Photo by Ryan Muir, courtesy of Fader
Last night, buzz rapper Drake showed up in Austin for a surprise showcase for his label OVO Sound after The Fader Fort Presented by Converse. It was livestreamed on the internet so there’s a strong chance you saw it yourself, but in case you didn’t, here’s a quick recap: Following performances from DVSN, Roy Wood$, Majid Jordan, and PartyNextDoor, the rapper did six (heh) songs: “Energy,” “Jumpman,” “Big Rings,” “Know Yourself,” “Back to Back,” and “Summer Sixteen.” During “Jumpman,” he brought Metro Boomin out on stage, who proceeded to dab repeatedly during the Future verse (which Drake respectfully let play through) as the crowd chanted “Nobu, Nobu, Nobu, Nobu, Nobu, Nobu.” The Boy’s set was about 13 minutes long. Here are 13 thoughts on those 13 minutes.
1. Drake did not dab with Metro Boomin during “Jumpman” because Drake probably sucks at dabbing. That’s OK though, because even though it’s literally the easiest dance move in the world, most people suck at dabbing. Once again, Drake wins because he is just like you and me.
2. Only Drake could successfully trademark the word “sound.”
3. Where was Makonnen during the OVO Showcase? The Atlanta crooner just released Drink More Water 6 on Friday so it seemed like an appropriate moment for Drake to push one of his artists, yet Makonnen was nowhere to be found. Not only is this concerning as a fan of Makonnen and wanting to see him succeed, but I also found myself very disappointed I didn’t get to scream “HUAGH” at the top of my lungs.
4. “Know Yourself” still goes off and will never not go off. When the woes hit, the earth moved.
5. Part of me was surprised Drake didn’t wear white Vans in order to capitalize on meme culture, but then I remembered the showcase was sponsored by Converse.
6. Drake is so goddamn calculating that he even made his set six songs long.
7. The idea that Drake is essentially a politician masquerading as a rapper isn’t a new one and is something we’ve written about extensively, but that’s never more evident than when he’s on stage. The way he looks at individual concertgoers—he makes you feel like he not only cares about you, but he also cares about your family and your cat and if you flossed your teeth this morning. It’s smart as shit, because he makes you feel like you’re on his team, which makes you like his music more, because you feel like it’s your buddy making music and you’re there along for the ride, and therefore much less likely to criticize—and if you do criticize, he’s already aware of what you’re going to say. You think we would’ve let anyone else get away with the “Hotline Bling” video? Drake laughs at himself before you can even hear the joke. It’s bulletproof. He’s so good at this game.
8. Drake did not perform any new music, which sucked, especially considering we’re only a few weeks away from Views from the 6.
9. It’s a surprise to me that “Summer Sixteen” isn’t more of a hit. It captures everything that Drake is so good at right now and how he’s continually refining his sound to be so precisely catchy. There’s nobody else who can float so effortlessly over these lush, stingy beats, while still having such a commanding control of his flow. Maybe it’s because there’s been an overload of hyped music released over the last two months—Kanye, Rihanna, Kendrick, and more—that it’s been swallowed up a bit.
10. Every artist on OVO Sound sounds like a Netflix and chill gone wrong.
11. The showcase was overall a pretty good depiction of Drake’s struggle to establish OVO as something bigger than just a hit factory for its leader. Our own Craig Jenkins riffed extensively about this back in February, writing about OVO Sound’s curious dual legacy: “Drake consistently logs gold and platinum records in a time where hip-hop album sales are in decline. In employing an ever-evolving roster of young, hungry talent to help with production and writing, he gives crucial exposure to artists from Toronto and beyond that they wouldn’t get from toiling away on their own. That said, when you scan the individual plights of artists who’ve received the prestigious 6 God cosign over the years, it’s questionable whose end of the deal is sweetest.” This rung even more true last night when the 6 God had thousands of people feeling like it was a chore to watch his acts on his label perform before we got a taste of his music.
12. There’s maybe something to be written about the fact that Drake is headlining an event sponsored by a brand at SXSW that’s not even technically part of the official festival itself and how that might be considered problematic. Because instead of seeing the hundreds (thousands?) of new artists who’ve descended on Austin over spring break in hopes of having the right person hear their band at the right time, music enthusiasts find themselves standing around all afternoon waiting for a 13-minute set of songs that they’ve already heard by an artist who is already wildly successful. Then again, maybe those same music fans are just excited to see Drake perform, and SXSW has evolved into something so big that you just have to make the experience whatever you want it to be, so if watching a pop star is what you want to do, then you can do it.
13. Drake gotta shave the beard.
Eric Sundermann is tired but still loves live music. Follow him on Twitter.