Hip-Hop Legends Battle

Drake vs. Lil Wayne's showdown suddenly turns into one of Houston's hottest tickets amid stripper pole talk

Drake vs. Lil Wayne's concert showdown includes stripper pole fire

1 Drake and Lil Wayne concert September 2014
Lil Wayne and Drake in concert. Photo by Patrick Ryan
2 Drake and Lil Wayne concert September 2014
Drake goes aerial. Photo by Patrick Ryan
1 Drake and Lil Wayne concert September 2014
Lil Wayne on stage and on the big screen. Photo by Patrick Ryan
Drake and Lil Wayne concert September 2014 One of drake's entourage members / assistants makes him a juice from carrots, beets, ginger
One of Drake's entourage members makes him a juice from carrots, beets and ginger. Photo by Patrick Ryan
Drake and Lil Wayne concert September 2014 Backstage with Drake's childhood friends O.B. Brian and Ryan Silverstein
Backstage with Drake's childhood friends, O.B. Brian and Ryan Silverstein, both of whom appear in his videos for hits HYFR, Worst Behavior and Started from the Bottom. Photo by Patrick Ryan
1 Drake and Lil Wayne concert September 2014
2 Drake and Lil Wayne concert September 2014
1 Drake and Lil Wayne concert September 2014
Drake and Lil Wayne concert September 2014 One of drake's entourage members / assistants makes him a juice from carrots, beets, ginger
Drake and Lil Wayne concert September 2014 Backstage with Drake's childhood friends O.B. Brian and Ryan Silverstein

When the Drake vs. Lil Wayne tour was announced, I was skeptical of its marketability and doubted that ticket sales would be robust. I felt the combination of Lil Wayne’s general irrelevance over the past three years, Drake touring so heavily and the awkward video game treatment of the promotional materials  — Drake vs. Lil Wayne is sponsored by video game maker CapCom and is intended to illicit memories of the fabled Street Fighter series — wouldn’t excite fans enough to buy lawn tickets at $48 each and the cheapest reserved seats at $145 each.

My gut reaction initially proved correct as Live Nation ultimately had to offer discounts on seats in certain cities during the first leg of the tour. But my skepticism was erased by strong reviews of the show and the ticket sales soon followed.

 Wayne was the wise cracking senior and Drake was the humble yet quick-witted young star seeking to take over the master’s throne. 

Unsure of whether or not my schedule would permit me to attend the show at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion this Saturday, I decided to see the duo perform in the San Diego suburb of Chula Vista last weekend.

Unique Concert Format

Like many hip hop fans I have seen Drake and Lil Wayne multiple times but not in a setting where they were co-headliners, so I was interested in how the two artists would interact with one another and play to the crowd.

It should be noted that Drake has learned from his “mentor” Lil Wayne some very useful tactics for pandering to the crowd and getting them to participate and make noise. Whereas Jay-Z’s throne sits too high above the common man and Kanye goes on boring and irrelevant rants, Drake and Wayne are very skilled at making the audience feel as if they are part of the show and that they as performers, just as much as the fans, are there for a good time.

This genuineness was spoiled by the corporate messaging of the tour that directed concet goers to interact with the performers via a downloadable app (good luck getting a mobile app to work at a concert or sporting event) by voting for who was performing better and who was ultimately “winning the battle.” I understand the value of sponsorship dollars to large tours like this, but while the idea of Drake vs . Lil Wayne is very cool, the execution as a video game wasn’t very well done and ultimately didn’t speak to traditional fans of hip hop.

Hip-Hop's Changing Face

Perhaps the San Diego crowd was an anomaly, but I was surprised by how young it was. I make that statement in the context of having been to more than a dozen arena-sized rap concerts. There were a lot of kids smoking a lot substances only legal with a prescription.

While I was a little shocked that this younger crowd didn’t know the words to Weezy’s earlier mix tape hits, I wasn’t surprised to see them dressed head-to-toe in various “YMCMB” (the nickname of Lil Wayne’s record label "Young Money Cash Money Billionaires”) and “OVO” ("October’s Very Own" — Drake’s record label, a subsidiary of Wayne’s label).

 Wayne jokingly said he wasn’t going to be climbing on a “stripper pole” under any conditions. 

Today, fans can connect with their favorite artists 24-7 via social media and hip-hop stars have a unique power to influence the fashion of their impressionable followers — even when those fans don’t fully understand the meaning behind some of Drake’s most popular slogans and wording for apparel designs: TOPSZN, REGIME, and Dream Crew. Fans buy it up regardless of what it means so long as it is hard to get, overpriced and cool.

Music today isn’t about listening to music to connect to an artist and their emotions, it is about connecting with their lifestyle. Because of this shift in the fan-artist relationship, it is no surprise that performers do not concern themselves as much about record sales (since so many people acquire music for nothing or next to nothing) as they do making sure their music is helping sell liquor, sneakers, headphones and apparel tied to their brand. In this regard Drake is well on his way to surpassing not just his mentor Lil Wayne but also more long-time rap stars like Rick Ross, P Diddy and Jay-Z with extensive personal brands.

Rapper Games

While I not a fan of going to a rap concert where songs get started and stopped halfway through, I understand it is a necessary evil with two prolific artists so they don’t leave any song off the playlist.

In addition to playing (parts of) all their hits, the duo did a great job of playing their assigned roles. Wayne was the wise cracking senior and Drake was the humble yet quick-witted young star seeking to take over the master’s throne. It was fun seeing them be so playful between themselves and the crowd.

This interaction was highlighted when Drake the superstar he has become willingly climbed upon a floating stage to better reach the fans. Wayne jokingly said he wasn’t going to be climbing on a “stripper pole” under any conditions.

The show’s sound was good, the display screens were clear, and the pyrotechnics, outside of the backdrops of video game-like imagery. heightened the atmosphere. While both artists smoked marijuana on stage (maybe this only happens in the more pot friendly states) this was the first time I had seen Wayne without his usual Styrofoam cup. In the hip hop community drinking out of a double stacked Styrofoam cup indicates that there is “lean” (a mixture of soda and prescription cough syrup) inside. This is a substance that Wayne was allegedly addicted to — and one that resulted in multiple hospitalizations for the hip-hop star.

Bottom line is that both artists were in good spirits and in good health and it was demonstrated by their energetic performance.

Houston Concert Fever

The market for tickets for the Houston show has really taken off. If you scored a lawn ticket a couple of months ago when they were being discounted for $32 each, you will have a night of entertainment at a bargain-basement price. If you secured tickets for $350 each in the first 15 rows before the market took off you, too, are in for a great night without doubting whether or not you got a good value — you did.

However, now that lawn tickets are sold out and are commanding close to $90 each on the secondary market and really premium seats are fetching more than $500 each, the decision to go is a much tougher one. While we will never see these two artists co-headline a tour again (sorry Weezy fans, from this point forward Drake is the king and will not give that crown back to Wayne and Lil Wayne has accomplished too much to be an opening act) they will tour individually.

So if you are major hip-hop fan you should see this show if you can afford the ticket prices (but most real hip-hop fans secured their tickets before the market took off). If you are more of a casual fan, save your ticket budget for a future performance.

As co-owner of  The Ticket Experience, Patrick Ryan sees a lot of top concerts and sporting events.