Image 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?
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