It must be a bit weird actually being Drake. His place in all the spheres of pop culture that he falls into seems strangely unsettled. There are moments where he looks like the new R Kelly, moments where he looks like the new Kanye West and some moments where he looks like employee of the month at the Winchester branch of Gourmet Burger Kitchen. His dual-purpose appeal as the uber-sentimental troubled soul (‘Marvin’s Room’) and the all-conquering rapid-flow aficionado (‘Worst Behaviour’) is what has led him to sell out arenas all over the world and become the most successful rapper of the last 5 years. Eccentric screwballs like Danny Brown or Riff Raff are often credited with taking rap’s age-old decalogue and smashing it to pieces. Yet when a 27 year old Canadian Jew who was first introduced to the world through a early-2000s teen drama plays to 11,000 people and rhymes “Mordecai” with “More than high”, that’s when things seem properly different.
Once the sky-blue colour that set the tone for Drake’s winning 2013 aesthetic for ‘Nothing Was The Same’ covered his curved backdrop screen, the cloudy beat of ‘Tuscan Leather’ snapped through the speakers and his unmistakably oiled style sounded just as polished live as it does on record. Running straight from this in to ‘Headlines’ and ‘Crew Love’ it was hit-on-hit. Not one of the 36 songs played fell flat, however some moments highlight the micro-followings that exist within Drake’s far-reaching fanbase. Some clusters of the audience would lose their shit for his cover of French Montana’s ‘Pop That’ or his game-changing guest verse on Migos’ ‘Versace’, but seem less feverish when the mood went more sombre for tunes like ‘The Language’ or ‘Come Thru’. Never fear though, the army of caring souls who long to put Drizzy’s heart back together step in to lose themselves when he assures them that they’re “going home”. It’s the polarity in Drake’s back-catalogue that makes the night ever so slightly disjointed. After spending the best part of half an hour walking around a suspended circular apparatus telling people he “sees” them, the leading man returns to the stage and the opening “WORST” of the best fuck-you song of 2013 bursts out, and a unique middle ground behind recklessness and tenderness is found.
For his final offering, Drake plays ‘Started From The Bottom’ and a bombastic assortment of pyrotechnics erupt from the stage while the monochrome footage of his bar mitzvah flickers on the curved screen. Sheffield were playing host to the most modern kind of pop-star. A hashtag coining, tabloid soliciting hook-merchant who sits comfortably atop a culture that has never been this commercially viable.
Words: Duncan Harrison