[live review] Grading Drake + friends @ the Comcast Center #YOLO

Live rap can be a awful experience. In fact, it frequently is. For this writer at least, the risk is rarely worth the award. Best case scenario? You get impeccable CD renditions. And worst case, well, let's not go there.

But more so than with any other genre, hip-hop's transcendence is often birthed in the personal experiences of the beholder. And it's with this mindset that I opted to tackle Sunday's CLUB PARADISE tour stop. Because regardless of how well DRAKE's haughty ethos transferred to the live arena, I was going to let loose and belt "BITCH YOU WASN'T WITH ME SHOOTING IN THE GYM" louder than the hundred-or-so other times I had while driving around in my busted Jeep. And even though I had no misconceptions that a WAKA FLOCKA FLAME concert would be technically proficient, at the Comcast Center I would be free to "BOW BOW" along and shake my metaphysical dreads in time to the music. (This is inversely proportionate to how I generally listen to Flockaveli, sitting at my desk, mouthing the bows under my breath, and channeling my crunkness in a productive manner.)

Because this is a review and because an essay detailing precisely what 2 CHAINZ means to me is best served another day, I'm going to refrain from any further personal anecdotes and instead judge each performer using a rigorously weighted rating system that I devised about 15 minutes ago: Based on a scale of 0 to 10, with a high score indicative of that pristine precision referenced in the opening paragraph, like you just bootlegged that shit and popped it in the hoopty. And a low score being comparable to a Milli Vanilli-like blunder of epic proportions. Not to say unenjoyable, but an indisputable shit-show regardless. Ok let's do it.

2 Chainz -- 8 out of 10
It's not difficult to ascertain the man formerly known as Tity Boi's recent rise to ubiquity. First of all, he stopped referring to himself as Tity Boi. While 2 Chainz doesn't necessarily command respect, the move serves its dividends in the commercial arena. Second, his peculiar drawl is undeniable, especially when paired with the big-room spectacle rap that's currently dominating pop airwaves. Third, and somewhat related, the ad-lib chants that have become his forte of sorts -- most notably "Tru," "Turn up," and his own namesake, all extended several seconds for dramatic effect -- are damn fun to chant along with. Because shouting your own name is awfully difficult to fuck up, 2 Chainz delivered a too short (15-minutes was about all the allotted limit for each performer not named Drake) set that achieved its goal of turning up the handful of early stragglers.

Meek Mill -- 5 out of 10
Unlike 2 Chainz, Meek Mill does not possess any remarkable eccentricities. He's just a technically sufficient rapper who likes to rap about things that rappers typically like to rap about -- cooking crack, stunting hard, etc. His current aura can be attributed to Rick Ross, who utilized his Midas touch to resurrect Mill's career from a once surefire mixtape lifer to something resembling a Mase to Ross' Diddy. Except without the charisma, or the shiny suits. Every song I've ever heard from Mill has been largely forgettable -- save "Tupac Back," which I didn't even realize he was on until I just checked his Wikipedia page -- so I guess it's appropriately mundane that his set was also forgettable. He was rapping, that much is certain.

Waka Flocka Flame -- 1 out of 10
My above scoring is based on the fact that Waka only rapped about one out of every ten words on stage, with the rest being channeled over the PA system via his DJ, who started the set wearing a shirt and ended without one. Besides undressing, there was also a moment where Waka, along with his posse of bodyguards, ventured about 50 rows into the still relatively thin audience. His drummer, who apparently goes by the name Alien Warr, removed his snare drum from the setup and paraded around the stage with it. And Waka ran through "No Hands," "Hard In the Paint," "Grove St. Party," and a handful of other cuts that often make me feel that armed robbery would be a viable means of supplemental income. So despite the lack of attention paid to actual rapping, it was a spectacle and you can't ask for much more than that really. I'd like to think that when he comes back around town, in a headlining club-sized gig, I'll be in attendance. But I'm really not sure that my fragile heart could handle more than 15-minutes of comparable chaos.

J. Cole -- 8 out of 10
I'm not sure that I've ever heard a J. Cole song before Sunday. I mean, I'm sure I have. He's a famous rapper with ties to Jay-Z, and I'm a famous blogger with ties to Jay-Z. Our paths must've crossed at some point. But like Meek Mill, his entire existence is marred by nondescript banality. I'm not saying that every rapper nowadays needs a schtick, but merely resting on Hov's laurels is hardly a foolproof career move. To his credit, he played with a live band and did possess the stage prescience of someone who does this shit for a living. And the ladies loved him. So I'm just going to chalk it up to not being my bag, and carry on.

Drake -- 10 out of 10

Thanks to the aid of countless gifs and memes, you're probably aware that Drake is kind of a corny dude. Girls perceive it as confident masculinity. Guys perceive it as softness. But for the most part, it's just cheese. Not sure why I was expecting otherwise from Sunday, but that's precisely what we got. Lots of posturing, both before and after his shirt was removed. A near sickening amount of gratification for his peers -- both those in attendance and those who weren't. He brought out each of the night's prior performers for an encore of sorts, which was a cool look, especially considering his and Waka's recent collaboration, "Round of Applause," is probably the most ethereal piece of strip-club rap ever recorded. But the line has to be drawn when you shout out Weezy twice at the tail end of your set. Not only because you're setting the crowd up for disappointment when you don't bring him out as a special guest, but also because the adoration is nearing Birdman-Wayne levels of incestuous creepiness. Perhaps most strange however, was the final 15-minutes of Drake's set, spent pointing out people in the audience and giving them compliments. A good gimmick and somewhat comical, except for the fact that JAY-Z DOES THE SAME EXACT THING! Literally, the exact same move. The only difference is that Jay-Z spreads his adoration across the whole arena, attempting to reward even those in the cheap seats for properly losing their shit. Drake pointed out a number of ladies in the first couple rows that he'd like to fuck.

All this taken into account though, his live show coincides with his status as a newly minted superstar. Even only through two albums, he has the catalog to fill a 90-minute slot, and he's even able to pull off his sorta-rapper/sorta-singer thing to perfection in a live setting, surely not an easy task. And in one of the more bold concert moves I've witnessed in some time, he blew right through the 11 PM Comcast Center curfew -- a move that once got Pearl Jam banned from performing at the venue for half a decade -- informing us that he's got it covered.

Probably not an advisable move by any means, considering our state's strict guidelines, but you know, #YOLO and whatnot.

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