Last night, Drake and Lil Wayne brought their Drake vs. Lil Wayne tour to Forest Hills Stadium, a tennis stadium in Queens, New York. Noisey editors Kyle Kramer and Eric Sundermann went to check it out, and, while they're still crying tears of joy, they also had plenty to say about the experience. In keeping with the spirit of the tour, here are their thoughts, in Kyle vs. Eric form. You can vote for the winning editor at the end.
ERIC: Before we get into this, it should be noted our seats were in floor section number six, making last night our own preview of Views from the 6 (which is the name of Drake's upcoming album, nerds.)
KYLE: Given that vantage point, I went into the night fairly clear on what a Drake set would be like but a little uncertain about Wayne. Wayne is, in my opinion, and as Drake mentioned several times last night, the greatest rapper of all time. But his career has about seven distinct phases, and not all of them are equally great. Also, my favorite ones are pretty old at this point. The last time I saw Wayne, at SXSW, he did, like, "Rich as Fuck" and "Tapout," and the time before that was right after Tha Carter II came out. I don't think it even occurred to me that he would play anything from Tha Carter III other than "Lollipop" and "A Milli," and I certainly wasn't expecting him to do two tracks from No Ceilings. Drake came out after the No Ceilings portion and called "Swag Surfin'" "Some first annual BET Awards shit," which was funny, if a little unfair, since that song came out in 2009. But the point is, as was reinforced over and over again last night, even a lot of the fairly recent Wayne stuff falls under the label of "classic" to most fans at this point. Like, all of Drake's music ever has pretty much been released since most of what I consider to be Wayne's hits came out. And you could tell that based on the reactions the two got. Songs like "Mr. Carter" that I used to know word-for-word took me a moment to remember, and I would imagine that for most of the under-18 set present, these were songs that they'd never even heard. Drake, on the other hand, was met with screams.
ERIC: That brings up a pretty good point, Kyle. It didn’t really occur to me until about 4 PM yesterday afternoon that I would be seeing Lil Wayne for the first time that night. Like, that Lil Wayne. Tha Carter III released when I was in college and my roommate Jack and I listened to it over and over and over and over and over and over and over again because Lil Wayne, like you and Drake stated, is the greatest rapper alive. I was a 21-year-old when this happened, but that was about six years ago, before Instagram existed and having a smartphone was normal. This is a brave new world, and Lil Wayne, despite still being that Lil Wayne I fell in love with, seemed a bit ancient in the current cultural climate. His songs still bang, and they always will bang, but in the year 2014 even massive hits like “Lollipop” can’t keep up with the likes of “Hold On We’re Going Home,” or “Trophies,” or “Headlines,” or “Worst Behavior.” Right now, Drake is completely of the moment—I literally heard two separate cars playing “0 to 100” on my ten minute walk to the office this morning—and that fact cemented itself as they faced off throughout the night.
KYLE: That was definitely kind of the thrust of the evening, and Drake and Wayne each made a few different arguments about the value of "hits" versus "classics" in their banter. On that note, let's talk about the Drake vs. Lil Wayne conceit a bit, since that played out in myriad ways. First of all, of course, there was the Drake vs. Lil Wayne app, which both of us downloaded as soon as it was released and spent a lot of time sending power-ups on (you can also thank the app for all the dope art accompanying this article). The way it worked was that you could pick a side and, then, in Street Fighter style, mash a button to send energy to either Drake or Wayne that would determine who got to go first, who won the night, etc. It got harder to send power-ups the more times you did it in a row, and, unfortunately, I jumped the gun on sending them, making it impossible to send any during the part when you were supposed to. I also was skeptical my votes were even being counted considering the poor cell phone service in the stadium. Had the tour organizers accounted for this problem? That's what I'd like to know.
Beyond the app, the versus thing was kind of weird in that the way it was used to justify the two not coming out for each other's guest appearances on songs like "I'm Goin' In" (no Drake, despite it technically being his song) and "Pop That" (no Wayne, despite it being neutral territory). As we discussed last week, the two of them have a ton of songs together, and it was kind of strange that, in the name of preserving the stilted adversarial tone of the show (i.e. Wayne telling everyone to clap for Drake and then saying "that's enough"), they only performed "The Motto," "Believe Me," and "HYFR" together, at the very end. But the one time it worked was the segment in which they went head to head doing pieces of a few radio hits they've each been a part of in the last few years: "Loyal" and "Bandz a Make Her Dance" versus "No Lie" and "No New Friends." When Drake did his "No New Friends" hook and Wayne was like "yeah, but I had the hottest verse on that song," I was finally on board with the versus thing. These guys really can cover like 80 percent of rap radio from the last six years between them, and it was cool to see how the show drove that point home.
