For all of the arts and entertainment events Lexington hosts in a given year, the amount of concerts featuring prominent hip-hop artists here has certainly lagged behind nearby cities like Cincinnati and Louisville.
For a long time, it just seemed like there may not be a market in the area for the genre, that it couldn’t attract the same type of crowds that country, rock or pop concerts can.
That may change after this weekend.
Plenty of Lexington hip hop fans have bought up all the available tickets for chart-topping rappers Nelly, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Juvenile in concert at Whitaker Bank Ballpark this Saturday.. The concert came together when the Lexington Legends worked with Blue Cap Entertainment, which told them about Nelly’s touring and performing at several minor league stadiums in the spring.
Anna Mapson, special projects manager for the Legends, said she the organization wanted to try to bring a different kind of concert to the ballpark. After the tickets went on sale in January in the audience-friendly price range of $35 to $65, the 7,500 available tickets sold out within two months.
“I’ve heard from a lot of people that there haven’t been a ton of concerts that fall under this genre in Lexington and the fact this is happening outside in the spring makes this more appealing,” Mapson said. “We thought it would be a great thing to try out and see how it went and, obviously, the response was great.”
The St. Louis MC burst on the scene in 2000 with the unique flow and bouncy, fun-loving vibe of his debut single “Country Grammar ...” from his first major label release “Country Grammar,” which sold more than 8 million copies. He followed that up with his sophomore release “Nellyville” in 2002, which produced No. 1 hits like “Hot in Herre” and “Dilemma” featuring R&B artist Kelly Rowland.
In the albums and singles that followed, Nelly continued to make his presence felt in the genre and in mainstream music by continuing to produce hits like “Just a Dream” and having a knack for fruitful collaborations with other artists, whether it was with his own rap group, St. Lunatics (“Air Force Ones”), with hip-hop mogul Diddy and fellow St. Louis rapper Murphy Lee (Grammy winner “Shake Ya Tailfeather”) or curious country collaborations with artists like Tim McGraw (“Over and Over”) or Florida Georgia Line (the remix to their hit single “Cruise”).
Nelly will be joined on this tour by fellow Midwest rappers Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, who have managed to craft a few hits of their own in their more than two decades in hip-hop. With their distinctive mix of flow and melody, the Cleveland-based group first made waves with their breakout single “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” and followed that up with “1st of tha Month” off of their second album “E. 1999 Eternal.”
That album also included the group’s biggest hit “Tha Crossroads,” a song dedicated to the passing of West Coast rap legend and group mentor Eazy-E. The song became a No. 1 hit for the group and led to a Grammy Award in 1997 for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. The members of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony — Bizzy Bone, Wish Bone, Layzie Bone, Krayzie Bone and Flesh-n-Bone — have continued creative output both through the group’s albums and solo projects while collaborating with everyone from The Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac to Mariah Carey and Phil Collins.
Flesh-N-Bone, who said he “learned my 123s and ABCs” living in Louisville his first-grade year, said because of everyone’s different schedules and projects, different configurations of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony may pop up at a given show (they’ve even been known to perform in two different parts of the world at the same time). That being said, whatever version of the group that shows up at Whitaker Bank Ballpark is going to give the people a really solid show in a style that’s all its own.
“We bring these different elements to the stage,” he said. “When you hear us harmonize and sing ‘1st of da Month’ in person, it’s going to blow your mind like you’ve never heard before.”
Rounding out the show will be multi-platinum rapper and New Orleans native Juvenile. Another rapper who first found prominence in the mid-to-late 90s, Juvenile, one of the earliest artists on Cash Money Records and member of the group Hot Boys featuring a young Lil Wayne, his first big hit came in the form of the 1999 club smashes “Ha” and “Back Dat Azz Up” off of his album “400 Degreez.” He would later follow those hits up with another in the form of “Slow Motion” off the 2003 release “Juve the Great” while continuing to release music and collaborating with some of the hottest artists in hip-hop.
Having all of these hip-hop artists perform in one place is likely to draw a crowd for the ticket price, the hits they created and the nostalgia that comes from the era they came from. But concert organizers see the reception for this show as potentially more than a one-hit wonder.
“I think if the right opportunity presents itself ... we would absolutely venture down that path again,” Mapson said. “It just kind of proved that there is a market for this and Lexington is excited about it.”
IF YOU GO
What: featuring Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Juvenile
When: 7 p.m. May 19
Where: Whitaker Bank Ballpark 207 Legends Lane
Tickets: sold out