Drake holds his own alongside Jay-Z and Trey Songz at NYC's Radio City Music Hall

drakeImage Credit: Roger Kisby/Getty ImagesIt’s hard being a rapper–even if you have songs that wow both peers and millions of fans like Drake, last night’s headliner at a sold-out Radio City Music Hall for the second night in a row–the question is why would more than 5,000 people want to see a rapper perform? They don’t posses the awing vocal prowess of a singer, dance, or even play an instrument. Outside of a select few, rappers just rap on stage.

Well, simply put, people love him. Drake, 23, is rap’s unlikely hero raised way North of hip-hop’s New York birthplace: Toronto, Canada. He’s Jewish, wears his heart on his sleeves, and a coat of confidence. This time last year he was riding high off the success of “Best I Ever Had,” the standout smash from his introspective 2009 So Far Gone mixtape, and performing to a third of the crowd he faced last night. This, his Light Dreams & Nightmares tour, is his first on a stage this big. We know his idol Jay-Z and his heap of hits put on an amazing show. But what of rap’s’ golden child?

Armed only with cuts from Gone and his debut album—this summer’s best rap set, Thank Me Later, Drake strolled onto the stage in cargo pants, black Air Jordans, black sunglasses, and a denim jacket. After coolly running through his “9AM in Dallas,” he ramped things up with “Up All Night” and “Show Me a Good Time.” His style is lively. He sprinted and leapt all over the stage during the choruses he didn’t rap along to. And even when he stood still, he rapped with intensity—as if the lyrics were erupting from his toes out of his mouth, hand viciously twitching like a concentrated jazz hand.

Though his remained high, the audience’s energy didn’t match for most of the night. Apparently unable to stay as excited about Drake’s words as he was to spit them, some just stood and stared while he rapped his verse to Young Jeezy’s “Lose My Mind”—as if waiting for the Atlanta native to step out himself. He didn’t. But spirits were lifted when Brooklyn rapper Fabolous, dipped in all black, came out for “Throw It in the Bag.” More seasoned artists stealing the show became the night’s recurring theme after that. R&B titan Trey Songz awkwardly joined Drake later. The two have several tracks together. Last year they hit hard with 1-2 punches like “Successful” and “Invented Sex.” Instead of performing those, Drake stood and watched Trey take his women, singing his new mid-tempo “Can’t Be Friends.” Then he was off.

But it wasn’t until 10:30pm that the roof was torn off the building. That feat was left to Jay-Z, whose Timberlands stomped in to their “Light Up” collaboration. He got about halfway through that before deciding to make this moment his with the frenetic “On to the Next One.” It was then that I realized what Drake could do with years of more experience on stage. The deafening screams Jay earned are surely what he aspires for. He didn’t own every moment like his guests did.

It was far from a bad show. But like the title of his earliest mixtape, there was clearly room for improvement.

Have you seen Drake perform before? What did you think of his show? Fuse will air the performance on Thanksgiving Eve at 9pm. Plan on watching?

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

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Comments (11 total) Add your comment
  • u

    Overrated as HELL. Why do people treat like he’s the savior of hip-hop? He’s only slightly more tolerable than his hugely untalented mentor Lil Wayne.

    • u

      * Why do people treat him.

  • Zoe

    Seriously, good for him! But he will ALWAYS be Jimmy Brooks to me. (Sorry, Drake.)

  • Mr. Holloway

    (I guess the people in the audience standing and staring could be more on the audience than on Drake, but you figure a more captivating performer could keep that from happening.)

  • Karina

    i love drake and despite this post i know i wont be one of the people standing and staring when he performs at my school (west virginia univeristy) next week for a victoria secret concert we won …im going to be smiling and screaming :D

  • Miss Alana

    I Saw the Sept 28th show and I was highly upset when I found out that Jay-Z and Trey Songs were there the next night. I think that for his first tour, Drake did an amazing job. He held the crowd’s attention an his stage presence was “unforgettable”. I’m actually an Aubrey Graham fan. I loved him back on Degrassi even with the afro. I love his style of rapping because, if u listen closely, you can tell that he puts thought into every word he says and that has surely paid off for him. Fave Rapper= Drizzy Drake!!

  • John

    I went to the first show on the 28th. Awesome. He was great: engaged the audience, brought out a ton of people, very energetic and sang all of his songs very well. Had a great time.

  • Crystal

    I’m a huge Drizzy fan and was able to get tickets to the Sept 29th show– which was absolutely amazing. If you’ve been following his career, then you know he killed it that night. He’s 23 and he’s brought a completely different style into the rap game, a rap game that needed something new (seriously, how much auto-tune can we handle?) Yes, the Trey cameo was out of left field, especially since he had already performed successful, but Fab-o’s and Birdman’s appearance was well played. &&& Hov coming out definitely made the night- no one can really top Jay and to have him in your corner only shows that Drake is the coolest kid on the block at the moment. Being there last night, I was definitely not sitting in my seat for a second, I was the girl jumping, screaming every song lyric, and wearing the ‘free weezy’ tee.

  • drake is good, not great

    I went to the show and I completely agree with the writer. Drake was good but the artists who came out definitely stole the show at times. Jay was amazing and definitely took the roof but thats to be expected. He’s the best ever. I think Drake tries to do too much (i.e. – r&b crooner, heavy hitter rapper and different rapper) all at the same time. He just needs to try to hit them with his heavy hitters and keep the fans out of their seats. none of the slow love songs…

  • Stacey

    I don’t agree with the writer at all. I was there for the Wednesday show and Drake gave an incredible performance and show. And the fact that HE CAN GET seasoned performers to make an appearance lets me know that his game is tight and it’s respected. I’m not sure what the writer expected to see, but I got my money’s worth and then some. He did his thing to the fullest – singing, rapping, jumping around, making screw faces, guest performers, laser lights, pyrotechnics, kick a*s band and looking finer than a MFer. Just what I wanted. Thank you now Drake!

  • Tiff

    I went to the first show on Tuesday… I thought it was a great show… I was on my feet and screamin the whole time… So I totally disagree with this article!!! Drake = My favortie Rapper

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