Eric sending power-ups to Drake.
ERIC: The setup of the Drake vs. Lil Wayne tour is pretty basic—there’s a catwalk above a massive stage, and when each one performer comes out, they are essentially alone in front of giant LED screens. Both Weezy and Drizzy, obviously, delivered dynamite performances, but the back and forth element element of the show was both entertaining and frustrating. By the end, I felt emotionally drained. Drake and Lil Wayne are so different with how they perform. Drake is a pop star, a showman, a guy who rides a stripper pole over the crowd, a man who looks both corny and sweet as he hop-runs across the stage with a grin on his face. Wayne, on the other hand, is a lyricist, a tiny ball of energy, the rapper whose tattoos are incredible and is best at not wearing a shirt, a man who pummels you with his mic full of excitement, swag, and hilarity. Drake, like I’ve written before, is a politician masquerading as a rapper, and there’s something amazingly punk about that. But Wayne is a rapper to the core, someone who’s built his career simply on being the best at what he does. Seeing both ends of the spectrum felt like a night of railing cocaine then hitting a blunt then railing cocaine then hitting a blunt. It was exhausting, but totally fucking sweet.
KYLE: Totally. Drake is the best pop star to ever conquer rap, and Wayne is the best rapper to ever conquer pop, is almost how I see it. Last night, the former was an entertainer, but the latter was a technical spectacle who made it clear precisely how much rapping is an art. Even verses that I never really paid much attention to, like those on "Rich as Fuck," became these physical acts of showmanship where I began to realize how intricately written even these really dumb lines are and how many syllables Wayne really cycles through. And, then, of course, there is "A Milli," which has like 20 flows and is a jungle gym of words clambering over each other and is probably the best anyone has ever rapped ever.
I also loved that Wayne did "Money on My Mind" and a snippet of "Go DJ," both because, duh, those songs are essential Lil Wayne, but also because that fairly minimal New Orleans street sound that Wayne's music used to have sounds incredibly current in the DJ Mustard era. To return to my straw man 18-year-old attendee, if that kid heard "Go DJ" for the first time last night (possible! an 18-year-old would have been eight when it came out), he or she would probably think it sounded so futuristic! All hail Mannie Fresh, the original DJ Mustard, but with heavier bass. And even people not familiar with "Money on My Mind" got the idea during the back-and-forth crowd chant of "fuck bitches" and "get money" that Wayne led.
ERIC: I’m a fan of this straw man 18-year-old attendee, because I got the sense that on this tour, Lil Wayne also knows he has to teach this 18-year-old about who Lil Wayne is. Throughout the show, even though there was quite a bit of pride on display and Wayne’s little jabs at Drake—like mocking his singing, or his running, or his smiling—felt a bit more serious than in jest (they were the kind of teasing that you sometimes see friends do and you’re like, “Whoa, wait, is that guy joking or do those dudes really not like each other?”). But Wayne clearly knows his role as the elder and mentor, because he’s walked the path on which Drake currently finds himself. Right now, Drake’s career is in a moment similar to what Wayne’s was between the release of Tha Carter II and III. Every track or remix he drops is a home run and becomes a cultural movement. Look at what he’s done only since Nothing Was the Same: “We Made It,” “Trophies,” “Draft Day,” “Days in the East,” “0 to 100,” “Believe Me,” “Grindin’,” (which are technically Lil Wayne songs, but might as well be Drake songs) and the remix of ILOVEMAKONNEN’s “Tuesday.” That’s an album right there!
KYLE: Absolutely. Wayne was basically my soundtrack from 2006 to 2010, and Drake has been the soundtrack from 2010 to 2014. On one hand, "Lollipop" is pretty much the greatest pop song of all time; on the other, it's a lot easier to remember the words to the songs that were all over the radio last year.
