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Review: Drake’s 27th birthday concert in Toronto: Would You Like A Tour?

Look. This is dedicated to the Drake fans in Toronto (and wherever you came from to have the Would You Like A Tour? experience) who didn’t hear their favourite song from Room For Improvement, Comeback Season, or So Far Gone… but still feel like they are on top of the world through their unstoppable support of our amazingly inspiring brother: Aubrey Graham.

We’re here. It’s OVO O.G. Aubrey Drake Graham’s homecoming celebration. Air Canada Center. Rammed to bloodclot. On the born day of October’s Very Own: Wednesday, the 24th. Drake’s world, Drake’s world. Party times. Excellence.

Rather reminiscent of the early August/Caribana weekend summerjam of the year, aka OVO Fest IV, the Toronto massive came out in droves to support the biggest rap-star in the world today: Drizzy Hendrix. Now, welcome to: an ocean of pitch black and shining gold OVO shirts, special edition owl insignia Blue Jays fitteds, homemade Drake t-shirts, even, mothers with screeching daughters, hip hop heads from East of Scarborough to West of Brampton. 416. 905. 647. Every ethnicity imaginable. ‘Word On Road’ was in the building. Super models galore! The finest perfumes in the air. Maniacal tweens. Bewildered adults. Greedy scalpers. Hustlers, players and game-changers all coming through to the place to be.

Felt like Drake’s 27th birthday might be attended by around 26,000 friends and family members, by the way the venue was exploding with anxious and excited fans ready to celebrate the third-time’s-a-charm success represented by Nothing Was The Same. A new city has been crowned. A new artist is king. Hell, a new genre has been invented. Drake has taken care of Toronto. How do we thank him now? With love.

Those lucky enough to secure Would You Like A Tour? tickets walked into the ACC to find the stage set up to be subtle, yet stunning. Classic Drake. A marble-coloured polished O-shaped stage, supported with parallel platforms extending from each side, framed with a maybe-three-hundred-foot-long plasma Jumbotron behind, as well as a full drum rig, keyboards and turntables in the center of the circle… and, a unimaginably enormous circular metal bridge suspended from the ceiling (what the?! Wait for it…)

(Due to the most excruciating ticket experience of my existence, waiting no less than two full hours in line, I completely missed the performances of PartyNextDoor, Future and Miguel. But, I hear Miguel got his Prince leg-split boogie on. Big up, big up.)

Showtime. Lights. Cameras. Action. Electricity in the air rises intensely. An ominous bassline vibrates the entire stadium. The faint sounds of Whitney Houston sample playing forward and backwards kisses the ear. Curtis Mayfield’s words filter through first, as he offers: “If there’s hell below, I’ll see you when you get there. ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF?!” To which is obviously met with a wave of ecstatic excitement. The jumbotron screen lights up a deep blue. A rich orange. A light red. Each color flickers different as the unmistakable crackling snare for “Tuscan Leather” hits. From the top of the circle, a silhouette’d figure rises from the top of an elevated platform. You know, you know. Clad in basic black jacket, grey tank top and grey pants, Drake was at home, literally and figuratively, on stage, in Toronto.

“Coming off my last record/ I’m getting 20 million off the record just to off these records, n!**a: that’s a record!” Not bragging, just simply the truth. He slaughtered the opening verse, particularly placing prideful emphasis on “rap like this for all of my Borough n!**as!” which warmed up the Toronto crowd sufficiently until he said: “Started from the bottom/ now we here: n!**a, we made it!” which sent ripples of rejoicing pleasure through the entire stadium. A sweetened little downtempo exclusive remix of “Tuscan Leather” beat then dropped after he finished the first verse, as Drake sauntered to the front of the stage to get a good look at exactly how far he has come, and how far he has taken Toronto along with him.

He stopped center of the circle, and smiled from his soul.

Then, exactly on beat, dropped “Headlines.” Blaow. Survey says: still sounds ill as fuck. Crowd goes crazy as Drake spits “I might be too strung out on compliments/ overdosed on confidence/ started not to give a fuck and stopped fearing the consequence…” as he’s bounding around the front of the stage on pure audio adrenaline. The first bridge comes in, and he asks the crowd to repeat: “Money over everything, money on my mind…” four times, which they do enthusiastically, “now it’s something they know.”

