Drake launches his North Amer­i­can tour in spec­tac­u­lar, crowd-slay­ing style.

Q (UK) - - Q Review - JAZZ MON­ROE

Out on Amer­ica’s pop cul­tural fringe, the mea­sure of a great con­cert is the pan­de­mo­nium wrought in its wake. So it is af­ter the Aubrey & The Three Mi­gos Tour – Drake’s co-head­lin­ing out­ing with At­lanta rap trio Mi­gos – opens in Kansas City. No sooner are the lights up than hordes of un­ruly Mis­souri­ans spill out to claim the streets as their own. Teens stream into rented limos or stand dazed and tear­ful un­der street lamps, alone and over­whelmed. Whoops and hollers at­tend In My Feel­ings dance-offs, strangers drawn to­gether by the in­ter­na­tional phe­nom­e­non of Drake’s dance-craze sin­gle. Out front, so­cial fac­tions clash amid the throngs. Two pick­eters de­nounc­ing the in­suf­fi­ciently God­fear­ing stand off against an op­po­nent in a Su­per­man T-shirt, red cape and light-up Stars & Stripes glasses. Drunk dancers pop­u­late a nearby saloon bal­cony, their dirty South hiphop briefly drowned out when an el­derly gen­tle­man blazes past in a mo­bil­ity scooter, blast­ing gangsta rap from a speaker. It’s Sun­day, 11pm, and no­body who knows they’re alive is think­ing about to­mor­row. The gen­er­a­tional rap icon who spawned this scene is not any recog­nis­able kind of rap icon at all, but rather the self-pity­ing, re­luc­tantly mid­dle-class son of a Chris­tian fa­ther and Jewish mother, who once favourably pro­nounced him­self the mod­ern-day Fresh Prince. In re­cent years, hav­ing sur­passed Kanye West as a pop-rap supremo, Drake’s records have veered into hubris­tic and vin­dic­tive ter­ri­tory. But he lev­els the ag­gro with a sup­ply of an­thems founded on his chummy, mag­netic per­sona. Most of­ten, he locates in­se­cu­ri­ties peo­ple didn’t know they

He metes out eu­phoric bursts so the sero­tonin hits at just the right mo­ment.

had, then uses weight­less melodies to al­le­vi­ate the lone­li­ness they wouldn’t ad­mit to. His af­fa­bil­ity con­trasts with stars such as Kanye and Bey­oncé, who are loved and ad­mired (or hated) more of­ten than liked. It’s thanks to Drake’s ca­sual lis­ten­er­ship that he may now be big­ger than ei­ther. Dur­ing their re­cent feud, Pusha-T left him scram­bling to an­swer al­le­ga­tions of undis­closed fa­ther­hood, dish­ing out an ex­is­ten­tial threat to this ro­man­ti­cally goofy rap­per and his un­se­ri­ous, “aw-shucks” im­age. Drake laid low be­fore re­leas­ing a qui­etly vi­cious, oc­ca­sion­ally re­morse­ful new al­bum, Scor­pion, which ac­knowl­edges the birth of his son and re­asserted his supremacy. Scor­pion broke prac­ti­cally ev­ery stream­ing record, as Drake re­leases do, and pushed his global stream­ing tally past 50 bil­lion – seven plays for ev­ery liv­ing per­son. As his fame and wealth ac­cu­mu­late, the 31- year-old’s al­bums have started to splin­ter, like White Al­bum en­sem­ble pieces co-au­thored by one man’s war­ring mul­ti­tudes – para­noid ego­ma­niac, in­tro­spec­tive sage, thwarted ro­man­tic and mil­len­nial mouth­piece. Those di­ver­gent per­sonas have pushed him to the brink of an iden­tity cri­sis, with his charis­matic, os­ten­ta­tious con­certs the glue hold­ing the Drake en­ter­prise to­gether.

Be­fore the show be­gins, it’s al­ready been be­set by pro­duc­tion de­lays and, the week be­fore the con­cert, the mys­te­ri­ous re­pos­ses­sion of a crew tour­bus. The go­ings-on at­tracted much gos­sip in this unas­sum­ing con­ser­va­tive city, where jazz clubs still pros­per and ev­ery cab driver has an opin­ion on where to find the best BBQ. If there’s an air of sus­pi­cion, fans on the night re­dou­ble ef­forts to show the love. Teens pa­rade around the venue like cus­to­di­ans of a sa­cred realm, garbed in basketball tops and flo­ral jump­suits, dun­ga­rees and di­a­mond an­klets, care­ful ar­range­ments of denim, lin­gerie and omit­ted lin­gerie. It’s equal parts mall chic and avant­garde cat­walk show. The set be­gins with a fake-out: a translu­cent cur­tain en­closes the stage and pro­jected onto it is Drake’s holo­graphic body in a float­ing cage. The mo­ment its un­can­ni­ness hits you, the man him­self bounds out to the salvo of Scor­pion track 8 Out Of 10. For Talk Up, thun­der­clouds set­tle on the

