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Drake's Second Houston Appreciation Weekend Is a Mixed Bag

In a strange way, I knew the second edition of Drake’s Houston Appreciation Weekend couldn’t come close to matching the energy of the first. Not only was the whole thing only confirmed by Drake literally last Tuesday, none of the events carried the same sense of charity and community involvement. Outside of the usual gamut of club nights, local club promotions outfit Aristocrat Life handled the biggest ones, having Fetty Wap land at Venue and Boosie Badazz tear up Limelight.

If you wanted inside of Warehouse Live last year to see Drake re-create Screwed Up Records & Tapes right down to the gate, you had to volunteer at various cleanup spots around the city. For the Celebrity Basketball Game, you could have participated in cleanup events or purchased a ticket. The pool party? Well, that was invite only, not open to the public.

The order of events for the 2015 edition was inverted. The concert, which opened last year, was slated for Sunday. The pool party and various club nights still occurred in the middle and the charity game was flipped from basketball to softball and occurred on Friday. But the questions in regards to what and whom HAW benefits remain to be seen. Charity wins in some areas, while others see it as a larger, disingenuous slap in the face to the city as a whole. Still, HAW 2 occurred, and people had to deal with it.
Thursday, Bun B Tribute: Thursday night may have been the smoothest aspect of this HAW. Considering Drake’s rather impressive “no media policy,” aliases and maneuvering had to come into play. The Astorian, a venue mostly known for its swanky yet reclusive lounge off of I-10, played host to a tribute event to Bun B, an event that the Trill OG recognized as the first tribute event he’s ever been part of for a living person. Mayor Annise Parker spoke highly of Houston, not only of her city’s great efforts in music, art and community values, but of Bun B extending a connection between the young voices in Houston and the established guard.

Guest speakers took to the podium, from Rap-A-Lot's James Prince to comedian Hannibal Buress, who riffed on Drake by admitting that despite Drake’s hospitality, you still are forced to call your exes whenever you hear his music. The night left Bun, a noted speaker whether it be on the microphone or in public setting, speechless. And if ever possible, I would swear that the waiters and waitresses at the Astorian are the same ones who usher you into heaven. Finger food, champagne glasses clinking left and right, and laughter abounded. You’d go to tip the waiters and waitresses and be pissed off they’d shoo your attempts away.

Friday, Charity Softball Game: Locally, J.J. Watt’s charity game earlier this month drew a larger audience. There was no doubt that Drake’s Celebrity Game, which took place at UH's Cougar Field, would bring a far more intriguing range of musicians, athletes, local personalities and pseudo-celebrities on teams. You won’t get a moment like Kirko Bangz and Ne-Yo on the same squad trying to beat a team that has Drake, Odell Beckham Jr. and a couple of Astros alumni.

The game was the one openly noticeable moment of charity during Houston Appreciation Weekend. It was obvious. The Houston Astros Urban Youth Academy had all of the proceeds from the charity game benefit them, an extension after Drake showing up at an Astros game last year on “Drake Night." Even if Drake’s squad lost 8-2 and Houston Texans Alfred Blue and Duane Brown made their fair share of plays to ensure victory, the real winner happened to be those kids, happy to take pictures with celebrities and run around the bases as if they were on the grandest stage in town.
“Jungle Tour,” Sunday: I’ve gone to four Drake shows now. Last year’s at Warehouse Live happened to be the best. By comparison to his last outright solo show at Toyota Center in November 2013, Sunday’s opening night of the "Jungle Tour" fell somewhere in the middle.

Drake was on his game, at his first big show since his uneven Coachella jaunt last month, mixing in a slew of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late tracks. The welcoming Toyota Center crowd beckoned more for his newer material now ringing off on radio as opposed to his more noted tracks, some of which have existed for five-plus years now. He did, however, give the Rockets some mercy by omitting the “Steph Curry with the shot” bar from “0-100,” though I’m not sure what good that may do since at the time the Rockets were a game away from joining his Raptors on the couch for the summer.

The Toronto rapper did abruptly stop before performing “Worst Behavior” and offered a shot towards those who have vocally disparaged not only him but the idea of Houston Appreciation as a whole: “I don't give a fuck what any nigga say about me — this is a city that I love and I'm gonna give y'all all of me. Fuck what they gotta say."

That’s the intriguing part about the opening night of the Jungle Tour, how it seemed to offer a smoothness that was also a bit disjointed. The main tick about HAW is how little it appeals to local acts. “Company,” one of the few tracks in Drake’s catalog that features a Houston artist not named Bun B, Travi$ Scott, made its way into Sunday's set list but Scott never materialized in Toyota Center. Drake has his loyalties, namely to J. Prince (who was shouted out following a reprise of “Legend”), but few of those loyalties extend beyond the established sect of Houston.

“Energy,” “Know Yourself,” “Star 67,” and “Jungle” all drew their expected reactions: screams from the ladies,or head-nods and bouncing from the guys. However, the aura inside Toyota Center felt more like a moment of going through the motions. Drake, an artist who has flipped flows constantly for certain moments and detoured in others, has gotten into a comfort zone. An obvious one considering how the Jungle Tour literally played out like Coachella, without Madonna getting a kiss. Though, she did become the latest in Drake’s Petty Crosshairs, seeing her name replaced in an eponymous record swapped for Rihanna.

The HAW Pool Party, Saturday: No club night, no trip to V-Live for “steak” or random appearance from a musician could match the sheer confusion that took place at the pool party Saturday afternoon. A typical Houston storm that lasted a few seconds stalled out thoughts and antsy nerves about even attending. Yet, when you hear word that a pool party is held for the public out in Baytown and scantily-clad people are going to be there (near plenty of children in the various paying-pool setups)...

Last year, when the pool party was held at a private compound, the real-life equivalent of an Instagram model’s life made sense. This year, said Instagram models had to deal with boys and girls more than a decade their junior. The pool party instead looked like a segregated episode of a ’70s sitcom: the ladies and adults on one side and near a railing, the kids and their parents all around in another part.

Let it be known, a twerk party is not where a child need be. No matter who may be twerking.

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Brandon Caldwell has been writing about music and news for the Houston Press since 2011. His work has also appeared in Complex, Noisey, the Village Voice & more.
Contact: Brandon Caldwell