Instantly into: those undeniably riotous cymbals and kickdrums for “Crew Love.” A modern Toronto soul music jem, nothing less. It’s the fucking rapture now up in here. “I gotta see if my city’s with me tonight! Y’all wanna sing this one?” *SCREAMS* And everyone sung along to “Crew Love” like they were possessed by the soul of Abel Tesfaye.

There are times when Drake’s lines resonate so much deeper, and when he said “the realest n!**as say ‘your lyrics do shit for me’/ I told my story, and made HIStory,” he said it with all the gravitas and truth that he couldn’t have fully imagined when he wrote those words. Amazing. (That being said, I didn’t quite expect too many guests tonight, and for good reason: it was all about the homie today. Go head, it’s your birthday, so we gon’ party like it’s your birthday, Drake.)

And the ladies screamed like it was their birthday when Drake took off his jacked at the end of “Crew Love” to reveal a tanktop underneath, as another mini-remix gives him a small break. Then, the brother asked how good Toronto was feeling so far as they responded ecstactically… because they could also hear the sweet vocal-sample-inflected beat for “Tuscan Leather” creeping back up and out the speakers! “How much time is this n!**a spending on the intro?/ lately I been feeling like Guy Pearce in Memento…” he spit with more force than can be heard on the album. And with it being many heads’ favourite song on the album, it was really fuckin’ nice to hear Drake bring it back again. “Life is sounding crazy/ 40 on Martin Scorsese/ and I wouldn’t change a thing if you paid me, man real n!**a, wassup!” It was powerful, amazing. (Oddly, he performed the first and third verse of “Tuscan Leather,” but not the extremely-impressive second verse, which he played in other cities on the tour. Hopefully one day, we get to see him perform the entire smash at once.)

He then stopped all the music to declare a moment of humble magnificence: “My name is Aubrey Graham. I was born on October 24th, 1986. And I just want to say this is the greatest city in the motherfucking world. So if my city is ready to get this shit started, make some motherfucking noise!!!” Welcome to the sound of chaos.

Then, those gentle scratching, throbbing tones came in. And the inspirational refrain came in: “I just been scheming on the low/ plotting on the low/ drinking on the low/ smoking on the low…” Everyone in harmony. Everyone who is bout dat life, which you know is nuff, nuff peoples dem. As one of the first real melody moments of the night, Drake didn’t disappoint. He delivered the same comfortable, fuzzy warm vibe that “Furthest Thing” creates on the album, precisely. Unfortunately, the “drinking/ smoking/ plotting/ scheming/ gettin’ money” segue came in which was exciting… until the phenomenal outro verse over that Jake One super-banger got cut short! You know the one: “this the life for me! My mama told me this was right for me!” Damn, that would have sounded amazing in the Air Canada Center. Maybe at OVO Fest…

Still, what better way to satisfy the crowd than with “Wu-Tang Forever?” Ladies loved it, and the brothers went off when Drizzy started spazzing on the mic with that blistering verse where he starts firing head shots about “when the competition ain’t in a position to reciprocate your energy” and all other that good-ass stuff he flips in that gully likkle verse.

The sounds of “it’s youuuurs” could be heard drifting off the lips of what seemed like every woman in the building, as that ode to pussy, Wu-Tang and Drake’s legacy hit Toronto hard. Next up, the sequel: “Own It,” where he serenaded the ladies with that slow jam funk. The next song was one the highlights of the night, a crowd-pleaser for sure. “Swangin” they said, as one. You know the one. But Drake may perform this song all over the world, it’s different this time. Especially when he says lines like: “I took Eglinton to 401 East End” which got the crowd energized crazily as he did “Connect.” Graciously, he added: “I’ll take 401 West, too!” at the end, he let the crowd know he had the city on his back by making sure to say “What’s up to my West End girls though?” which lit up the room even brighter. Giving shoutouts to the whole city, shouting out B-town to his connections in Scarborough, Drake went from East to West and all around, even saying “we could just keep going, even to AJax and Pickering…” And I’m even like “did this dude give a shoutout to Hurontario?” Ha ha.

