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The Hot Press Newsdesk, 17 Apr 2012
All good rappers, or at least, the ones who fancy themselves as stadium-packing, chart-topping hip hop demi-gods must have an identifier. Kanye likes strings and says ‘Hah!?’ a lot. Lil’ Wayne is recognised for his lethargic New Orleans drawl and a penchant for comparing bitches to inanimate objects (cold dinners, welcome mats and Honey Nut cheerios, to name but three).
Drake’s identifier is thinking too much. His critically-bigged up second album Take Care is typified by moral melodrama, as the 25-year-old Canadian frets about ex-girlfriends, current girlfriends, casual sex, drinking and his newfound fame over a collection of downtempo dance beats, all in an earwormish, hollow drone. Lyrically and sonically, this is about as dark as pop gets.
Still, when grouped together with Kanye, Lil’ Wayne et al, there’s something relatively unthreatening about Drake. Maybe it’s because many of us remember him as the wheelchair-bound Jimmy Brooks in teen soap Degrassi: The Next Generation. Maybe it’s because Toronto doesn’t have quite the same rep for knife crime as Detroit or Brooklyn. Maybe it’s because his real name is Aubrey (it’s probably this one).
Whatever the reason for Drake’s innocuous appeal, the Club Paradise Tour could have been an exhaustingly introspective affair if the doe-eyed MC hadn’t decided to create the “greatest fucking club in the world”.
From the first blast (irresistible gospel-inspired number ‘Lord Knows’), the show is big. The band (yes, band) sound big, the (sampled) choir sounds big, the frankly blinding light show is most definitely big; the only thing that’s not is the gimmick-free stage set-up, which leaves plenty of room for Drake to demonstrate his impressive stagecraft.
The rapper’s scratchy flow is faultless as he powers through the set, which is, essentially, an hour-long Drake megamix. Rihanna collaboration ‘Take Care’ is a clear highlight; the distorted Gil Scott-Heron breakdown giving him an excuse to go positively apeshit and throw himself wildly around the stage. ‘Underground Kings’ and ‘Stay Schemin’’ pack a particularly colossal punch, while quieter numbers from Take Care and previous effort Thank Me Later are given a nightclub-friendly makeover. Boogaloos and heartbreak. It certainly makes for an interesting combination.