hotel, and Bobby Lee from MadTV was at the Comedy Store, directly across the street. Los Angeles seemed like the place to be on New Year’s Eve.
That evening, DJ Girl 6′s makeup artist stopped by the hotel to fix her up, we all showered and changed into our show clothes, and we were driven back to the Wiltern. Crooked I was supposed to be meeting up with us, so we wanted to make sure he didn’t have any problems with Dre. We knew he had written tracks for Detox, but we also knew how quickly relationships changed. Just to be sure, we texted him asking if it was cool that Dre would be there. He texted back sarcastically, so we didn’t get a straight answer but assumed if there was a serious issue he would have told us. After getting settled in the dressing room, Girl 6 stayed behind to prepare herself mentally for the set, and Timid and I went upstairs to make sure Crooked got inside. Being Travis and AM’s first show together since the plane crash, security was extra tight. Everybody wanted in, so even though we had submitted a guest list with his name on it, we wanted to be safe and make sure he wasn’t held up. We had stepped outside through the front door looking for Crooked while everyone else was filing in, when he called letting us know he was somehow already inside. He and his manager JC came out to meet us, and we escorted them back downstairs to the dressing room — but not before hitting the red carpet and seeing some flashing lights.
JC, Pizon, Crooked I, and Timid in the dressing room
It was just me, Timid, DJ Girl 6, Crooked I, and JC in the room. Girl 6′s rider consisted of nothing but Grey Goose and Red Bulls, so we drank that and bullshitted for about an hour. Crooked said he loved going to New York, and was frequently there working on a project lately. I said, “Slaughterhouse, right?” and he acted surprised that I knew. We told him about getting harrassed by the cops at the airport, and he said they didn’t play in LA. We talked about how everything shut down at 2 AM in LA (earlier we were told that all power would be shut down as soon as the clock struck), and he and JC claimed it was the same in New York. I responded, “Yeah, but not on New Year’s Eve,” and they conceded that point. Crooked asked what we were doing later, and I asked him if any afterparties would still be going on. He said Xzibit was throwing a party, and we could probably hit that up. He was down to roll wherever, but would try to find out what was happening during the show. We said cool, and told him and JC they could stay in the dressing room while we performed, or roam around. They chose to join the crowd and party with everyone else. Timid, Girl 6, and I made our way up to the stage.
Pizon, DJ AM, and Timid right before the show
“How are you feeling?” Timid asked DJ AM backstage.
“I’m a little nervous, man,” he replied.
After some gogo dancers did their thing, we had the first musical set of the night. Coming up in the 2000s, we’re used to being in the foreground as MCs. Historically, the DJ was always the centerpiece, and for a party like this it was not out of place for Girl 6 to lead. She rocked the spot from her tables in the center of the stage, while Timid and I held it down on either side of her with perfectly leveled and EQed mics calibrated masterfully to our voices. We performed for 45 minutes while thousands of people danced in front of us, and even more at the other 9 parties across America the feed was being streamed to, not to mention anyone watching online and on ESPN. We also had two gogo dancers from the previous set backing us up, which combined with the video screen, fancy camerawork, smoke, and our raw energy, made for a pretty awesome presentation.
Bringing in the New Year on stage
Backstage with our backup dancers
Timid had the idea to venture out into the crowd after the set, and we were predictably mobbed. People were asking for pictures. Guys were shaking our hands. Girls were, uhm… Guys were shaking our hands. As I was walking by, Crooked I stopped me and said, “Good shit up there, man.” It did feel weird for me to be coming off stage at an event on that scale, to have someone as established as Crooked I being just another face in the crowd giving me props. But I ain’t gonna front: It also felt good. He said he was still trying to figure out the plan for later. Meanwhile, Travis Barker and DJ AM were about to take the stage. Their setup was breathtaking, and the people completely ate it up.
Yeah. It was serious.
I had been fighting a cold, and drinking the Red Bulls and vodka. When Timid asked what was in the cup, and I told him, he said: ”Damn, that’s not good.”
