When it comes to Drake, critics like to focus on the 25-year-old Canadian’s excessive compulsion to over-sentimentalise his rapid flight to fame and the many women he’s slept with (plus the ones who got away), often disregarding that it takes a certain kind of man to present all that mushy stuff in the guise of hip-hop and get away with it.
Pulling in lady fans to score two UK gold and US platinum albums, that’s easy enough (he’s a looker) but the fact men adore the former child actor just as much, if not more, makes Drake the sort of clever conundrum that could remedy the many faux pas hip-hop has willingly entertained over the last 20 years. He’ll say himself that he’s more concerned with reckless good times, than thuggish bravado, welcoming tonight’s sold out crowd to “the greatest fucking club in the world, club paradise” – and for at least 90 minutes, he pulls off one heck of a party.
It’s not an easy job either, as he’s joined only by a six-piece band, a few visuals, and a humble light show (and not even an outfit change). However, he runs laps along the O2 stage as track after track from his latest album Take Care crash brilliantly around the arena, like ‘Under Ground Kings‘. “I bet we can make tonight the greatest story ever told, cause I’m down to spend whatever, lately I’ve been on a roll!” yells the rapper as the crowd effortlessly screams along.
Other big hitters like ‘Headlines‘ and ‘Over‘ – where urgent, grandiose beats meet his hooky, monotonous flow – also light up the proceedings, and even when he goes into R&B mode à la Craig David and delivers the emo-ballad ‘Marvin’s Room‘, he’s still winning. That is, until a knucklehead thuggishness makes an appearance by way of his excessive use of the N-word (“Tonight we’re gonna let it slide,” he smiles) and references to “bustin pussy” sound way too wrong to be consensual.
Perhaps his mentor Lil Wayne is to blame for gutter moments, coming off a bit try-hard for a guy named Aubrey who hails from the land of Celine Dion and takes every possible gap to gush about how much he loves his fans. But as far as hip-hop shows go, Drake does a good job in showing he’s earned the hype, and with a heartfelt approach to the genre that’s tougher than you’d imagine. (Words: Matilda Egere-Cooper)