First of all, whoever decided to present Drake and Lil Wayne in a staged performance competition was fucking brilliant. Taking two radio hip hop stars and giving them equal stage time by weaving their sets together meant the energy during a two-hour set last night at Red Rocks never dissipated; it was the best of both worlds all at once.
Drake and Lil Wayne present the perfect sonic juxtaposition: Drake is sweet and sensual (most of the time,) his words slithering and worming their way through the earholes of every human in front of him. Wayne just crushes a room -- or in this case, an open air amphitheater -- with his harsh, froggy voice and wild style. Drake may be the expert crooner, but Tunechi is the supreme rhyme-spitter. Who won the video game-framed competition of Drake Vs. Lil Wayne? That notion is really subjective -- but Wayne's prowess and magnetism combined with having more than a decade of experience on Drizzy put Wayne on top.
In the best use of a multi-level set I've ever seen at Red Rocks, Lil Wayne rose from a temporary second floor on the stage and kicked off the rhymer's match with "Blunt Blowin'." Creating an entire upper level at Red Rocks meant people all the way up at the top of the amphitheater could get a glimpse of the magic happening down below -- it was a testament to the show's overall feeling that Wayne and Drake were together for the fans.
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Wayne's song choices touched on every aspect of his career -- "Steady Mobbin'" riled up his mid-career lovers, allowing Wayne to take off. But soon after, Drake made his mark and first appearance as the two rappers took a revolving door approach at the top of the set. Wayne was dressed in black sweatpants, a hoodie and crisp baseball cap; Drake's uniform was an opposing all-white ensemble, adding to his angelic and heart-throbby stance. He said his piece with tracks like "Draft Day" and "We Made It," the crowd chanting along to every word. Drake's doe-eyed glances between tough verses conveyed the key to his success -- he's pretty and he knows it, but when it comes time to swaying those not romanced by his looks and sweet murmurs, he goes in for the anthems. Drake's victory songs about making it, his family and his crew -- he made sure to give plenty of "No New Friends" shout outs to all the real homies in the audience -- are the blueprint for his staying power. There were plenty of visual explosions, fire and laser lights to accentuate the gaming-competition theme of the Drake Vs. Lil Wayne show, but it was Drizzy's ascension above the crowd on a zip-line-like set-up that truly elevated his heavenly, cherubic display. He waved at the crowd from above, pointing out specific women by their outfits using his "I see you" winks and grins. Drake took his corniness to a literal whole new level and worked it flawlessly -- the audience was melting at his feet in the brisk evening air. During Wayne's turns, he went less for the high-profile visual production effects and relied more on his verbal capabilities, flowing through "Mr. Carter" and "Got Money" with a big grin and his jerky dance style. The rapper's earlier work still bursts through big speakers the brightest -- there's no denying that Mannie Fresh's beat and production work on songs like "Go DJ" helped define and uplift Wayne's power, a force that sounds and feels even better live.
A Tunechi trademark he employed throughout the night was the simple set-up of throwing down his expert verses in quick succession against booming beats, and then stepping away as soon as the song was over and quietly saying "thank you." It felt like he was dropping the mic at the end of every song to signal how great he is. If Wayne is anything beyond an expert rapper, he is a comedian. His timing is impeccable and he knows how to compose a joke within the context of his own rhymes, on the spot.
The jokes, too, were rampant throughout -- the feigned competition came with plenty of beef, from Wayne knocking Drake for his role as Jimmy on Degrassi to Drake calling Tunechi out for using a guitar as a prop. It was all in good humor though and the two talked shit with happy faces. The mutual admiration was clear and as things wound down, both rappers gave credit to each other for helping their careers along.
There was something refreshing and almost rebirth-like about this display of gratitude; so often, celebrity-types are so far from seeming human that it is hard to know what parts of their life stories are real or fictional. The concert felt like a confirmation of Drake and Lil Wayne's real life relationship as hip-hop's odd couple. Drake Vs. Lil Wayne as an actual competition of talent was a grand set-up, but more than a rappers' tournament, it was an unbelievable show that allowed fans to revel in two really incredible artists coming together and performing the shit out of their hits. We definitely made it.
Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies
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