R&B-infused rapper Drake keeps on climbing the ladder

Drake Tour Image Provided by Cash Money Records
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In just five lightening fast years, Drake developed from one of Canada’s most buzzed about rappers to a Grammy winning, multi-platinum phenomenon. His sales at Chicago’s enviable United Center supporting the new album “Nothing Was The Same” suggest he’s practically on top of the scene, but considering many of his rhymes are infused with old school R&B sensibilities, the 27-year-old is also carving out a niche all his own.

With an audience split directly down the middle between dedicated hip-hop fans and suburban high school students, Drake carefully walked the tightrope between artistic legitimacy and commercial viability…

Drake

Photo by Andy Argyrakis

With an audience split directly down the middle between dedicated hip-hop fans and suburban high school students, Drake carefully walked the tightrope between artistic legitimacy and commercial viability, though no matter the tone of his tunes, exuded a charisma generally reserved for more seasoned performers. For instance, the budding star may have started out on the circular spaceship-like stage bathed in simply his own shaded silhouette, but by the time the DJ, keyboard player and drummer kicked into “Headlines,” he swiftly shed his jacket to reveal a chiseled physique that sent the ladies into overdrive.

He continued firing off a slew of original and collaborative snippets at lightening speed, hitting the next crest when opener Future took the stage, giving the fellas in particular plenty to sing about during “Love Me” and “Same Damn Time.” But Drake made sure to keep blending the moods between defiant and debonair, interjecting his R&B sensitivity during “Come Thru” and grooving through “Hold On, We’re Going Home” (complete with an invite to a suburban mother for a surprising but sweet slow dance).

The barrier between the stage and fans was broken down even further as a catwalk and circular stage lowered from the ceiling and allowed Drake to get a better look at the venue’s top two stories. Though he did perform for a few minutes on this uniquely suspended stage, much of that time was spent giving shout outs to those in the rafters, which for the first 30 seconds was endearing, but proved downright tedious several minutes later when he was still saluting the girl with the glitter owl sign, the guy sporting an old Drake tour shirt and pretty much everyone else with an identifiable characteristic.

When Drake returned to ground level, it took a bit to build back up the vibe that segment stifled, but he eventually killed it on the double decker finale “All Me” and “Started From The Bottom,” even following the latter by saying it was his favorite show to date. Inexplicably though, there was no encore to reward the masses who remained, which wasn’t enough to erase the many moments when Drake did deliver, but was nonetheless a disappointing decision that could surely be fine-tuned in the future.