There were whispers about another Houston Appreciation Weekend, or HAW, earlier this month. Mostly used as a hashtag for club fodder by Houston club outfit Aristocrat Life, the idea of a second such weekend where Drake, God King of Toronto, takes hold of his adoptive hometown gave Houston a “must-attend” Memorial Day weekend destination feel. Save for an announcement that a celebrity softball game was taking place to coincide with Drake’s “Jungle” tour landing on Sunday, it seemed too quiet in terms of a local buzz factor, and definitely even more mum in terms of a national one.
The official announcement that HAW was happening again came in mid-May, while the full schedule of events was just revealed on Instagram this week. More parties, more If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late lingo sprinkled in, and shows with Future, Fetty Wap, and Boosie Badazz placed around an assortment of pool parties, club nights, tribute nights, and a huge Drake concert would all take place over four days.
From a local perspective, there are mixed emotions about HAW. Businesses and clubs see an influx of out-of-towners ready and willing to spend money to be seen and in the moment. Those getting shorted possibly are artists who may be on the verge in their own hometown but are left a bit in the cold once Drake and his personal version of All-Star/Super Bowl weekend caravan into the fourth largest city in the country.
Those getting shorted possibly are artists who may be on the verge in their own hometown but are left a bit in the cold once Drake and his personal version of All-Star/Super Bowl weekend caravan into the fourth largest city in the country.
“(HAW) is an inspiration for an artist like me who aspires to do more than just perform and sell records,” Houston artist OneHunnidt says. “To me it’s a great look for the city, and I appreciate Drake for putting it together, bringing people together.”
In contrast, he says, “There are some artists who’ve been making money in the H for years who haven’t done anything for the community event wise. They’ve been in it for themselves.”
Fat Tony, an artist who’s toured all over the country while not necessarily leaning on all of Houston’s established culture, agrees. “Fans get cool surprises from their favorite artist and his friends. I helped an OVO homie get a spot for their pop up shop, had a blast hanging with them all week last year.”
A large chunk of HAW’s events are geared around Houston’s club scene, a hedonistic dreamscape of strip clubs and hangouts all over the city. Club nights this year were given specifically for Boosie Badazz to help promote his upcoming Touch Down 2 Cause Hell album. Boosie has allegiance to Houston via the marriage that Louisiana and Texas share in rap history. With Fetty Wap being from New Jersey, his inclusion seems more like an obligatory get, thanks to the "My Way" remix.
Some artists like firebrand spitter Roosh Williams are inclined to agree. “It’s cool that we have another reason to shine light on hip-hop in the city. From a business standpoint for artists here, if you don’t know anybody in Drake’s circle, then there isn’t much gain.”
“Looks fun from my IG feed though,” he adds.
For an artist who purveys the clubs like a local kingpin, BeatKing is half and half on the issue. “If Drake wasn’t real, HAW wouldn’t have made it past Friday, let alone Sunday,” he jokes. “It’s a dope look ’cause the city is on fire. I haven’t met Drake yet, though. Those events turn grown ass men into groupies. Not really into a grown ass man stepping on my shoes to stand next to a man who doesn’t even know them!”
The intriguing part about HAW isn’t just who shows up, but who actually partakes and is involved. Last year’s initial concert, held almost as a pseudo-anniversary to Drake’s first-ever Houston show in 2009, felt like a nostalgia trip, complete with Yungstar, Slim Thug, ESG, and more. Growing sensations like the Sauce Twinz, Chedda da Connect, and others have virtually been shunned. The only local act even announced as a performer was Kirko Bangz for Future’s concert that took place Thursday night.
The Twinz may have been the one group noticeably absent from any HAW billing since Drake essentially tabbed them via Instagram for a remix to their buzzing single, “2 Legited 2 Quited,” last year. To date, they’re the only Houston act to even get near such a look.
DJ AudiTory, who gained his own bit of national attention via chopping and screwing albums hours after they leak, sees potential in HAW’s future, only if the playing field truly involves everyone. “I don’t think there’s any true benefit to the city, but I can recognize why people would become excited behind it,” he says. “The day it becomes a weekend where Houstonians benefit from being involved in it will make the event bigger than what it is now.”
HAW exists in part as a celebration of Drake’s love affair with the city of Houston. No matter how one spins it, the city of Houston and to an effect its historic rap scene see a bump in exposure. Two years in, there’s bound to be a third, and possibly a yearly event until Drake decides he doesn’t want it anymore.
Brandon Caldwell is a writer living in Houston. Follow him @_brandoc.