The last time Young Jeezy roared through the Mile High City with that unmistakable voice and charming face was for a cameo during Jay-Z's Blueprint 3 tour at the Pepsi Center. Last night for the Denver leg of the TM103 tour at The Ogden Theatre after being about an hour late, he came, he saw, he shut the house down.
The Ogden was crawling last night with ladies in heels too high, tiptoeing their way through the throng holding court under the blazing marquee bearing Jeezy's name. This was an all-ages show, and as is typical with shows of all ages, the first acts started promptly at 8:30. Backed by DJ Ktone, Young Doe played to a pretty packed crowd that started pushing capacity around 9 p.m. or so.
Freddie Gibbs, Young Jeezy's protégé and a gangsta aficionado in his own right, came out with a spliff of some sort blazing and sold the crowd with his smooth storytelling voice and easy demeanor on stage, though he didn't seem to be as engaged with his material. Toward the end of his set, he took off his shirt, but it was likely more from the heat than an effort to woo the ladies. On "Rob Me a Nigga," which he pulled off nicely, we noticed folks looking over their shoulders as the crowd chanted the chorus with full gusto, suggesting that gangsta Gibbs may not be for everybody.
In between sets, two beautiful ladies provided entertainment with non-stop dancing from either end of the stage, wearing super-tall boots and dangly things from their belts. Both popular dancers from the scene, they gyrated and popped and locked to high heaven while DJ Topshelf provided the sounds. Here's where it gets a little sticky: Beautiful girls and fly tunes will only get you so far, it seems, when a room full of hip-hop hooligans are ready for the headliner.
The DJ did what he does best, which is concentrating intently on his mixes and bumping a variety of songs, and for a while, he was entirely supported by the crowd. High off Freddie Gibbs's set and whatever else, people were in a good mood. That is, until 10 p.m. came and went, so did 10:15, and finally, by 10:20, there were angsty looks being cast all around the room.
Around 10:30 p.m., it was clear that DJ Topshelf was about five minutes from having to call an audible and change up his entire game plan. People were drunk and rowdy and annoyed, and loud "boos" could be heard ricocheting from the VIP area upstairs, down through the pit, and right up to the DJ booth. There was a moment where the treble was turned up to drown out the sounds, but by the time he dropped "Sprinkle Me," cats were flat-out getting irate. Chants of "Jeezy! Jeezy! Jeezy!" were loud and direct, and just as Topshelf was playing, Jay-Z's "So Ambitious," and Young Jeezy's DJ was setting up, which eased some of the crowd's agitation.
After about five minutes for setup, the stage was swarmed with Corporate Thugz Entertainment members dressed in all black with flags waving as Jeezy stormed the stage and went right into "Lost My Mind." He strutted up to the edge of the stage and growled the lyrics deep, low and raspy to a crowd that was, at this point, in the palm of his hand.
Wearing enough diamonds around his neck to house the villagers of several Third World countries, Jeezy was perfectly shaven and looked pretty focused. Maybe he needed that extra hour backstage. Several times, while he got intimate with the crowd and talked about the particulars of a hustler's life, we were reminded that Southern charm is about as smooth as it gets.
When Jeezy dropped "The Real Is Back," the place absolutely erupted with cheers and thunderous chants of the hook's infectious one-word chorus: "Win! Win! Win! Win! Win!" It was pretty amazing to watch, as was the sea of gang signs that were being thrown left and right when Jeezy rocked "Bang."
The commercial success Young Jeezy has reached was pretty evident with joints like "Soul Survivor," which came out years ago and still caused members of the crowd to lose their minds screaming the lyrics. The most pointed moment in the show came when Jeezy asked the light man "for a favor." He had them turn the lights all the way off, plunging the room into darkness with this disclaimer: "I want it pitch black. It's all good. We can do this. Denver loves me."
Taking two seconds to acknowledge the town, Jeezy immediately went into "Put On," one of his most mainstream popular records over the past years, likely due to the Kanye West feature. After rapping his own verse with prestige and a good amount of chest pounding, he had DJ Fahrenheit let the record ride out, so the crowd could finish Kanye's verse while he smiled with pleasure.
Throughout the night, there were several moments of zealous crip walking, gratuitous gangbanger salutations and other moments of mass hip-hop theatrics. For the most part, inside the venue, it was all love. Young Jeezy gave the people what they wanted, and it appeared that he did so with glee.
Personal Bias: I unashamedly love Young Jeezy. Coke lyrics, questionable choices and all. Love him. By The way: DJ Topshelf was the consummate professional throughout the crowd's riotous behavior toward the end of his set. Next time, using his own Southern charm on the microphone might assist him better in crowd control. Random Detail: Apparently Jeezy was wearing a Raiders hat, which made a few people none too pleased.