It was playful and sparse, open enough for the fans to sing along with Drake’s sexual wordplay. I’m glad to see you got my album Nothing Was The Same, but tonight happens to be a special night for me. It’s my birthday so, if you want to party with me, make some noise! Perfect set up for the “don’t stop!” to “Pop That” to his red-light district coloured-stage, psychedelic sexy cartoons and visuals on screen, and an orgasmic burst of smoke streaming in the air at the climax of the song. Rick James would enjoy this celebration. On that note, the DJ Khaled joint “No New Friends” came through, all the Facebook-blocking critics screaming this year’s modern alienation anthem in complete unison, a moment too beautifully ironic to be fully appreciated everyone creating it. His pelvic thrusting, “brrrr-p!” adlib, and glee at spitting the line “if I had a baby mama, she would probably be richer…” all had the ladies in the crowd getting exactly what they paid for. Good times!

The next three songs consisted of a contemporary medley of popular selections from Would You Like A Tour? opening artist Future. He came out in a dark outfit and sunglasses, equally playful and serious about delivering his tracks with superstar level impact like Sir Aubrey. The combination was at first, explosive. “Bitches Love Me” is a smash record whether Lil Wayne is around or not, and these fine young gentlemen proved, through a ear-slicing, high-pitched wave of screaming passion, that yes, the ladies love them. Rolling solo for “Honest,” Future combined with Drake once again for the mob-starting gutter gospel prayer “Tony Montana,” then of course, he couldn’t leave the stage without reminding the ready and willing lady in the street freakniks in the audience that they have no problem hooking up with 2 bad women at the “Same Damn Time,” you know.

Spreading the shine to the next generation, he dropped the slinky funk of his A$AP Rocky collaboration, and insistently eradicated every intricate line of the verse, without no “Fuckin’ Problem.” You could tell Drake had fun rocking it, and the momentum became infectious.

When “The Motto” beat drops, you already know shit goes bananas. And it did. The comedic expression mixed with echoing force when he said “YOLO!” was priceless. Then, the down bottom lovers got the summer slam they been thirsty as hell for: “Versace,” which was performed at top-notch, slow-motion slaughter-rap style, exciting all. It was also humble of him to change the line “thought I was selling a million the first week, I guess I’m an optimist…” Hey man, you can’t be mad at the homie. And once the machine gun flow let off “…born in Toronto, but sometimes it feels like Atlanta adopted us…” heads went berzerk. It’s a line that will always get love in two locales at once. Drake’s far smarter than the average rap savage.

Brilliantly, Drake then used the O.G. Method Man’s vocal sample for the introduction of the next epic moment, as Tical’s Shaolin baritone shouted “Cash Rules Everything Around Me! CREAM, get the money. Dollar dollar bill, y’all!” Before the lushiously soft backdrop for “Pound Cake” got served, so Aubrey could articulate his cashmere thoughts. Was it just coincidence that the stage was awash in deep blue? Maybe, maybe not. But the slow-motion white lazer lights tracing perfect circles behind a front and center, Drizzy was foreshadowing something… but it wasn’t quite clear at first.

Then the music told us. “It’s not me, it’s you…” Immediate audience engagement occurs, as ladies and gentlemen join in singing “I guess that’s just the motion.” It that’s one of the best absolute fuckin’ songs of the summer, in my humble opinion. The vibrating magnetically attractive beat hypnotized the crowd delicately, as people harmonized along with the next level hybrid hit jam. Drake then let the drummer get some, as lights poured on the center of the circle while the skins man went ballistic for his percussion solo on the sticks. “The Motion” is a magnificent song to transform, proved quite well this delightful night.

Selection is a very strong suit of Drake’s, and his sequencing of tracks was nearly flawless this night. The crowd just kept eating up each next crack rock Drake cooked up. “Come Thru” obviously hit the sweet spot. Just from hearing it on the album, you know that it was going to make ladies cheer and singalong.

