Like most young males that grew up in a suburbia, I am a big fan of hip hop. However, I am by no means a Drake superfan. Fortunately, I was given an opportunity to check out his Summer Sixteen tour with Future free of charge, so of course I went.
I hold hip hop shows to a high standard. I’ve been lucky to see some of the greatest artists of the genre perform and I’ve learned that Rap shows can be very hit or miss. In a time where auto tune is prevalent in almost every popular rap track, many rappers rely heavily on a backing vocal that they half-heartedly mumble over in front of a crowd. I do not find this entertaining. I can mumble over tracks being played really loud at home, and I can do it in my underwear (something as of yet unacceptable in a public space).
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the real reason I’m here. How did this show stack up? Drake exploded onto the stage, opening with the titular track of the tour “Summer Sixteen” sporting a Vancouver Canucks jersey — the first of many times he would go on to stroke the ego of the local crowd. Drake has made a reputation for himself in the genre the past few years as somewhat of a ‘wave rider’: somebody that can hop onto a growing trend and blow it up into the mainstream. Last night he was hopping on to Vancouver and bringing us along to the top of the rap game.
Drake’s stage presence is second to none, the man can work a crowd with the best of them. As the crowd went crazy over his immense back catalog of single after single, he assured us that we were the best crowd of the tour thus far, undoubtedly a title bestowed upon every city on this tour. After getting the crowd amped up, the Toronto MC decided to slow the vibe down and perform some songs “for the ladies,” showcasing his versatility by moving to his R&B-inspired crooning after a whirlwind of braggadocios hits. It was during this part of the concert in which the real set piece of the night made its appearance. The lights.
Suspended above the crowd for the first part of the show were hundreds of orbs that hung ominously above the floor section. As the beginning of the massively popular “Hotline Bling” began to play, a single one of these orbs descended to the stage as Drake sang to it. When the bass hit, it shot back up into the rafters and the rest of the orbs illuminated, then rose and fell with the music. As the night went on they formed geometric shapes, letters, and really brought a unique visual experience to the show.
As the first section of the show came to a close, Drake brought out his co-headliner, Future. The two performed their track “Grammys” together before Drake left the stage. If Drake is a representation of everything I love about a good rap show. Future is everything I hate about a bad rap show: His DJ played 4 or 5 songs and Future loudly warbled every 4th word over a backing track. His set felt like amateur hour after being treated to the energetic, larger-than-life persona of Drake for nearly 45 minutes. The two MC’s linked back up and played a few songs off of their collaboration record What a Time to Be Alive and then we were treated to another few Drake solo tracks ending with the ultimate self aggrandizing anthem, “Legend.”
Speaking as a mild fan of the man, this concert really wowed me. Drake is a well-oiled machine when it comes to his performing career. From the shoutouts to individual people in the crowd, to the constant reassurance that we were the best crowd of the tour thus far, he really did all that he could to ensure the audience was having a blast. I mean this guy had the entire crowd cheering after he proudly proclaimed he was from Toronto, a feat that will probably never be reached in Roger’s Arena again until he rolls back into town. Future’s section of the show was definitely the low point and I think he needs to step his game up if he wants to reach that next echelon of stardom.