Lil’ Wayne, Rick Ross, Andre 3000, Kanye West, Nicky Minaj, The Weeknd, Timbaland, The-Dream, Justin Timberlake, Swizz Beatz, Rihanna. These are but a few of Drake’s high profile collaborators but on his Club Paradise Tour, it’s all down to the man himself. This means that all your favourite Drake songs get cut to shreds; original guest contributions are omitted leaving them only a couple of minutes long. This also means you get a lot more of all your favourite Drake songs.
Drake’s appeal is obvious. He has communicable charm; strains of Kanye’s ego, Usher’s schmaltz, JT’s moves and, above all, Jay-Z’s ambition – Drake is a myopic hybrid of his peers, aptly channeled for mass appeal. He’s a living embodiment of what makes a modern rap R&B star. In as much as he’s living in the moment, Drake is in for the long haul. To be a R&B or rap star is to be a global star. Maintaining that and hosting an arena tour is another matter.
The stage set up for the Club Paradise Tour in The O2 has the massive screen backdrop, dazzling light show and theatrical setting needed for the bombardment of ‘Lord Knows’, ‘Underground King’, ‘I’m On One’ and the chest battering ‘Shot For Me’. Cleverly designed though, it funnels the suspenseful intimacy necessary for ‘She Will’, ‘Thank Me Later’ and the heart battering ‘Marvin’s Room’. At the apex, ‘Crew Love’ is the admix of pounding club-banger and emotional outpouring, and Mr. OVOXO is adept at both.
In as much as you can in a large capacity arena, Drake and his band preserve the atmospherics of his records; keeping the murky beats and synth textures that dominate Take Care. And, OK. So Rihanna does pop up. But in voice-sample only. Her vocal is a key identifier to Drake’s version of ‘I’ll Take Care Of You’. Hearing Gil Scott Heron sung by thousands of people is as surreal as it comes.
While Shabaaz Palaces, SpaceGhostPurrp, Danny Brown, SBTRKT, Araabmusik, Clams Casino, THEESatisfaction and Schoolboy Q – not to mention A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamaar (ahem!) – are pushing forward with electronica, R&B and rap, they are being watched. For all the groundwork they do and break, it will be Drake (or someone like him) that will take it (or at least an impression of it) to a wider audience. This is what stars do.
Photos: Luis Faustino.