Drake - USC Galen Center - 3/5/12
*Our slideshow of Drake, Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky at the USC Galen Center
*Fuck Guilty Pleasures: Drake Is an Incredible Lyricist
No current rapper is more divisive than Drake. Despite only recently relocating to L.A., he's been both championed and criticized on West Coast Sound. Simone Wilson called him an "emo little piglet"; Ian Cohen praised him as an incredible lyricist. Critics grudgingly acknowledge his success (try to find a review of his latest album, Take Care, that doesn't follow a compliment with a quick counterpoint), and even the general public has made punchlines out of everything from his sweater collection to his birthplace, Canada, to his former acting career to his softness to ... the list could go on and on.
I neither hate nor love Drake, but after his show last night, I understand his deal: He's just a theatre nerd.
USC's Galen Center was packed, and anticipation of a sold-out crowd prompted USC Transportation to issue a severe traffic alert. It seemed a smart move -- sharing the bill on Drake's "Club Paradise" tour are A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar. The former is a blog darling who got a three million dollar deal last fall; the latter is widely considered the best young rapper out.
Timothy Norris A$AP Rocky
To stand in line and listen to girls in tight dresses and platform heels that likely would twist their ankles at a later, drunker hour, though, Drake was the only draw. "We're missing Kendrick Lamar," one said to her friend. "Like that's gonna kill us. Who is that?"
They were missing A$AP, actually, but they were right. The Harlem rapper's show wasn't much to miss. Stroll back and forth across the stage, call crew out, sway in a cool way -- it was New Rapper Show Template #1, though his final and most popular song, "Peso," roused the audience.
Kendrick Lamar fared better. Of course, he has a few years of performing on Rocky and had the home team advantage. During his roll call of L.A.'s cities, "South Central" elicited the biggest cheer. To be a more cerebral rapper, he's still compelling onstage. When he cut off his DJ for "I Am," I got chills even though I've heard him do the song numerous times.
Timothy Norris Kendrick Lamar
But the audience wasn't really there to be moved in that way; the roar when the DJ played "Rack City" in the set change confirmed that.
When Drake appeared to "Lord Knows," the whole place went wild, and not just the girls. Dressed very theatrically in all black, a gold cross around his neck, he stood silently on a riser, then dramatically dragged his hand underneath his nose like a boxer flicking away blood. Yep, we know. Someone's always punching him.