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Lil Wayne with Nicki Minaj 

Thursday at the New Orleans Arena

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When we last saw Dwayne Carter at the New Orleans Arena, he was ringmaster of a soulless circus, Auto-Tuned in to tourmate T-Pain's frequency and parading around a little Britney Spears impersonator for laughs. This was January 2009, and in retrospect, the two-plus years of troubles since for Hollygrove's favorite son — a T-Painful string of unnatural disasters including a weapons charge, two lawsuits, eight root canals, 34 weeks on Rikers Island, a $5.6-million federal tax lien and the stupefying rap/rock Hindenburg Rebirth — make the Hive that night seem like a 19,000-capacity crystal ball. Coming on the heels of the best two years of his career, which rival the best two years of any MC's career, the Young Money Millionaire's recent cred bankruptcy looks especially bad. Signs of a real rebirth among the Chapter 11 wreckage: immediate 2010 follow-up I Am Not a Human Being (Universal Motown), while not worthy of Tha Carter brand, showing Wayne hasn't gone completely insane (or sane); a fourth Carter album dawning on the horizon (customer comment card: more "We Back Soon" wordplay, less "6 Foot 7 Foot" hairy Belafonte samples); and a new wingman (wingwoman?) who can actually sing (Kanye West upstager and Taylor Swift avenger Nicki Minaj). Don't be surprised when she steals the show. Tickets $57.35-$160.85 (includes fees). — Noah Bonaparte Pais

April 14

Lil Wayne with Nicki Minaj

7 p.m. Thursday

New Orleans Arena, 1501 Girod St., 587-3822; www.neworleansarena.com

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