Concert Reviews

Drake Was a World-Beating Jekyl and Hyde Pop Star in Dallas

With Future and DVSN
American Airlines Center, Dallas
Thursday, July 21, 2016

There is no time for apologies when exacting revenge. That message rang loud and clear as Drake appeared on stage at American Airlines Center Thursday night, rapping the opening lines to “Summer Sixteen” with the word "Revenge" boldly illuminated on a giant screen.

The snarling track serves as the namesake for the superstar rapper's sold-out summer arena tour, and serves as its mission statement.

The tour supports Drake's latest hit album, Views, the 29-year-old’s fourth studio album, which has spent 10 weeks at No. 1 since its release in April. While that may seem like cause for celebration, Drake continuously has made it a point to address any and all detractors who attempt to rain on his parade.

Meek Mill, Joe Budden and fellow Toronto resident Tory Lanez are his latest targets. The constant addressing of these rap beefs keeps Drake in an awkward limbo of a rapper constantly defending his top spot in hip-hop and an artist on the brink of musical world domination. The album itself is a winding and tiring road of braggadocio, introspection and smash-hit pop records leaning on his obsessions for Jamaican dancehall and U.K. grime. On Thursday night, Drake toed the line between a man hell bent on vengeance and being a pop star, masterfully delivering his wide-ranging catalog in carefully crafted pieces. Following “Summer Sixteen,” Drake continued on with a string of we-made-it anthems including “Still Here,” “Started From the Bottom,” “HYFR” and “Blessings.”

Yet, there was reason to apologize, and the Canadian rapper kind of sort of did just that: The show didn't start until 10:15, a full two-hour delay caused by production issues that left the tour's crew scrambling to erect the elaborate set. After the opening run of songs, Drake — facing the midnight curfew — asked if it’d be OK if he did just one hour. After a chorus of noes, the rapper asked if they wanted an hour and fifteen, an hour and thirty or two hours? The crowd let him know they wanted the full set they came for and Drake promised to deliver a “two-piece” for Dallas. He duly buttered up the crowd, claiming that Texas is a second home. “You are blessed to be from Dallas,” he said. Then, to make up for lost time, he jumped into a rapid-fire mega mix of hits that included “Trophies,” “No Lie,” “Versace,” “Pop That,” “I’m On One,” “Crew Love” and nearly a dozen more. It was an impressive run that put an exclamation point on Drake’s storied career, which still hasn't reached the decade mark yet.

Drake's set was certainly entertaining and the stage set up was impressive. It featured illuminated spherical bulbs hovering above the floor seats and moved in sync with the music in wave patterns to make formations like Drake’s signature No. 6. But the time constraints cast doubt on the inclusion of his supposed co-headliner, Future. Nearly an hour into the show, however, the Atlanta rapper appeared, joining Drake for the second half of their collaboration track "Grammys" before taking over for the next half hour. Future's mini-set was jam-packed as well, running through a number of hits from the half dozen or so projects he's released in the past year: “New Level,” “Same Damn Time,” “Fuck Up Some Commas,” “Jersey,” “March Madness” and “Wicked,” among others. The makeshift performance wasn’t ideal for a rapper who dominated hip-hop in 2015, but the infectious energy may not have been sustainable over his traditional set anyway. He and Drake then came together on stage once more to perform a few cuts from their celebrated What a Time to Be Alive mixtape, including “Big Rings” and “Jumpman.”

Then it was back to Drake to bring the show home, barreling past the midnight curfew in the process. "It's Dallas, Texas. I'll pay for it," he said, of any potential fines. He proceeded to deliver "Hotline Bling," One Dance" and "Controlla," the perfect examples of his blend of rapping and R&B singing. Shortly thereafter came "Back to Back," the ether-esque diss track.

That dichotomy of world-beating pop hits and scathing diss tracks is Drake in a nutshell: a rare talent who can be everything he wants to be, a man looking for petty payback and world-class pop stardom all at the same time.
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Mikel Galicia is a trap scholar, the softest writer on the scene and his photo game is jumping out the gym. His work has been published in Sports Illustrated, ESPN and every major Dallas publication.