The 2000s Come Alive at The Target Center With Nelly, Ja Rule, Ashanti, and T.I.


Photos and words by Langen Goldstien

Another night, another show, but Thursday night’s show was something special for me. I’ve been covering concerts for years now and have had the privilege of doing photographs for some of them. Heck, I’ve even had the honor of doing photos for Riot Fest, yet Thursday night was the first time I would be doing photos in an arena. It was honestly a bit intimidating as I got my credentials and was led to the underbelly of the Target Center to get in position to shoot. I was shaking, sweating, and definitely had the panic pee but, as soon as that bass hit me, it was like everything was right in the world. The music of the night may not have been my normal thing but the feeling I got when that music hit me right in the gut and rattled through my noserings and bones brought me instant comfort.

The Target Center was already red hot when T.I. took the stage due to the opening act but it hit a new high the second rapper started spitting into the microphone. T.I., born Clifford Joseph Harris Jr. has definitely had his share of trouble over the years but you would never know that with how the crowd was supporting him as they sang along to his quick and furious tracks. I felt that his set moved super fast. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I know he only had forty-five minutes on stage which was cut even shorter due to a delayed start but it was as if he was making sure not to lose a second of the audience’s attention with how fast he was blowing through his set. His set had this feeling of being all business which makes sense. He hasn’t been a major player in the scene since the early 2000s by just dinking around. T.I. means business and you could feel that during his set on Thursday night.

Following T.I. was a collaborative set from Ja Rule and Ashanti. I thought this was a wee bit weird being that both of these performers have more than enough material to cover a whole set but they had a quick video that introduced their set and explained it all. Long story short, this video depicted the two of them getting arrested for being basically the best in the business. While being interrogated in this video, Ashanti was questioned as to what was going on between her and Ja Rule. I mean, their sound together is so perfect and flawless. That’s when the two superstars took the stage.

The dynamic duo took turns doing a couple of solo songs each before coming together to do a couple of duets. Honestly, for me, those duets were the highlight of the set. There’s just no downplaying the connection between these two humans. Beyond the way their voices fit so perfectly together while also creating a super dynamic contrast, these two people just genuinely seem to connect with performing on a personal level. It made for a very exciting set that was only highlighted by plumes of smoke and fireworks that lined the front of the stage from time to time. Regardless of who was on stage throughout the co-op set, there was an undeniable sense of power and passion that radiated from the performers that proved that both of these people were still absolute monsters in the game.

Closing out the massive tour was Nelly. I was a huge Nelly fan back in the day but, if I’m being honest, it has been years since I last spent some time with his music. What a shame because the second he took the stage, I realized that I had been missing out on some amazing tracks. Whether it was newer songs or throwbacks to the early 2000s, Nelly’s set had the entire arena on their feet for the entirety of his set. One thing is for sure, nothing about Nelly has changed over the years (other than him losing his signature look of wearing a band-aid on his cheek). His raps are still just as fun and just as intense as they have been since his start in 1993 which was super refreshing to hear.

Although this was a giant arena show with thousands of fans in attendance and a smattering of production value, there was something very “small time” about Nelly’s set. Sure, he had the dancers behind him to enhance the performance but, there was just something very real about his set on Thursday night. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but I can tell you that as I stood there watching him, it felt like he was truly into what he was doing. He wanted to give the audience a show but also seemed to stay genuine throughout the performance. I’ll be honest, that wasn’t quite what I was expecting from his set but I was beyond glad to have gotten that feeling and it made for the icing on the cake when it came to my Thursday night.