A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, Chase N. Cache
Saturday, March 10, 2011
San Jose State Event Center
Better than: Eating canned beans in the dark while combing through all the Drake memes on Tumblr.
Halfway through his set at the San Jose State Event Center on Saturday, Drake broke the color line: "Shout out to the n―ga in magenta. Actually, nah. I can't get with that. It's too feminine," he decided, in front of a crowd of three thousand screaming college girls and their boyfriends, who looked on as their girlfriends meandered closer toward the stage, and further away from them.
It might be safe to say Drake is over his relationship problems. If they existed at all, that is. The "feminine" line was an especially bizarre moment for the sensitive rapper who released perhaps the most tender hip-hop album in, well, ever.
But on Saturday, Drake spent the majority of his two-hour set in wanton ecstasy, leaping on top of speakers and with his back to the crowd, flexing his deltoids like a renegade angel. Gone were the lamentations. Gone was the sense of abandonment. Gone is the insecure performer who was asked by talk show host Chelsea Handler if he "had some trouble letting go." This weekend we saw Drake's second opus: bouncy, engaging, empowered.
He's gained some muscle, and with it, some new confidence. To the countless young girls, pouring over the railing, responding to his every beck and call, grabbing their best friends and weeping, Drake was speaking just to them.
And he had much to say. His most interesting and genuine moments were in between the same songs that now seemed to lose their old justifications. After an enthusiastic rendering of "Miss Me," Drake worked the crowd, already in desperate need of acknowledgment. He launched into a strange, somehow convincing flirtation with audience members that included the most pedantic of observations -- "shout out to the girl in the purple shirt, shout out to the dude in the plaid, shout out to the girl in the white shirt, shout out to the dude in the plaid." These observations panned the room, inciting people to rise as if to do the wave.
He treated the room to a spectacle of variegated entertainment -- singing, preaching, and trying his hand at comic relief. Spotting an Asian-American fan, perhaps waiting his turn to fall under Drake's gaze, the rapper announced "Jeremy Lin is in the building! Linsanity!" A begrudgingly middle-aged woman, assuredly with daughter(s) in tow, was dubbed a Garth Brooks fan. On the basis of having pink hair, a bubbly teen was cast as knife-toting vixen.
An equal opportunist at heart, Drake spoke to the men, too. "Stand up for me, man. Please?," he asked a particularly stoic male fan. "I mean, you don't have to, but you know I'd do it for you!" Cueing up "Practice," the somewhat screwed-and-chopped rendition of Juvenile's "Back That Azz Up," Drake meted out justice: While he "borrowed" the women in the audience, imploring them to get "loose" (in no uncertain terms), the men were treated to a display of rear ends.
After everyone was finished getting their rocks off, Drake returned to his core. "You know when you in the club and you had one too many peach Cirocs (totally) and you turn to the person next to you and say some overly personal shit in the club? I'd like to have that moment with you now" -- finally.
No such focus could be found from openers Kendrick Lamar or A$AP Rocky, nor was it required. Both recalled an earlier time -- with varied success. Especially welcome was A$AP Rocky, who has the confidence and bluster of the mid-'90s New York rap world he naturally channels. Less essential were the enlightened incantations of Kendrick Lamar. Sounding a little out of place with his conspiracy theories, he might have been there to enlighten, but the crowd came to party.
At least, they wanted to see Drake, and throughout the night, he could do no harm. Amping up the testosterone for more aggressive tracks like "HYFR," he bridged gaps. "Are all my real n―gas here? When I say 'real n―gas, I mean white, Chinese, Indian, Hispanic, whatever. You just a real n-gga!" Okay! I had no idea it was so simple.
The highlight of the evening should have been obvious from the moment he was scheduled to play. Even if the video for Drake's Bay Area-repping "Motto" has irked some, the song is probably the closest thing we have to a regional anthem at the moment, and it showed last night. It felt as if the auditorium might uproot itself, and Drake's whole entourage found itself leading incitements to "go stupid" with the mix of thoughtlessness and fun that characterizes Bay Area rap. No one was more in their element than Drake, riding a movement, surrounded by people, no longer alone.
Personal bias: I have the very strong suspicion (or hope) that all Drake does in his downtime is listen to Aaliyah and watch Seinfeld reruns.
Celebrity spotting: Jerry Rice, as pointed out by Drake. The rapper's sartorial scrutiny sometimes wanders into Queer Eye for the Straight Guy territory -- "Look! He's got on a cream tie! A cream tie!"