What could make this singalong better? Maybe some Jhene Aiko, perhaps? How nice of you, Drake.

The truly uniquely exotic goddess floated out in a white dress and began playfully singing with Drake, in a very touching and human moment where her voice even cracked slightly, only endearing her to the crowd even more. He took a seat on the steps as the background TV screen displayed exploding fireworks as soon as the Chilly Gonzales keys of “From Time” gracefully fell out of the speakers. Drake then put his heart on his sleeve and spit that sickness about his uncle and his mother, before Jhene came back in with “I love me… I love me enough for the both of us…” before Courtney from Hooters got her famous shoutout. Verse two was delivered with extra gusto before he spit “who you settling for, tell me who’s better than the boy, huh?!” as real fireworks exploded in the ACC towards the ceiling. Drake placed a gentle kiss on Jhene’s cheek before exiting the stage, and she carried the hook to the grand finale, adding some extra energy and emotion to “you give, but you cannot take love…”

“If y’all been with us since day one, make some noise!” And DJ Future the Prince dropped the original record, taking everyone all the way back to “Successful,” remembering when it was all a dream. Then the murderous organ grind of “It’s Okay” came in. Then… boom. “Over.” Works every time. “I know way too many people here right now that I didn’t know last year…” the crowd screaming every word. Then BOOM: “Up All Night,” motherfuckers. “Miss Me,” and “I”m Going In.”

The lights were mostly turned down when Future the Prince was dropping hit record history.

When they were turned on again, the stage was covered in a dreamy, flowing cloud of smoke, and there was a soothing tone emanating through the air. The cymbal clashes, and the unmistakable 80’s era drum shuffle and lover’s ballad boogie of “Hold On, We’re Going Home” comes forth, and the entire place rejoices. Drake emerges from the depths of the stage, in a completely new ensemble, a ‘Nothing Was The Same’ sky blue hoodie, with an aquamarine navy ¾ length accompanying short pants. The colours matched the vibe of the song and the mood of the moment, and screaming was inevitable. As was Drake’s request for the crowd to singalong, which of course he didn’t need to ask twice. “Cause you’re a good girl and you know it…” He let that shit ride out alllll the way.

It was dope of Drake to claim there was not enough anthems for Toronto. He mentioned Atlanta and other Houston as having their own anthems, and he lamented how the Screwface Capital needed one as well. Then came in that totally uncategorizable banger “Worst Behavior,” where Drake barked out the feelings of hip hop’s most slept-on city: “they used to never want to hear us… dun know!!” all the way to crowd-igniting breakdown: “b!tch you better have my money when I come for the shit like ODB!” Then the green lazer beams came blasting across the venue like they were targeting someone while the jumbotron screen was displaying a vibrant variety of wild and abstract images, introducing the subtle headshot to anyone near the top of the rap game as Do Right And Kill Everything unleashed: “I don’t know why they been lyin’/ but yo’ shit is not that inspiring!!” in that rapid-fire staccato that sounds so slick. Crowd was lovin’ it off, every fuckin’ wicked word.

Drake: “say what?!” Toronto: “Jealousy in the air tonight, I can tell….” “Oh shit!” Drake replied. What a unifying moment. Like fuck all y’all that ain’t down with what we’re doing over here. “Okaaaay, now you’re talking my language…” Even Birdman got his handrub-stunna-shotta shoutout at the end.

And when you hear that chopped-and-screwed vocal say “drop down, drop, drop.,” ladies dun know what time it is. It was the introduction music not only twerkers, strippers, pole dancers, video vixens, Worldstar models, bedroom mistresses, and sexy people of all types to get crazy sexy cool to: “305 To My City.” But the implementation of this sultry sound was actually the most ingenious use of the word “drop” that Toronto hip-hop history has ever seen. That arena-spanning circular cage and bridge that was suspended above the concert goers the entire night finally descended, slowly, like a lap dancer on the approach to a sexy customer awaiting their up-close moment. Bright white lights sparked up all around the metal contraption, as it finally made contact with the main stage, and Drake mounted it, turning the song into a serenade of the entire Air Canada Center. As he hovered over the audience and shouted out as much direct, visual, audible, person-to-person love and appreciation as he could manage. “I feel so much love, I wanna try and make everyone feel special up in this motherfucker tonight!”

