Live review: Drake at Club Nokia
Drake made a proclamation midway through his sold out show at Club Nokia on Thursday night.
“This is the most important show I’m gonna do on this tour,” he shouted as the crowd -- ecstatic to be included in the audience of importance -- cheered him on.
Who could fault the 23-year-old Canadian rapper/singer for feeling pressure to deliver? At the moment Drake, who uses his middle name and not a Lil’ or Young as his moniker, is certainly a hot commodity in hip-hop, and his debut album isn’t even on shelves yet.
After releasing three mixtapes, including 2009’s critically lauded “So Far Gone,” he’s riding a wave of buzz. With a co-sign from Lil Wayne as part of his Young Money crew and collaborations from Jay-Z, Eminem and, of course, his mentor (let’s not forget that impressive live showing at this year Grammy Awards), it’s easy to think of him as the next best thing.
But judging by an impressive track record of recent guest appearances on singles from Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, Timbaland and Trey Songz, the title is already his. Though he mentioned the importance of Thursday’s stop more than once, any pressure he felt didn’t show.
Backed by an impressive five-piece live band, which included a DJ, he transformed Club Nokia into Club Drake during his 75-minute performance, which prominently featured tracks from “So Far Gone.”
Clad in all black, he breezed through the set list aiming to please his eager fans. And please them he did. One woman next to me shrieked when he walked on stage with the swagger of a veteran performer. By his fourth song, “Lust for Life” (the opening track of his breakthrough mixtape), she literally had her undies in a bunch -- it wouldn’t be the last bra to hit the stage during the evening either.
What’s fascinating about Drake is watching him transform, rather seamlessly, between a spitfire lyricist on the level of his mentor and R&B heartthrob serving up bedroom jams and necking with a female fan onstage. He obviously welcomes the attention from the ladies: While I’ve seen mic stands decorated before with scarves or bandannas, he opted to adorn his with the many bras that drop to the stage.
During the “Away From Home Tour,” his first solo outing, he teased fans with a preview of the tracks they will probably thank him later for.
“This right here is the first song that you will hear when you put the disk in,” he said before introducing "Fireworks," another collaboration with Keys; their first is her current single “Unthinkable (I’m Ready)”
"Money just changed everything, I wonder how life without it would go," he rapped over a beat that featured the snap, crackle and pop sounds of Fourth of July behind him. "From the concrete who knew that a flower would grow / Looking down from the top and it's crowded below / My 15 minutes started an hour ago."The highlights of the show came with the surprises. He brought out Birdman for “Money to Blow,” and fans weren't too happy to see Soulja Boy (they let out boos). It was bringing out Nicki Minaj, the next in line in the Young Money crew, that sent the crowd in afire. The pint-sized rapper, sporting lime green hair and a form-fitting dress, treated the crowd to her verses from recent hit collaborations, including Ludacris’ “My Chick Bad” and Usher’s “Lil Freak.” The two were then joined by other members of the crew for "BedRock."
Drake paid tribute to Lil Wayne with a number of their frequent collaborations over the night, including “Every Girl.” He closed with hits “Best I Ever Had” and the first single, “Over” -- not without leaving some choice words in support of his incarcerated mentor: "On behalf of Weezy, ... the NYPD." Based on Thursday's showing, even though he still hasn't released that studio album, it's safe to say Drake would like the rap game to thank him now, sooner rather than later.
-- Gerrick D. Kennedy
Photo: All Things Fresh
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