"We home!" Mac Miller hollered, along with other choice words, hitting the stage Saturday night at the First Niagara Pavilion in a Pirates cap and Heath Miller 83 jersey.
Miller and Wiz Khalifa play to bigger crowds at festivals here and in Europe, but to draw 20,000-plus to their hometown amphitheater, with MTV filming it, that's doing it big.
"It looks like a Dave Matthews concert in here!" Miller shouted.
When Rusted Root pulled off this trick in the '90s, it was a bit of a shock. With Pittsburgh hip-hop having zero profile at the time, no one could have imagined that two of our rappers would hit these heights.
Saturday night, the dynamic duo from Rostrum Records came through on the last weekend of the 11-city Under the Influence of Music Tour for a hometown splash with five other rap acts on the slate, including the newest Rostrum signee Boaz.
Clearly, no one else on the bill was going to upstage the two stars -- not by a long shot.
Miller, sporting a cast on the hand he broke Friday night, got the whole place jumping when he hit the stage with a harder version of "Best Day Ever." The one and only time he ever opened for Khalifa here was at Stage AE in December 2010 (inside obviously), back when he had limited stage experience, not to mention a bad sore throat. He's clocked some miles since then, so even with the cast, he had more command, keeping people hyped while still offering some depth in the
He rocked the house with "Loud," went back to his not-so-deep roots with party anthem "Knock Knock" and contrasted that with the more reflective and even angst-ridden "Macadelic" material like "Thoughts from a Balcony." When he teased his future project with "Pink Slime," his fans already knew that, too. To cap the set, he took a lively trip to "Frick Park Market," lamented his "Missed Calls" and served up a frantic, confetti-filled "Donald Trump."
Khalifa arrived with "Cabin Fever," oozing charisma in a white Avon T-shirt, black skinny jeans and gray fedora, with scarves tied to the mike stand a la Steven Tyler. "We the biggest smokers in the country," he told the crowd, and, no surprise, the theme would run through the songs.
He had DJ Bonics at the turntable, but he's also transitioned into live jams with bass, drums and keyboards adding weight and feel to the groove, not to mention a few jazzy piano solos (guitar solos are surely in the future).
Khalifa doesn't play to the newbie fan who jumped on board with "Black and Yellow." He hit the mixtapes hard with defining songs "Taylor Gang" and "The Code" (with Lola Monroe), the bouncy "In the Cut," his marijuana love song "Mary 3x," his tattoo love song "Ink My Whole Body" and the reggae of "The Cruise" and "Still Blazin," which he sang like a pro.
The crowd did jump into the action more when he moved to a climax of radio friendly anthems: "Young, Wild & Free," "On My Level," "Work Hard Play Hard" and, of course, "Black and Yellow." A while back, Khalifa promised he wasn't going to be limited by style or genre, and now he's playing that out. It's getting more musical every time he comes around, and you can sense bigger things coming.
Philly was represented by duo Chiddy Bang which broke out few years ago with an alt- hip-hop sound. Rapper Chidera Anamege and beatmaker Noah Beresin, who have collaborated with Miller, brought a happy De La Soul vibe and live drums to the party, plus a playful freestyle using key words from the crowd. The energy kicked up higher on closer "The Opposite of Adults," which would work perfectly on a playlist with Miller.
Kendrick Lamar, straight outta Compton, didn't have any of those. He went hard with spare beats and a raw, scratchy voice, highlighting his set with his newest song, "Swimming Pools."
Schoolboy Q, a gravelly voiced rapper from LA's Black Hippy crew, said he was making his first trip to Pittsburgh (well, close) and noted he was under the influence of weed as he went into the repetitive but amusing "Bet I Got Some Weed." He took an unscientific survey of the crowd, determining that it was overwhelmingly white and really low on Hispanic.
Khalifa hypeman Chevy Woods opened using similar homegrown beats to rap about jewels and money. He ended without the beats doing a cool freestyle about how all of this was unexpected, name-dropping Jerome Bettis along the way.
Scott Mervis: email@example.com or 412-263-2576. First Published August 5, 2012 4:00 AM