cur­tain as a gi­ant pro­jec­tion of Drake’s head floats, god­like, in its heavens. The in­tended vi­sion is of a fear­less prophet com­mand­ing im­pos­si­ble forces. A young woman records the en­tire open­ing se­quence on her phone, oc­ca­sion­ally turn­ing to scream, to no­body in par­tic­u­lar: “It’s Drake!” The cur­tain fi­nally rises, un­veil­ing a stage-floor il­lu­mi­nated with teem­ing vol­canic graphics. “Mis­souri, how the fuck you feel­ing tonight?” he roars, un­leash­ing a py­rotech­nic rain­storm for a rau­cous Jump­man. Fan favourite Know Your­self then in­duces a sta­dium-wide melt­down, its dreamy, aquatic beat and vis­cer­ally in­sis­tent melody wrench­ing your mind and body in op­po­site di­rec­tions. The lava stage dis­play dis­solves into a rip­pling whirlpool, mak­ing Drake, arms spread in its cen­tre, re­sem­ble a heav­enly body en­cir­cled by plan­e­tary rings. The flip­side of this daz­zling de­sign is that, when de­tri­tus lobbed on­stage ob­scures the graphics, he’s forced to dis­card it, as if Zeus were his own care­taker. The vis­ual ex­cess peaks when a life­size yel­low Fer­rari ap­pears unan­nounced and flies over the crowd. Drake is hyp­ing Kansas for some ear­ly­ca­reer clas­sics; Kansas is cu­ri­ous about what the deal with the fly­ing car is, but be­fore the ab­sur­dity set­tles, we’re into HYFR (Hell Ya Fuck­ing Right), an an­them so blindly adored that the mys­te­ri­ous air-bound mo­tor is in­stantly for­got­ten. Drake wel­comes back Mi­gos for a rapid-fire great­est-hits takeover. When he re­sumes play, act one’s bois­ter­ous mas­culin­ity yields to sup­ple, melan­choly R&B. “We ’bout to have some fun tonight, I promise,” he re­as­sures us in dul­cet tones. Af­ter the over­driven Mi­gos on­slaught, his feath­erlight charisma re­fills the room like a hot air bal­loon. As on record, col­lab­o­rat­ing with women tem­pers Drake’s some­times suf­fo­cat­ing self-in­volve­ment. For the Nicki Mi­naj-sam­pling That’s How You Feel, fans scream along the chorus while fin­ger-wag­ging in one an­other’s faces. Snip­pets of Ri­hanna duet Work and su­per­hit One Dance fi­nally mo­bilise au­di­ence hips thanks to Drake’s dancers, who don’t hes­i­tate to up­stage him. When the Michael Jack­son-sam­pling Don’t Mat­ter To Me and a mawk­ish Rock With You de­scend into sch­maltz, it’s adorable sch­maltz, like the earnest dec­la­ra­tions of a loved-up drunk. Much like with a great DJ set, the real craft here is se­quenc­ing. He metes out eu­phoric bursts so the sero­tonin hits at just the right mo­ment. It’s why he can coast through high­lights such as Nice For What, play­ing yappy hype man to his own back­ing track: by the time the clas­sics drop, we’re al­ready on the precipice of eu­pho­ria. As long as he flashes his Instagram-fa­mous smile, his Hot­line Bling dance throw­back, the per­son­al­ity cult will keep you hooked and the Drake ex­pe­ri­ence is ful­filled. His goofy ticks are part of his mythol­ogy: the idea that his dom­i­nance is in­evitable, ir­re­sistible and comes per­fectly nat­u­rally. Some of Drake’s big­gest crit­ics are his most loyal fans, ad­dicted to him like a liv­ing so­cial me­dia plat­form. They’ll tut at his game-play­ing lyrics, roll eyes at his corny punch­lines, scoff at his mu­si­cal band­wagon-jump­ing, then fire up his records any­way. The set closes with God’s Plan, his most craven feel-good hit, a sim­plis­tic ode to fate and karma that’s an­noy­ingly hard to be an­noyed at. His pop king­dom is an il­lu­sion, like any, but no­body con­jures it bet­ter.

As long as he flashes his In­sta­gram­fa­mous smile, the per­son­al­ity cult will keep you hooked and the Drake ex­pe­ri­ence is ful­filled.

“Drake’s fans are ad­dicted to him like a liv­ing so­cial me­dia plat­form.”

Street has­sle: the scene out­side the venue where con­cert-go­ers en­coun­tered God-fear­ing lo­cals.

Head boy: a gi­ant Drake pro­jec­tion en­gulfs the stage.

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