I already wrote a review of the Drake vs. Lil Wayne tour, which stopped at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield Monday night, but here are a few thoughts and observations from the concert that didn’t make that review:
Best concert ever? When I searched the #DrakevsLilWayne hashtag on Twitter I saw an alarming number of people say this was the best concert they had ever been to. And my response to those people is: You need to attend more concerts. Yes, this was a good show, and Lil Wayne in particular brought his A-game. But the best concert ever? Please. Both artists have staged better concerts individually. Drake’s Club Paradise tour in 2012, for example, far outdid anything he offered up on Monday night. And I understand that the two rappers together pack an extra punch and fans were excited to witness the dynamic duo in action, but with cheesy video game graphics, a show full of stops and starts and Drake’s drowsy new material, this was far from the Kanye West pinnacle of live performance.
Silence on Ferguson: Sadly, there was no mention of Mike Brown (RIP) or the events in Ferguson on Monday, the day of the slain teen’s funeral. Deep down I figured this would be the case, but hoped against hope that Drake or Wayne would mention the goings-on there and perhaps hold a moment of silence. I mean, they had time to plug both of their new albums, and reportedly honored incarcerated rapper Meek Mill at their New Jersey stop. But I guess these guys only deliver shout-outs if there’s a paycheck involved. No time to speak on a young black male murdered by police, or the military-like occupation of a town protesting injustice, or anything that doesn’t explicitly increase the YMCMB bottom line. Just another sad reminder that as “down” as Drizzy and Weezy appear to be, they ultimately work for corporations, not the community.
Radio rap scares me: I avoid rap radio at all costs so I really don’t know what’s “hot” these days, but as fans waited for Drake and Lil Wayne to appear, a DJ spun what is technically categorized as music but should more accurately be categorized as propaganda. I didn’t recognize any of the “songs” or the “rappers,” but I did recognize the fact that they couldn’t get through a single line, much less a verse, without saying “nigga” or “bitch” and referencing sex, liquor, drugs or a fat ass. With all that’s going on in the world today it’s almost comical that rappers can’t find anything else to talk about, but it’s less amusing when you consider the influence these repetitive messages have on the psyche of listeners — and their beliefs about who black people are and who black people should be. I used to complain about radio rap in the 2000s, but I’ll take Nelly and Ja Rule any day over these corporate puppets and their toxic directives.
The young and the white: The crowd was overwhelmingly young — think teens and early 20s– and about 80 to 90 percent white, at least where I was sitting. There was a drunk white girl in front of me who appeared to be 20 and probably lives in a mansion in Wellesley. She knew all the words to every song and seemed most excited about lines like “pop that pussy for a real nigga” and “jump up on this dick and do a full split.” As I was leaving, a 16-year-old near me was trying to get the phone number of another 16-year-old.
You can tell a lot about an artist by their fans, and what the lack of diversity in terms of race and age tells me about Drake and Lil Wayne is that they are part of a larger trend in mainstream rap music, which is skewing younger and whiter as it becomes increasingly ignorant, party-oriented and faux rebellious. Yes, hip hop has always been youth-oriented and defiant, but it also presented a multitude of perspectives that fans could connect with as they matured into adulthood.
But it seems corporate execs have figured out that to gain a broad audience, rappers have to play to a white audience, and to play to a white audience, rappers have to present black images that whites have historically been most comfortable with since, like, the beginning of America: images largely related to blacks being ignorant, sex-crazed and/or criminal.
Now Wayne and Drake have skills for days, and Drake certainly puts a more sensitive spin on the typical rap fare, but nonetheless they indulge heavily in longstanding black stereotypes that have been used to entertain whites, to oppress blacks and to justify black oppression.
I doubt many people were thinking about the racial dynamics involved, or the implications of Drake and Wayne using the word “nigga” so freely in front of a predominantly white audience. And personally I wish I could just be at a concert and mindlessly enjoy it without thinking about what it all means. But I was thinking about what it all means, and what it all means, I think, is that on some level — beneath the glitz, glamour and video game theme, beneath the hot beats and anthems — Drake vs. Lil Wayne is just another well-produced, wildly popular minstrel show.