Lil Wayne showed his soulful, crooner and rocker side with his performances of “How to Love” and “John” at the 2011 VMAs. Normally accompanied by a musical entourage, Wayne began his set solo, crooning the ballad “How To Love” and joined only by a pair of sunglasses, black fedora and black and white cheetah print pants. A radical departure from Wayne’s style, the song has become one of the rapper’s most polarizing tracks, though tonight’s performance was a fairly straightforward rendition of the soft song.
After taking off his shirt, Wayne continued his set with “John,” the second single off Tha Carter IV that doubles as a tribute to ex-Beatle John Lennon. While Lil Wayne was predictably bleeped every five seconds, it didn’t diminish the impact of the high energy track, which opened with a sample of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” before transitioning into the original hard rock track. The rapper was his usually spirited self, running into the crowd, chest bumping “John” collaborator Rick Ross and donning, and throwing, an electric guitar. 2010’s Rebirth may have been Wayne’s aborted attempt at rock stardom, but tonight’s performance showed that the rapper isn’t giving up without a fight.