By Kenya Vaughn Of The St. Louis American
“I want to dedicate this next song to a big dreamer,” rapper Jeezy said several songs deep into his performance at the “Under The Influence Of Music Tour” Tuesday night at The Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. “He was from St. Louis and his dreams was taken away from him. We’re gonna dream for Michael.”
A picture of Brown came across the mega screen and the crowd erupted with applause – and quickly followed his instruction to put their cell phones in the air in honor of the 18-year-old who was killed at the hands of a Ferguson police officer just four days before.
It was a touching, yet somber moment amongst an evening of music that catered to Brown’s age group.
Fans already figured Jeezy would speak out.
He had done so on social media and when he graced the stage, he was wearing a t-shirt honoring Michael Brown’s memory. Jeezy wore another t-shirt with Brown’s photo during the pre-show meet and greet.
He even stopped by the site of the Ferguson Quick Trip and shared an image of the fire-ravaged building with his social media followers – nearly 10 million between Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The show featured an entire revue of rising rap stars – including Rich Homie Quan, Ty Dolla $ and several crew members of headliner Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang syndicate.
It was hosted by DJ Drama, who also engaged the audience in a moment of silence on behalf of Brown.
And while audiences were all the way live for most of the show, the positive energy cranked up a notch when Jeezy spoke about Brown while an image of him lingered in the background.
There seemed to be a new level of connection.
It eventually continued with the show’s headliner.
“I hear you. I’m with you,” Khalifa said towards the end of his set.
Heads scrambled as he emerged at the back of the venue to give the audience seated at or near the lawn area a chance to see him up close and personal.
He had changed into a shirt that said “Don’t Shoot” on the front with the letter “H” fashioned into a black figure with hands in the air. When he turned around audiences caught the #RIPMikeBrown hashtag written across his back and exploded all over again.
There were no soapboxes. Attempts to incite or stir up were avoided.
But the acknowledgement seemed hit just the right note as they continued with their regularly scheduled programming.
Unique to the typical format of the standard hip-hop show – even the acts that preceded them on the lineup – Jeezy and Khalifa performed with a full band, adding a polish and rock star edge to their rap hits.
And with the exchange of energy the two shared with audience by made the experience even more memorable.
Both were promoting new albums. Jeezy’s “Seen it All” is set to drop September 2nd, while Khalifa’s Blacc Hollywood is gearing up for release next week (Aug. 19).
But they also seemed to be endorsing awareness and acknowledgement for the crowd to peacefully engage in the plight for justice on Brown’s behalf.