Drake Toyota Center May 17, 2012
6:57 p.m.: Well, the plan was to be at Toyota Center by now to see opening act 2 Chainz, who has basically become the human form of an Internet meme. However, the school where I teach is having our athletic banquet tonight and I'm still here.
So instead of being at the show, I'm inside of a cafeteria with several other coaches handing out awards. When you train to become a correctional officer at a prison, one of the things they do is lock you in this box of a room and then set off a gas bomb inside, that way if you're ever on duty when something crazy happens and they have to gas everyone, you don't freak out.
This is like that, a little. Middle school boys FUCKING LOVE cologne. Cool Water and Curve x1000.
7:48: Parking, $20. Thanks, Drake. Appreciate that.
7:57: Walking in. Waka and his hair and his belly are onstage.
7:59: "No Hands." He calls for girls to join him (the place is already nearly full). He counts down from 20. Several girls are up onstage by zero. If I had a daughter, my one goal in life would be for her to never end up onstage during a rap concert.
8 p.m.: In fairness to Waka, he never touches any of them, only pantomimes doing so. Still, you get it.
8:01: Sent a text to another writer about the stage girls. His response: "They're all really pretty, aren't they?"
8:04: Dudes, either Waka Flocka shaves his armpits or he doesn't grow hair under there.
8:04:15: Oh, BTW, we're sitting in the floor section, 13 rows from the stage, so Waka's only about 30 feet away. Super seats. Word to whoever set that up.
8:09: Man, there is an all-star cast in our section right now. There's a girl with a flattop, a guy dressed in all white (of course he has a lazy eye), a woman in a dress tiny enough to elicit audible scorn from others and a guy who I'm about 80 percent sure is a West African gangster. This'll be fun.
8:09:15: P.s.: Is it still a dress if your vagina is showing, or does it have a different name?
8:19: J. Cole's next, which means in this building right now are the two most interesting sets of eyebrows in all of hip-hop. Oh, maybe more importantly: J. Cole is the worst. I mean, he's not technically the worst (I don't imagine the West African gangster is better at rapping), but he's still disappointing nonetheless. We were all so excited for his album, then when it came out, BLECH. Total milquetoast.
8:29: He's out. And the women are losing their shit. I guess they liked his tape.
8:29:15: Can you even be a rap star these days if you don't employ a floppy-haired white guitarist? One point for Cole.
8:30: "Dolla and a Dream."
8:37: J. Cole is wearing a Rosary. Is he Catholic? Cool, cool. I had no idea.
8:41: He just went from "Who Dat" (considerably more enjoyable in person than on the radio) to "Blow Up" (undeniable) into a moment for his drummer to lose his mind on a drum solo. This is actually kind of good. Shitshitshit.
8:43: A robo version of "No Church in the Wild" evolved into "Work Out." Neat. The urge to hate is nearly extinguished. Crap.
8:45: J. Cole has this thing he does while he raps where he squeezes out the last syllables of words every so often. It's almost like a growl, but not specifically a growl. It's interesting occasionally, and that's cool, but tedious after a while, and that's not cool. Still, he's clearly working hard, which is always endearing. The J. Cole Hate Train is losing steam.
8:51: "Can't Get Enough." Near the end, he splices in the beat from Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin'." Fun surprise. Goddammit. You win, J. Cole. Going to listen to your album again tonight*. Maybe I missed something.
*I'm certain this'll just make his day.
8:59: Wandering around, just walked past DJ Mr. Rogers, an important person in Houston rap and quite possibly the coolest guy ever to have existed. He's like the human version of a really great hat. Or something. I don't know. Is this weird yet?
9:05: Slim Thug's here, too. The conversation we just had: ME: THUGGA! SLIM: What up? ME: It's Shea. We've met, like, 100 times. SLIM: [grumble] // Every fucking time.
9:18: Back in the seats. There's this big black curtain set up now that's hiding the stage. This is already exciting.
9:35: IT'S STARTING!!!
9:38: When the curtain dropped, it revealed 40 large squares with light panels in the middle. The first song he did was that one with Rick Ross that has the choir in the background. All of the panels lit up, each one showing a person's face singing the choir part. The guy next to me: "OH FUCK!" Oh fuck is right.
9:38:15: BTW, the guy sitting next to me snuck down here with his girlfriend. "We had to go through hella shit to get here." He smiles a lot, and he knows the words to lots of songs, so he's cool. But if he starts fucking up, I'm calling the ticket checker ASAP. #YouWasntWithMeShootingInTheGym
9:40: "I'm on One." Drake is out for blood tonight. The crowd is floating.
