To see Drake on his Summer Sixteen tour is to see a performer at the height of his powers. He commands a following whose youth he largely shaped by defining the eras and coining the catch-phrases that they use to punctuate and demarcate their lives. Riding the wave of his most commercially successful album, the rapper carries himself like someone confident that the only thing standing between he and the gold is the medal ceremony.
But if Drake is truly playing in pop’s highest strata, then he can only be fairly judged against the most elite competition. So after Beyonce’s Lemonade stand brought her global Beyhive into Formation, and as the world awaits the unveiling of Kanye West’s Saint Pablo experience, there’s only one question: Is Drizzy’s the tour of the summer?
We visited the Boston show lfor some Views on the self-proclaimed 6 God.
U With Me? Probably: Rap’s Great Unifier has the kind of cross-demographic appeal that politicians lust for, bound only by their encyclopedic knowledge of his lyrics. “He gave opportunities for the crowd to sing along and realized every time they would never let him down,” Cambridge resident and Dallas transplant Brandon Washington said after the Boston show. “Every word.”
Swole Drake Does Heavy Lifting: His catalogue speaks for itself. “This guy has more hits than the Beatles,” Medford resident Ben McLaughlin noted. He barely played any early songs, yet packed the night with anthems, some only weeks old.
What A Tough Act To Follow: Supposed co-headliner Future is one of the most prolific music-makers of the day, with Drake calling him “the hardest working man in rap,” but his brief set and their truncated joint performance struggled to maintain the intensity of Drake’s run of pop radio smashes. Not even Drake’s cohorts can drain his energy.
Know Yourself, Know Your Worth: Drake is plainly an artist of the times — self-aware, popularity-driven, and perhaps above all, strategic. These qualities make his work difficult to deconstruct beyond the superficial. “I think that Drake is super rich and he is chill as [anything]. He’s got no strife to write about,” said Shrewsbury native and Drake super fan Kelsey Irish. “He’s already talked about all his girlfriends — what else is there to rap about?”
If You’re Reading This Then You Should Maybe Have More To Say: The canvas of an arena tour gives artists the chance to scale up their message to suit the platform. Beyonce — among Drake’s few rivals in mass popularity — made her tour a strident expression of personal worth, stressing the implications against a cultural backdrop that historically suggested otherwise. Kanye West — Drake’s rival and forerunner in blurring the fault lines that distinguish hip-hop from mainstream pop — commits his art to self-examination and exhuming the innermost uglinesses of himself and the society that birthed him. These kinds of explorations aren’t only personal, they also reveal something about what their triumphs means for culture writ large.
Drake is spending the summer of 2016 looking for revenge against his doubters. In his show’s success, he surely finds it. He rightly calls himself a legend — not only the long-remembered kind, but one that helps decipher the way of the world, too. He puts on a spectacular light show aimed at having as good a time for as long a time as is possible.
But if Drake has a Grand Unifying Theory, it seems to be Increased Reach = Increased Success = Fulfillment. The artistic statement of the biggest act of his era is that he’s rich and he’s happy about it. Do with that what you will.