It was true once, but you wouldn’t have known it last night in Brooklyn: Drake is no longer working with the negatives to make for better pictures. His stop at the Barclays Center as part of his Would You Like a Tour? tour felt like a celebration of success, no suffering in sight. It felt like the set of a seasoned vet with an enormous catalog of hits. Really, Drake has so many songs and verses people want to hear. “Pop That.” “Headlines.” "No Lie." "I'm on One." “Versace.” "Started from the Bottom."
I’ve seen Drake twice now (three times if you count the experience of my brother’s text messages when he saw him in Pittsburgh earlier this month), and what stood out about last night in comparison to the OVO Fest I went up to see in Toronto in 2011 was how he moved from hit to hit without getting into the things that make Drake stereotypically Drake. Which is to say he never got real sad. What he didn’t play is almost as important as what he did, a kind of revisionist greatest hits for Drake in 2013, a.k.a. Tough Drake Season.
He didn’t do “Look What You’ve Done.” He didn’t do “Fireworks.” He didn’t do “Doing It Wrong.” He didn’t do “Houstalantavegas.” He didn’t do “Marvin’s Room,” the song everyone was waiting for when I saw him in 2011. Everyone sang along, loudly, awkwardly. It was great, Drake in his glory. The simp version of "Kumbaya" is singing “Marvin’s Room” in a dimly lit arena, with the white people nervously going silent during the n-word in the chorus. As someone perfectly content with his own level of bitch-assness, I will say that I missed that. But that’s not where Drake is right now.
It’s important that he played “Crew Love,” from Take Care, early in the evening. The line that song (and album) pivots on is: “And really I think I like who I’m becoming.” If Nothing Was the Same and last night’s Barclays performance are any indication, Drake is done becoming. He’s beyond the transition that made for such low highs on songs like “Marvin’s Room,” or that prompted him to make proclamations like “I know that showing emotion don’t ever mean I’m a pussy,” on "Lord Knows." Drake, he’s good with all that stuff now. He’s on his worst behavior now, and that involves a lot more hanging out with his boys and asking strangers, and not politely, to hold his phone. Drunk dialing, so your wiser sophomore-year roommate tells you at the start of the fall semester, that’s whatever. Not happening now.
Which isn’t to say that Drake is no longer Drake. After all, he did hover around Barclays on a spindly silver ring-shaped platform so as to distribute compliments to the crowd. (When I saw him in 2011, he mainly focused on the women; last night, he was far more egalitarian.) The fact that after last night I could write a Where’s Waldo-style children’s book called What Drake Saw, where the MC points out things in a crowd of people for the young reader to find, is evidence that Drake is still very much Drake. Can you find the man in the Comme des Garçon shirt and blue sweatpants with the white drawstrings for me?
Last night was fun. Drake wore comfortable clothes and did his wind-milling fitness-instructor rap hands for us. When Jhene Aiko came out and turned “Come Thru” into a duet-cum-competition about who wanted to give out rounds to the other, Drake explained that rounds means having sex multiple times. He’s got jokes. He knows it.
He bounced around when Busta Rhymes, wearing more gold chains than my Italian grandfather (and that guy believed in jewelry), smashed his way onto the stage to perform “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See.” He delighted in the appearance of A$AP Mob. Ferg did his verse from “Work” and then “Shabba.” Drake helped Rocky, who New York really, really loves, with “Fuckin' Problems.” Don’t let Drake fool you. He has many new friends. He said last night was a birthday party. You don’t invite strangers to a birthday, which means everyone in attendance was his friend, at least for the night. It was an excellent party.
Written by Ross Scarano (@RossScarano)