Local Wire

The "Up Close and Personal" Tour

The lineup for the hip-hop/R&B-flavored "Up Close and Personal" extravaganza is everything the Arizona Diamondbacks weren't this year — young, hungry, and well able to bash out the hits. Juelz Santana is the 23-year-old, Harlem-born rapper who first rose to prominence a few years ago as a member of Cam'Ron's Dipset crew. Last year's hustlin'-heavy What the Game's Been Missing! didn't quite live up to its boastful title, mostly due to Santana's greenhorn wordplay, but he made up for it with a high-energy, forceful flow. Lil' Wayne, meanwhile, is the 24-year-old New Orleans native who's gone from being the youngest gun of the Hot Boys to the current president of Cash Money Records. His rhyme skills have grown dramatically as well — his recent Tha Carter, Vol. 2 is full of charismatic thug poetry and a few Katrina-themed swipes at the Bush administration. Also on the bill are two bona fide R&B superstars: Vegas-bred, smooth-vocaled Ne-Yo, 23, who helped write tracks for the likes of B2K, Faith Evans, and Jamie Foxx before dropping his debut In My Own Words this past spring and watching it go bonkers sales-wise; and 17-year old Virginia wonderkid Chris Brown, essentially the new Usher, who's parlayed his love of both Michael Jackson and contemporary hip-pop into a nearly multiplatinum self-titled debut disc and won countless ladies' hearts (and other parts).
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Michael Alan Goldberg