There was something a little corny about the banter—although, whether it was staged or not, watching Wayne and Drake literally fall over laughing at the other's roasting was really endearing—but I liked the way that it ultimately made the show work by confirming that each was exactly the character we wanted him to be. And each did that in his own set, too. Wayne performed with this stripped-down, best-rapper-alive, two-turntables-and-a-mic vibe, and he had people screaming out the words "hoes gonna be hoes so I couldn't blame Tammy." Drake performed "Trophies" with giant flames behind him, and it was so over-the-top the people behind us burst out laughing even as they rapped the words. At one point the Jumbotron caught a guy in the front row singing along to "Hold on We're Going Home," and he saw himself and got embarrassed and stopped, which is pretty much the atmosphere Drake cultivates: making you embrace the sides of yourself that you might not admit to.
ERIC: Exactly. That’s what makes these guys the greats. They don’t give the people what they want; they give the people what they need. One of my favorite moments of the show (outside of when Drake did “All Me” and put the infamous “lint roller” clip on loop on the screen behind him, pulling the classic Drake move of completely owning his own corniness and making it cool) was when the two battled their hooks and verses on the elevated part of the stage. It was a competition: Who could get more members of the crowd to throw their beers? (Wayne.) Who could get more women to scream? (Drake.) Who could do the moonwalk better? (Wayne, but that one was really close.) They bounced around the stage like brothers—both so clearly used to being the center of attention, feeding off of the others’ energy. It was like watching Stone Cold and The Rock battle at Wrestlemania, each delivering Stunners and Rock Bottoms over and over and over again, but each kicking out at the last second.
KYLE: Speaking of "All Me," let's just note for the record that Drake got the entire fucking stadium to rap all of Big Sean's verse a cappella, which is a reminder that a) Big Sean is easy to clown but has an amazing verse on that song and b) Drake has everyone eating from the palm of his hand.
ERIC: There was a moment—it was maybe during “6 Foot 7 Foot”—in which I remembered the fact that on a random Friday night about two years ago, everyone in the world had thought Lil Wayne had died. When the news hit, I was sitting in my apartment with my roommate and we were in shock. Last night, as I watched the best rapper alive perform, I was so thankful this artist, one of the masters of the craft, has bounced back from a near-death experience to be there for the world, his fans, and himself. The music Wayne has released in the last year is up there with some of the best of his career, and witnessing the rebirth of one of the greatest artists of a generation as he performed alongside his prodigy was some The Beatles on Ed Sullivan shit.
KYLE: Yeah, the side by side thing also accomplished this feeling of really making you feel like each was the best when he was onstage. At one point after a big Drake moment you turned to me and were like, ‘how can Wayne top this?’ And then Wayne came out and did "How to Love" and it was kind of like 'oh yeah, each of these guys has like 20 hits that they don't even have time to play.' With all those hits in mind, what would you say was the highlight for you?
ERIC: It’s hard to pick one, but I’d say it was Drake standing in front of about ten torches of flames and doing “Trophies” with fireworks blowing behind him. Right now, he’s winning everything—lyrics, production, performance, fashion, smiling—and that means he’s beating Wayne. On top of it just being an absolute banger, the song has become somewhat of a thesis statement for Drake’s career at the moment: “This shit is not a love song / this is a fuck a stripper on a mink rug song / this a fuck them boys forever, hold a grudge song / pop some fucking champagne in the tub song n—a ‘just because’ song.” God damn, indeed.
KYLE: Drake is so sweet! My highlight was actually—despite it being the newest song—"Believe Me" because it felt like we were watching both at the top of their game. And, more importantly, it was when all the interplay between them paid off, in the form of each egging the other on with ad libs. That was the moment that felt the most like each was thrilled to be on the stage with the other, and it felt, above all, like this intimate rap show instead of a giant arena pop juggernaut. That's why we ultimately love Wayne and Drake both so much, is that, at the end of the day, more so than many rappers, they seem like real people, real friends of ours who just happen to be insanely talented.
Eric Sundermann sometimes sings "Marvin's Room" in the shower, but so do you so shut up. He's on Twitter — @ericsundy
Kyle Kramer definitely does a better rendition of "Marvin's Room" than Eric. He's on Twitter — @kylekramer
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