I was like, “Yeah, I know. Uppers, downers… it’s a good thing I didn’t take any cold medicine tonight.”
He responded, “For real. You would have been the next Pimp C.”
All the adrenaline from having just performed, being in the middle of adoring fans, and bearing witness to this spectacle of a set rendered the virus, alcohol, and energy drinks powerless. I was in the moment.
For those who haven’t seen them perform together, Travis Barker basically held the same duties as Timid and I: accompanying the DJ. Of course, while we rocked the mic, he rocked out on the drums. The visuals were probably the most amazing part of the experience. They also pulled off some neat surprises. Earlier, our driver asked us if Paul Wall would be performing, and we told him no. He said he heard from Paul Wall’s boy that he would be there. We hadn’t heard that. During Travis and AM’s set, they played a Paul Wall record, and out came none other than the chubby bald MC with a grill himself.
Paul Wall making a surprise appearance
He rapped along to his own record with Travis on the drums. It was a nice touch. Being right in front of the stage, we couldn’t understand a word he said but that didn’t detract from the moment. Not long after, we were in for another surprise…
Warren G regulatin’ the stage
Thursday, January 1
Right before midnight, the music stopped and the countdown began. After the “Happy New Year’s!” and champagne toasts, the music resumed and Travis and AM continued their set. Before long, Travis left and DJ AM proceeded to spin records alone for close to another full hour. He pulled out a nice “A Milli” remix that started with the Tribe Called Quest sample played at regular speed and gradually slowed down to approximate the Wayne beat.
Meanwhile, DJ Girl 6 was getting her makeup touched up in the dressing room downstairs. Once AM was done, the three of us had another 45-minute set to close the night. She walked out into the hallway, and Dr. Dre was standing outside her door. He was just looking for a place to hang out. I joked that it was somewhat odd for him to come to a New Year’s Eve party only to hide by himself in the basement. It was funny that while several of his songs were being blasted upstairs and the people were losing their minds, they had no idea he was standing beneath them.
DJ Girl 6 and Dr. Dre outside the dressing room
At about 1:15, we got to perform again. I was happy to see people didn’t leave after the Travis Barker and DJ AM set. Apparently they were determined to get the most out of their $150 admission. On stage, I threw some New Year’s hats that found their way up there to the crowd. People were so drunk that they started falling flat on their faces. It was hard not to bust out laughing, but I kept it moving. At 2 AM sharp, the music was shut down. The mics were kept on long enough for us to offer a final Happy New Year and tell everyone to get home safely. As we were walking off, a score of drunk girls in the front rows waved goodbye to us with simultaneous adulation and sadness, as if we were their older brothers leaving them to enlist in the military.
Our driver had found his way into the venue, and was waiting in the lobby with a drink in hand (wait a minute…), telling us we killed it. We left through the artist entrance, said goodnight to the security guards and theater staff, and got back into the Escalade. Crooked I and JC were in their own car, and were going to meet us wherever we decided to go. Since DJ Girl 6 hadn’t eaten in days, we ended up back at the hotel ordering room service. Timid and I would have preferred to hit up an afterparty with Crooked, but she just wanted to eat. She did have the driver take us to the Paramount, but that had let out at 2 like the other clubs; and she later changed her mind about a party on Hollywood Boulevard before we were back at the Mondrian. After eating, she crashed in the hotel room with us. We left her there in the morning (only a few hours later), and met a second driver downstairs to take us back to the airport.
I wanted more time in LA, and wished I could have done more. But I can’t complain. It was exactly what I was looking for to finish off my year. With that – the biggest event of my career – now under my belt, 2008 was without a doubt officially my most successful year yet. Infinite thank you’s to DJ Girl 6, Timid, New Year’s Nation, Travis Barker, DJ AM, Crooked I, JC, the backup dancers, the drivers, and everyone else who made this all possible.
Here’s to blowing 2009 out the water.
Us on stage in the background… obviously where you were looking.