Many who entered Lakewood Amphitheater to see Drake last Sunday night were greeted by the rain. Despite this ominous beginning, the roughly 15,000 fans that came out to see “The Club Paradise Tour” were far from disappointed by the end of the evening.
The tour featured Atlanta rapper Waka Flocka Flame (Juaquin Malphurs) and J. Cole, who was recently signed to Jay-Z’s label, Roc Nation. The promise of these three artists alone brought young (and a few older) Atlantans out in droves.
Waka Flocka Flame began before sunset, while fans were still pouring onto the amphitheater lawn. In some ways he was the perfect first opening act; Malphurs’ songs are grade “A” hype music. The rapper’s lyrics were nearly irrelevant, because the only words he stressed were expletives.
He did not go unappreciated, though. Screaming fans jumped up and down to some of Malphurs’ more popular anthems like “Hard in da Paint” and “No Hands.” Listeners seemed not to mind that most of his music was watered down by incessant fake gunshot samples and members of his band shouting “Brick Squad,” the name of his label.
Unlike Waka Flocka Flame, who rapped about stereotypical topics (money, power, fame, rising from nothing), J. Cole explored a subject acutely familiar to Drake: relationships. Like fellow rapper Lupe Fiasco, J. Cole is a wordsmith who doesn’t need to overwhelm his audience with bass to make a point. This was clear to those at the concert; Cole’s music defied the pervasive idea in hip-hop that men seek out women to take advantage of them. Songs like “Work Out” and “Dollar and a Dream III” acknowledged that often times both sexes come into relationships for their own benefit. If Cole left the audience with a message though, it was that he would be one to watch in the future of hip-hop.
Drake’s performance featured an array of visual elements that enhanced the show tremendously. I had never seen fireworks in a covered amphitheater until this concert, but they underscored Drake’s commitment to showmanship. At the beginning of the concert, Drake told the audience that his “Club Paradise” tour was designed to be just that: the experience of going out to a club, enjoying yourself and leaving satisfied. In some ways the show went above and beyond its club theme. Columns of white light and multicolored flame explosions were among the most dramatic product elements of the night.
Strobe lights weren’t the only thing that made the concert an experience, though. Drake told the audience about his special relationship with Atlanta, a city he hadn’t visited in nearly two years until then. Confident but not cocky, Drake assured the audience that he had every artist the audience might want to see with him that night. While not literally true, fans were shocked by a surprise appearance by Atlanta rapper T.I., who performed his smash hit “What You Know.” Drake’s talent could have carried the show by itself, but his inclusion of other rappers made the experience feel more like an all out party than a concert.
It would have been difficult to imagine a better performance. Drake is one of a small group of rappers whose subject matter allows them to connect with individual members of the audience at times while still amazing large crowds with anthems made to be blasted in the car. Songs like “Crew Love” made the artist appear almost vulnerable, an obvious nod to his female fans. The show wrapped up with the first single off Take Care, Drake’s most recent album. Ensconced in bravado, he rapped, “I guess it really is just me, myself and all my millions.” You could feel the swagger in everyone’s step as they left.
By Sam Colt ’10, Kenyon College Class of 2014