The slice of pepperoni pizza was $5.75. The Budweiser pint was $9.75. The Nothing Was The Same shirt was $70.
Last night, I went to New Jersey to see a Drake concert by myself. This means I took the NJ Transit alone, walked from the train station to the venue alone, picked up my ticket alone, pushed my way through the crowds of bros and hip-hop heads alone, sat in my seat alone, and watched Drake wild the fuck out while I was alo—not with any other people.
Something’s happened with this 27-year-old man. His intersection with the culture has provided a platform on which it's okay to be self-absorbed and concerned with your feelings, but in a way where you don't come across as a dickhead. As investigated by Noisey editor Drew Millard’s profile of Drake earlier this month, he is more than a rapper. His charisma. His charm. His earnestness. His smile. His hair. Everything about him seems (and, frankly, is) orchestrated—all the way down to those perfect dimples. People claim to hate him for this, but for some reason, even though the stench of this politicking bullshit is incredibly pungent, I—and you, probably, because you're a reader of Noisey—can’t help but fucking love the guy. And also, because of all of these facts, he too is incredibly easy to make fun of.
In short, Drake is a politician masquerading as a rapper, and that's sort of amazingly punk and groundbreaking.
Drake is completely earnest in every single act he does—whether that’s rapping about passive aggressive texting or overdosing on confidence or claiming his success makes him related to Hendrix—but what’s more is that I believe him when he says these ridiculous statements, regardless if they're arrogant or introspective. He is the type of guy that you can bring home to your mom and dad for a nice family dinner full of steaks and red wine and green vegetables and laughter, and then employ the same charm he used on your parents to bring a young woman out onstage at his Prudential Center show during "Hold On, We're Going Home." She will grind on him slowly, meticulously, robotically. As she walks away, he will all but outright state that he plans on having sex with her later, praising her "apple bottom," her beauty, and his own "selection committee" for picking her to come onstage that evening. This should be offensive, but because of Drake's inherent, near-sociopathic ability to make you root for him, you cheer him and his all-American penis (even though he's Canadian). Drake is like mercury, not quite liquid, not quite solid, just himself, able to fit himself into every situation, not even having to convince you to come along for the ride because you're already right there with him.
He hides nothing. He owns everything. You think he’s soft? "I'm hearing all of the jokes, I know that they're trying to push me / I know that showing emotion don't ever make me a pussy," he raps on "Lord Knows." Drake isn’t afraid to be Drake, and that ability to be himself and not give a fuck is beautiful.
On stage, his acting background becomes apparent, because he oversells these two sides to their extremes. He jumps up and down, laughing, pumping his fists to bass drops on renditions of "Headlines" or "Worst Behaviour," but then sits down for tracks like "From Time," treating each member of the audience like his own personal psychitorist. He'll rap a line about not texting a girl back, and then look wide-eyed at someone in the front row, as if it say, "Can you believe I'm saying this right now?"
Alone at the concert, watching this dude bounce back and forth between extremes, I felt like I understood another level of how his mind works, but not because of anything specific Drake did on stage. If you want to understand why Drake is a Thing, look no further than the thousands of people who come out to see him perform every night. This guy has created a movement that's almost magical—and people respond to it aggressively. They hug. They dance. They want Drake to know that they really love him—but more than that, they bond over how much they love him. When Drake jumped up and down, I didn't have anyone to jump and down with. When Drake got real with his emotions, I could only get real with myself. His music is communal—and when you don't have anyone to bond with while listening, it makes you wonder if the primary love for Drake is rooted his music, or if it's just a bunch of lifestyle porn. His music makes everything, even the bad stuff, feel awesome—but if you can't share that awesomeness, is there even a point?
The previous concert I attended at the Prudential Center was Taylor Swift this past spring, and even though you’d probably find Red and Nothing Was the Same in opposite sides of the record store, these artists are cut from the same cloth. They’ve created personas on top of their music, and people identify with them on a personal level. You hear someone say that they know exactly what Taylor is talking about when she sings about love stories. You see bros rapping in the face of their date-bros about smelling like bricks. People love these artists because they feel like these artists are their friends. Or, even further, that they are these artists.
This is a vine of a bro taking a selfie at the Drake concert.
At one point late in last night’s show, a giant circular catwalk lowered from the Prudential Center’s ceiling. Drake stoically stood at the end of the stage, swallowed up in smoke, watching it slowly descend as massive beats pounced on the crowd. Once it was finally set, he walked out, standing on this contraption about ten feet above the crowd in the center of the arena. He said this was the part when he wanted to give back to New Jersey, and started walking around the circle, pointing at individuals in the crowd, shouting them out:
“I see you in the black glasses. I see you right there. I see you.”
“I see you in the Nothing Was the Same t-shirt. I see you holding it up. I see you.”
“I see you with the “Just Married” sign. I see your love.”
On the train home, I ran into four 17-year-old dudes who were stoked about how they had been drunk the past 40 of the past 48 hours (they had a basketball game on Saturday, so they had to sober up for 8 hours in order to play basketball). I asked them what their favorite part of the concert was, and without missing a beat, they told me it was when Drake shouted people out.
“Did he shout you out?” I asked.
“No, I wish,” the lanky one replied. “But it was so fucking awesome that he would do that.”
Eric Sundermann is an editor at Noisey. He's on Twitter — @ericsundy