9:42: Oh shit. What's better than a floppy-haired white guitarist. A dreadlocked black guitarist, that's what.
9:50: In addition to the light wall, which is utilized to show any number of things (an owl flying in slow motion, Aaliyah, water), there are two giant screens showing Drake as he raps so fans far away can see the show better. It's a move a lot of guys do with these big types of shows; however, Drake has opted that everything be shot in black and white because he's Drake.
It's a little thing, but it's a telling thing. It never seems like there are any "Eh, Whatever, Just Do It" moments with him. Everything is so planned and primped. And that's mostly a great thing, but I understand why it can irk some people.
9:51: "This is my favorite fucking place in the world." -- Drake
9:57: He stops to take a break, to explain the idea behind Club Paradise (see, told you). Basically, the show mimics a nice night out.
9:58: 2 CHAINZ! The place goes yo-yo. "No Lie."
9:59: 2 Chainz is SOOOO likable in person. Know that.
10:01: Waka. "Round of Applause."
10:02: OH SHIT. That part in the song that goes, "Round of applause, baby make that ass clap" and then has the two clapping sounds, those sounds have been replaced by red fireworks explosions. WAY BETTER. Drake is better at using Waka Flocka than Waka Flocka is.
10:07: "Marvin's Room."
10:16: "Take Care."
10:22: There are fireworks and flames and explosions and lasers and everything. Really solid, strong, fun stuff tonight.
10:24: Drake's talking about his show at Warehouse Live from a few years ago, says it was a monumental moment in his career. Then he rolls into his DJ Screw ode "November 18th" and the place just melts. Drake is the God King right now.
10:27: Meek Mill came out a minute ago. That's cool, I guess. What's better, though, is that it segued into Rick Ross coming out. Shit just got real.
10:32: Ross is doing "Stay Schemin'." Excellent.
10:41-58: Things have slowed. Drake is going section by section, area by area, talking to people in the crowd. I saw him do this at Verizon Wireless the last time he was here as a headliner. He was good at it before; he's unstoppable at it now. Super charming and funny. The three best moments:
To a woman with odd-colored hair: "Oh shit. Stop the music, stop the music. You got purple hair, baby? Only in Houston. [CROWD EXPLODES IN LAUGHTER] You're on that Toronto Raptors shit. That's like some Memphis, Tennessee shit...What's that? Oh, you're from New Orleans? That makes sense. [CROWD, LAUGHTER] You look good as hell, girl. Do you."
To a guy: "I see you in that blue shirt, man, doing the weird dance moves. I see you."
To a group of people sitting down: "I don't know if they told you you were here to see Think Like a Man or something, but why are you sitting down? Maybe you've noticed the trend? Everyone around you is standing up having a good time. Come on, man. [CROWD CHEERS, GROUP STANDS, CROWD FUCKING LOSES IT] Thanks."
I want to give Drake all of my money right now. So, so good. Fuck you, J. Cole. You're out again.
11 p.m.: "H.Y.F.R." UNDENIABLY BRILLIANT IN CONCERT.
11:02: That can only mean...
11:02:15: YES! "The Motto."
11:04: Ahahahahahaha. Some guy just broke out up onto the stage. Security rushed out and snatched him off. Aces. If you're going to crash a stage, I guess when the guy is singing a song about only living once (YOLO), that'd be the time to do it. Security didn't appreciate the irony, I guess.
11:04:04: P.s.: Drake did not look pleased. He stopped momentarily, probably to consider whether or not to mollywhop the guy.
11:07: Haha. Told you: "Shout out to that funky ass nigga that came up onstage. He's probably backstage getting his ass whooped. Make noise for him."
11:08: Last song: "Headlines." Fantastic show. Go home.
Personal Bias: I've always been a fan of oversized eyebrows.
The Crowd: Was young and old and all over the place. There's this ninth grader that lives four houses down from me; I saw him there. I was like, "What's up, kid?" He was like, "Who are you?" That's my life.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Look at this bitch." -- A woman, making mention of the lady in the dress that showed her vagina.
Random Notebook Dump: During the show, an effeminate man was arrested near the floor section bathroom. It had something to do with drugs. Have you ever seen a dainty man get arrested? That shit is endlessly funny.
Another Notebook Dump: While walking out to my car, a man snatched a woman's purse, right in the parking lot where my wife and I were. The woman shouted, "HEY! HEY!" at the thief.
Oddly, he didn't stop. The man she was with, a burly fellow, gave chase. He never stood a chance. The purse thief was lightning-fast. It was easily the fastest I've ever seen anyone run in my entire life. It was like a lion was chasing him.
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