It’s really hard not to be a Drake fan, even if you’re more of a purest and favor his So Far Gone and Take Care years as opposed to the reggae-saturated and “overly hyped” More Life era. When Drizzy hits a live stage, you can’t deny his natural star power. This was most definitely the case during his pop-up show at New York City’s Terminal 5 in support of Adult Swim’s annual Upfront Party event (May 17). The “Passionfruit” rapper took his fans on a quick time warp through his countless number one hits and even managed to bring out a couple of his co-signees, in true Drake fashion.
After doors to the NYC venue opened around 9 p.m., the crowd, having just returned from various happy hours nearby, rolled into the dimly light space to get the best view of the stage. Anticipation was clearly building at a high level as security in yellow shirts began prepping the stage and setting up a metal perimeter. Rowdy cliques who had probably sipped a little too much rum & cokes, began vying for arm room so they could get the best photo for Instagram and Snapchat. If organizers made them wait any longer than fifteen minutes past 11 p.m., things probably would have turned into a WWE match, but luckily, it was showtime and well worth the wait.
After an instrumental intro, the Toronto native emerged from stage left, in his typical diddy-bop and shimmy dance routine. The speakers almost couldn’t compete with the huge roars from the now-packed floor, but as soon as he uttered his first bar, fans lowered their tone. “New York City, what the f**k is up,” Drizzy pressed. Without a second more to waste, he dived right into it.
One thing to point out is that Drake is an artist of the fans. He knows what they want, what they need, and all that in between. And unlike some artists, he knows that just as much as we want to hear the new stuff, we can’t leave without hearing the “oldies” – a trait he might have inherited from his former label mate and family, Lil Wayne.
Another thing to note is that Aubrey didn’t play more than a snippet of each song. With more than 20 songs to make it simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100, his need for speed is somewhat understandable. The Canadian-bred artist began with tracks from his recent playlist, including “Free Smoke,” “Passionfruit,” and “Blem.” Rewinding the clock, he took the time to revisit his 2013 album, Nothing Was the Same with “Started from the Bottom” and “Worst Behavior.” Although Drake might have more hair on his chin and an extremely chiseled physique now, but he didn’t have a problem taking it back to his baby fro and 5 o’clock shadow phase with “Headlines” from 2011’s Take Care.
Next up, came the cosigns and guests performances. As the culture has come to know, a cosign from Drake can mean longevity in the game. Playboi Carti was the latest to earn Drake’s praise, with the rapper dubbing the 21-year-old, the artist to watch this summer. Speaking of validations, his next guests don’t even need an introduction now, but they were once regarded to many, as the dudes on that “Versace” song. But countless hits later, Migos hit the stage and those metal borders could barely contain the crowd. Drake graciously stepped aside, allowing Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff to perform “T-Shirt” and, of course, the Donald Glover-certified track, “Bad and Boujee” from their 2017 project, Culture.
Sadly, it all started coming to an end. Fans were almost tired out from mouthing the words to just about every hit hip-hop song. But with a good ten minutes left in his set, Drake topped off the night with more singles from More Life as one of his final bars came from “Fake Love.” “I’ve been down so long they look up to me” seemed fairly appropriate as a ray of white light cast a spotlight and fans reached up for one last pic. What a time.