When the “Drake vs. Lil Wayne” tour was announced, I figured it was just another clever marketing ploy. These Young Money artists share a label and a fan base, but I doubt anyone saw that announcement and didn’t immediately pick a favorite. Lil Wayne has been in the game a lot longer than Drake, so he’s got time on his side, but there’s no denying Drake has surpassed his mentor in popularity since releasing his debut EP in 2009. It could be argued that Wayne let the slippery sizzurp slope get the best of him after Tha Carter III, and while he was honing his Guitar Hero skills in front of an unsuspecting audience, Drake was able to stage a coup. Fortunately for everybody, it was a bloodless coup. The result being a meeting of the minds and various collaborations that found both artists bringing out the best in each other. The promoters of the “Drake vs. Lil Wayne” tour could have just played on that history.
Both artists have recently sold-out arena tours on their own. So the success of a co-headlining tour (even at inflated ticket prices) was guaranteed. But instead of resting on their laurels, the people behind “Drake vs. Lil Wayne” offered up something completely unique. Supported by the video game publisher Capcom, the tour was more than just a couple sets from a couple of today’s hottest hip hop artists. It was an event worthy of those inflated prices. The Street Fighter animation pitting the cartoonish avatars of Drake and Wayne against each other provided eye-popping visuals, as well as a fictional backstory to the battle. The multi-level stage was like nothing I had ever seen at Red Rocks. The full band augmenting the emcees added an element rarely seen at rap shows. The lights, cameras and pyrotechnics were those of a true rock show. The zip-line contraption that had Drake floating in midair was an over-the-top effect that had the women in the audience losing their minds. The rotating sets, which acted like boxing rounds, only to culminate in an actual battle with both artists on stage together, kept things interesting in a way that two full sets never could have done. The finale that proved them more lethal when they combined forces was the highlight of the night. And the fact that the whole thing was linked together by an audience armed with an app on which they could ‘power up’ their chosen fighter, made it a completely interactive experience…leaving the decision on who would wear the GOAT crown in the hands of those who came to see the show.
At a capacity of 9,450, Red Rocks Amphitheatre is about 1/3 the size of the other venues on the tour. Seeing artists in a smaller (but fully equipped) venue is usually a treat for concertgoers, but it doesn’t come without it’s issues. Ticket prices ranged from $65 GA tickets to $180 Reserved seats. The GA tickets were very limited though, so they sold-out instantly, leaving fans with two options — fork over quite a bit of cash and hope for a good show and good weather, or skip the concert altogether. Luckily for those who decided to chance it, the weather was perfect and the show was worth it. We ended up in the 5th row*. And that’s where we were when the audience decided Lil Wayne should take the stage first.
“I live it up like these are my last days
If time is money, I’m an hour past paid”
In a black hoodie, red cap and sunglasses, Lil Wayne started at the top — croaking lyrics at the crowd from the elevated stage like some sort of gangsta Muppet. It didn’t take long to establish himself as a master of the game with “Blunt Blowin”, “John” and “Steady Mobbin”. Then he politely thanked the audience (as he did after every set) and left the stage. Drake immediately came out as the antithesis to his opponent. Dressed all in white with a simple gold chain, looking like a college kid, Drake started at the bottom (stage) with “Draft Day”, “We Made It” and “The Language”. He didn’t leave with a simple thank you though, he needed to establish the tone first. Admitting Lil Wayne was his boss and mentor, he assured us he was going to “roast that muthafucka alive”. Wayne addressed any concerns when he came back out to give everyone a history lesson. “I heard this kid saying he was going to roast me alive. I’ve been doing this shit since he was in a wheelchair.” The Degrassi jokes continued through the set, as Wayne kept referring to Drake as Jimmy. There was also a lot of banter about hits vs. classics, as Wayne admitted Drake has more ‘hits’, but that he was lacking in the ‘classics’ department.
“Smoking weed under star projectors
I guess we’ll never know what Harvard gets us”
The boxing format went on for 4 rounds. Each artist upping their game in each round. The jokes were there, but as the night went on, the jokes were interlaced with more and more respect for each other. Everything about the Battle Round was in good fun. Verse after hook after verse — they took jabs, but never came to blows. In one breath they would credit their success to one another, and in the next breath, they would call each other’s songs “cute”. It was part hip hop show, part comedy, part roast, but it was all together one of the most entertaining things I have witnessed two rappers do…ever. After a short DJ break, they both came out for the finale. “6 Foot 7 Foot”, “All Me”, “Started From The Bottom” and “The Motto” were highlights, but “Believe Me” (a collab from Wayne’s upcoming album) and the final final “HYFR (Hell Ya Fucking Right)” were among the best performances of the night.
At the end of it all, they called it a draw. Supposedly Drake was 1 point ahead on the tour, so he left Red Rock with his 1 point lead. And although I went in as a diehard Wayne supporter, I believe the draw was fair. Who knows if the app really determined the winner. I’m guessing it might all be fixed and they’ll come out in a tie at the end of the tour. That would make sense. But as for their performances on Wednesday night, I think they proved that they both have their strengths and weaknesses, but they are better together. Drake’s smooth, sometime monotonous flow and crooning voice are the perfect remedy to Wayne’s quirks, alien persona and unintelligible lyrics…and vice versa. So the format of this show was perfect. It allowed the strengths to hide the flaws in each artist. It went on for 2 1/2 hours and there wasn’t a single lull in the set. People paid good money to see Drake and Lil Wayne battle it out. They got their money’s worth. At the end of the day, I believe that there were multiple winners. Drake and Lil Wayne were both honestly appreciative to have played the stage at Red Rocks. And they both got paid. The promoters and companies behind the tour will also profit from ticket and merch sales. We won as well. Those of us who were big enough fans of either Drake or Lil Wayne to have spent the money for the show were rewarded with one the best and most unique hip hop events I have ever attended.
* full disclosure, we didn’t pay anywhere near $180 to sit in the 5th row…we had a hook-up.
We Made It
Ride for My Niggas (Sky is the Limit)
Show Me a Good Time
Leather So Soft
Drop The World
I’m Goin In
0 to 100
Find Your Love
Hold On, We’re Going Home
How To Love
Bandz A Make Her Dance
Make It Rain
No New Friends
I’m On One
Who Do You Love
6 Foot 7 Foot
Rich As Fuck
Started From The Bottom
HYFR (Hell Ya Fucking Right)
* incomplete and some songs were partial performances