He spotted a variety of fans, and friends, and gave props and acknowledgement in various hilarious ways. One of my favorites: “What up to you and your wife! Oh, that’s not your wife? Is that your girlfriend? I’m sorry if I fucked anything up…” Various fans wearing OVO shirts and other Drake lyrics on got a moment of eternal bliss if they got spotted by Drizzy. His high school teacher aka “the greatest lady in the world” was even in the audience, and he showed crazy crew love when he spotted 40, Boi-1da, and some other Toronto alumni. The left side, the right side, the middle, as much of the audience as Drake could communicate with, he did, sometimes succeeding, sometimes not. It was endearing to even attempt, and certainly unprecedented.

As the show began to feel like it was more than enough entertainment, Drake went a little crazy. “All Me” was one of the most truly surprising moments of the night, and an eye-opener for the ears that witnessed such a rare sight. Drake laced the grimy banger with his verse as expected, but unlike many other songs of the night, where he only performed one verse, this time, he let the beat rock (“…this is my favorite part!! Y’all ready?!” he screamed) before he tore the fuck out of Big Sean’s verse as well, straight acapella, with the crowd shouting along every line, simultaneously astounded at how dope Drake sounds doing Big Sean’s hype ass fuckin’ shit. Each intricate line of the flow was recreated flawlessly, and the intensity was impeccable. “I got 99 problems, getting rich ain’t one!” sure sounds logical from Drake too.

“That’s my city out there. Let’s go.”

Then, those little deep little pianos dropped. Probably the most memorable melody of 2013. It was time to take it all the way home to Forest Hill. “Started from the Bottom.” It was beautiful, the montage of Drake’s rise to this moment that played in the background of Drake rhyming his declaration of independence hit single. Haters across the world might have shit-talked Aubrey for the double-platinum Grammy-winning impact of Take Care, but when this song dropped? It manifested the prediction that existed in his album title , and it set the standard for modern hip-hop that nobody else exceeded this year.

He done made up a brand new flow never heard before on that shit. Now the world wants it. Welcome to T. Dot, motherfuckers!

And with champion emphasis, Drake shouted the last line: “I wear every single chain even when I’m in the house!” and danced that victory dance up the enormous circular stage for the last time. Big chune, done killed.

Fireworks. Explosions. Smoke. Lazers. Lights. Celebration.

And then Drake, in the silence, humbly giving the crowd one last special moment of connection. “…I’m at a loss for words. Thank you for making this the best birthday celebration of my life, Toronto!” as the entire Air Canada Center screamed in love and respect for Drake and all the higher levels of accomplishment he has set new standards for, across music history.

Just imagine, he’s the most successful hitmaker hip hop has seen thus far, and he just turned 27 years old. That’s how old Jay-Z was when he released Reasonable Doubt. Not one motherfucker on earth can’t knock the hustle of ‘Wheelchair Jimmy,’ ya dun know.

And finally: “I guess I’ll see you at OVO Fest!” the last imagination-sparking words Drake generously gave to the utterly satisfied Air Canada Center audience, as the last mists of smoke drifted away, and he stepped onto the elevator, and slowly faded to black.

No encore. Jam done. And well done. Truly.

The so-called Screwface is now just the Capital. Started from the bottom… now we here.

Toronto: we made it. Peace to OVO.

[Writer’s Note: We didn’t get the blessing that New York City did, with Busta Rhymes and A$AP Mob, as well as the debut of the Hit-Boy banger “Trophies,” but that’s understandable, New York City is also a special place. Toronto always wanted to be New York, and now that the biggest star in hip- hop is from Toronto, it’s funny… New York wants to be Toronto more than ever before!! G’wan, Drizzy.]

Written by Addi Stewart for HipHopCanada
Photography by HustleGRL

Addi "Mindbender" Stewart is a veteran member of the HipHopCanada team and Canadian hip-hop scene, and is currently located in Toronto.

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