A video posted by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on Jun 25, 2015 at 1:34pm PDT
This story originally appeared on Noisey UK.
Drake has been in London to play Wireless and probably record his new album at Abbey Road—home to the ghosts of several Beatles and several hundred more flattened tourists—and he’s taken the opportunity to have a look around a bit.
It’s pretty rare you get to look at a grown man and say, “Oh yeah, I bet he’s actually having a lot of fun.” Rap is built on paranoia and pressure, bullshit and bravado, but Drake’s London jolly-up has left me reeling. While Jay Z sweats in his tux about Tidal download sales, Drake’s out here hugging tennis players and eating ice cream. It’s the best. Rappers shouldn’t be having this much fun, being corny, playing up for the camera. They’re supposed to hole themselves away in soulless Soho hotel rooms, surrounded by their entourage and a never ending supply of freshly flown-in crab ravioli and bottles of GTV vodka.
For a man responsible for some of the most outwardly introspective music in mainstream rap, it’s kind of ironic that this latest stage of Drake’s career probably started with ex-Grange Hill actor and So Solid Crew emcee Asher D—who he posted an Instagram pic of accompanied by the caption “Real bod man #Dushane”. Asher D’s performance as Dushane in Channel 4’s actually-alright drama Top Boy clearly sparked something in a baby-faced Canadian rapper thousands of miles away. Soon enough, Champagne Papi shook off the dust of Young Money and moved to a higher plane. We’ve entered Drake 4.0. His previous incarnations as Quite Well-Off Actor Kid, Quite Well-Off Mixtape Rapper and Facebook Status-Dominating Album Artist are distant memories. Now it’s all Stone Island jumpers, prison beards, and an obsession with grime that many assumed was a passing phase.
So in light of Aubrey's latest transition, here let me hold your hand and walk you through Drake’s adorable character defining trip in London.
For all he’s done out of love for Skepta—lyrical nods, bringing him onstage at Wireless, repping Lukey World—nothing will ever compare to this Vine. The guy’s sold five million records, got double that number in Twitter followers, and double that again in unread emails, and yet he’s giddily quoting Skepta’s song—which used a sample of Drake’s infamous original Vine—in a ropey road-man accent when he shuts down yuppie sushi haunt Nobu. The fact that Drake’s accent flails wildly in search of a solid touchstone only adds to the six seconds of pure joy. He’s excited. He’s being normal. He’s having the kind of basic human reaction to taking over a sushi bar at midnight that any of us might have.
— Toby Randall (@randall_toby) July 5, 2015
Here Drake is looking like he just stepped out of Charlie Chan’s, posing with 13-Year-Old YouTube Sensation Toby Randall™. There’s usually something a little too “visiting my dad in a low security prison” about matching top and bottom grey tracksuits, but Drake—flanked by a man either in his security team or the presumably exhausted dad of a precocious tween internet celebrity—manages to pull it off.
A photo posted by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on Jul 7, 2015 at 8:09am PDT
And now look at him: clutching tennis to his recently-buffed bosom. Strolling around Wimbledon dressed in lilac with a navy OVO sweater draped around his shoulders like a rap game Carlton Banks, hugging sports legends with arms thicker than most legs. John McEnroe’s face is a heady mix of humidity and bemusement, a genius barely looking at the camera at all, lost in his own world. “Johnny Mack!!!” Drake screams to himself, his own face a picture of contentment. A woman behind them—Birkenstock’d, brunette, wearing a dress made of several other dresses—unashamedly takes a picture of their backs.
A photo posted by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on Jul 7, 2015 at 6:56am PDT
I’d love to see Drake’s take on all our national past-times. I want to see Drake navigate a tricky lunchtime high-street Post Office queue. I want to see Drake fill his Yorkshire puddings with mashed potato. I want to see Drake quietly sip a pint of lager on his own in a pub. If you don’t want to see Drake jogging around a maypole then you need to seriously redress your priorities. But here he’s papped restaurateur, designer, and OVO squad affiliate Kai Bent-Lee in the Arena—who is totally not ready to have his photo taken.
Nevertheless, he’s thrown into Drake’s Instagram feed like an Incan sacrifice made to gods of #content and unforgiving comments like “Damn Timbaland lost alot [sic] of weight”. Lip quivering in a Wimbledon zip-up, Bent-Lee looks spooked as he—like any other reasonable Wimbledon virgin—tries to figure out how to navigate quaffing a small glass bowl of strawberries and cream and a plastic cup of Pimms at the same time. “The Wimbledon package” Drake calls it, despite the fact he needs a Pimms stain on his crotch, sunstroke, and to be loudly shouted at by a belligerent Floridian couple the size of two minivans to complete the full set. He’s still learning. It’s kinda cute.
A video posted by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on Jul 4, 2015 at 11:54am PDT
There’s something about seeing ex-Chelsea striker Didier Drogba stride to that football, on Instagram, in Yeezy Boosts, filmed by Drake, about to knock in a penalty against a keeper who dives the wrong way like he’s facing Diana Ross at World Cup ’94, that makes this feel like a landmark moment. The #squad in full effect. The perfect storm. A baton passed from Drogba - one of the Premier League’s greatest and one of the only players alive capable of genuine emotion—to Drake, heir apparent, master of his domain. Drake then scuffs one past Didier himself (“Didier, I’m your biggest fan, you know—I’m sorry…”) to complete the circle, collapsing on the floor to celebrate, like Gazza.
A photo posted by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on Jun 29, 2015 at 3:00am PDT
And in the end, there’s something so perfect about this picture. So defining. “Local Geezers.” Drake’s eyes wide and soft, ready for tears. His stance is one of apprehension. “Local Geezers.” A long meat-belt hangs across him for protection. It’s the hand of a man whose life of kneeing part-time mixed-martial artists in the face in front of two hundred people in a Shadwell warehouse has given way to stretch fabric hoodies and guarding the body of the greatest rapper alive. “Local Geezers.” Stepping into the great unknown in a granddad collar leather jacket on his back, and the weight of expectation on his shoulders.
It’s typical of The Drake Dichotomy: He’s always knowing but naive. Insular but surrounded by his friends. Ready to learn and ready to get hurt again. He’s one killer album away from greatness and one dud away from abject failure. He’s a Local Geezer and he’s a Long Way From Home. It fits London to a T.
You can find Sam on Twitter: @SamDiss