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“Tonight before I came out here you asked me how I was feeling and, well, I feel like cooking somebody tonight,” Drake told the sold-out crowd at the Hollywood Bowl Sept. 22. “No, f—k that. I feel like roasting somebody tonight.”
The somebody in question was Lil Wayne, whose co-headlining tour with Drake is brilliantly presented as a Street Fighter-style rap battle that spanned nearly 50 songs and featured a dynamic ongoing back-and-forth between the two rappers. Lil Wayne, who smoked a minimum of six massive blunts onstage throughout the show, had his own retorts on lock. “Where the real Lil Wayne fans in this bitch?” Weezy asked the audience. “I stand on this stage for you and you know I been doing this shit since he was in the wheelchair. You know I can do something he can’t do and that’s take it back.”
In essence, that’s what the Lil Wayne Vs. Drake tour embodies: One rapper with a sizable back catalogue of classic rap songs that reach back to 1999’s The Block Is Hot and another who only recently cemented his status as a hip-hop hitmaker. It’s almost impossible to know who to root for in a battle that matches longevity with sheer chart power.
The show began after an impressive video intro that announced the battle (and revealed that “the prize is immortality”). Fans were asked to use the tour’s app to vote for which rapper went first. Wayne won and appeared shirtless, pants barely dangling off his waist, a huge tag still attached to his hat, on a platform on the stage’s two layered video screens to perform “Blunt Blowin’.” Afterward, the rapper yielded the stage to Drake, who bounded out in all white with orange and lime green sneakers to perform “We Made It” and “The Language.” The show continued as such, each rapper taking the stage to bounce through a few songs before offering his opponent the opportunity.
“Listen, I hear him with the jokes,” Drake said of Lil Wayne at point after Weezy continued to refer to him as Jimmy, his wheelchair-bound character from Degrassi. “But we’re in LA. This is my second home. I did not come to my second home for the jokes. I came to work and give you the hits.” True to his word, Drake unfurled “Headlines” before Wayne reappeared. “I know you have hits, brother,” Wayne replied. “What I also know is there is a huge different between hits and classics.”
Drake’s performance took on a variation of his recent arena tour, which hit Staples Center last November. He retained one of the key elements of his set, which is the portion where he leaves the stage to shout out various audience members and remind fans that he is still connecting with him. In this incarnation, the rapper climbed onto a small platform with a pole and flew out over the Bowl to call out people in the crowd. Which, of course, gave Lil Wayne plenty of fodder to make fun of Drake for his “stripper pole.” As much as the jokes flew (Wayne called Drake “Omarion in a costume” at one point) and each rapper got time to showcase their prowess individually, the performance was more about the power of these two artists together.
Lil Wayne sang the hook on Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” and Drake admitted, “All jokes aside, this is my favorite tour I’ve ever been on.” Toward the end of the set, the pair joined each other on the stage’s platform for a feature battle. Wayne announced that his theme was “Drizzy on the stripper pole” and dove into his verse on Juicy J’s “Bandz A Make Her Dance.” The back and forth seemed natural and spontaneous, like this wasn’t part of a lengthy tour where the duo unveil a similar set every night. It felt raw and in the moment, as if fans were really witnessing two rappers, one a mentor to the other, in battle. The banter was as impressive as the performance, although Lil Wayne may trump Drake in terms of witty zingers.
By the end, the rappers dropped the act of pugnacity and acknowledged their respect for each other. Drake called Wayne the “king of verses,” the “king of features” and the “best rapper in the world,” crediting his mentor’s longevity for his own recent success. Wayne offered Drake equal credit, noting that tonight represented the first ever rap show at the Hollywood Bowl in history.
But still, a winner had to be declared and based on the audience’s votes it was Drake. “I am selling my house in LA,” Lil Wayne shouted after losing. “I’m about to sell my house in LA to Justin Bieber so he can egg the whole neighborhood.”
For the four-song encore the video screens announced a new chapter in the game where the pair would join forces to become “Lil Wayne And Drake.” After they performed “The Motto” together, Wayne made sure to underscore the fact that both rappers have new albums on the horizon, his, Tha Carter V, coming next month. The show ended with a rendition of Drake’s “HYFR,” an explosion of energy from two artists who offered the crowd their absolute all for the past two hours. The real winner of the night was the fans, who got to witness two rappers at the height of their game propelled by the velocity of actually enjoying their own performance. The loser? Anyone who wasn’t there to see it.
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