There's really no way to talk about this decade in hip-hop without mentioning Lil Wayne's Young Money Entertainment: Already, Drake has gone three-for-three with platinum albums; Nicki Minaj is on your favorite blog daily (for stellar rapping and other more clickbait-y reasons), Tyga made 'Rack City,' the success of which continues to keep him relevant, and Wayne is, well, Wayne. No matter how many duds Young Money drop between big hits and no matter how corny Drake can be, they're consistently the most relevant imprint in mainstream hip-hop. Considering their success and the many mainstream rap bosses that occupy the label's roster, it's curious to imagine there's anything resembling competition among each other. Aren't they more like a conglomerate or a board of directors, all patting themselves on the back proudly? Those curiosities were put to the test this past weekend.
For Lil Wayne, his competitive nature seems very much alive. Last summer, out of frustration from not being nominated for a VMA or BET Award, he promised to work harder for his fans, even if it killed him—a particularly loaded declaration given his hospitalization in early 2013 for repeated seizures. Wayne has made good on that promise so far. His track 'D'usse' is reminiscent of his mixtape energy and, with Drake's help, he has a real hit in 'Believe Me.' With both being on "Tha Carter V," set to release in late October, Wayne seems to be shaping up for a real shot at a comeback. Seeing him give his all live at Jiffy Lube Live this past weekend, where the theme of the concert was competition ("Drake vs. Lil Wayne"), only intensified hopes of top-level Wayne returning. Obviously, people were losing their minds.
The energy was infectious. Just a little over a mile from Jiffy Lube Live, it was already clear that everyone in traffic was on their way to Drake vs. Lil Wayne. Suburban kids screamed out "I'm on oooonnnee!" and held plastic cups of alcohol while hanging out of their car windows. But before the co-headliners, we had to endure Drake protege and sub-The Weeknd singer, PARTYNEXTDOOR. His music, which at least has impressive production, didn't translate well live as he walked from one end of the stage to the other, allowing the recording to play for an extended part of nearly each song. Druggy fellow-Canadian R&B-er the Weeknd isn't much more engaging, but at least he has a compelling persona: He's too tortured to fall in love and does a lot of drugs and all of that. PARTYNEXTDOOR doesn't even bring that much to the stage; he seemed barely interested in giving a good show. After PARTYNEXTDOOR's weak set ended, he asked who was there to see Drake and the crowd screamed.
An animation started up on the stage's screen. On one half, cartoon Lil Weezy; on the other, Drake. See, because of its partnership with Capcom, this tour has a theme tied to the video game "Street Fighter," and fan interaction is encouraged with a tour app that prompts you to mash down a button that chooses either Wayne or Drake to go first.
In a matter of seconds, Wayne was chosen. He emerged from heavy fog (appropriately dramatic, like most fighting games) and started jumping around until he dropped 'We Be Steady Mobbin.' He introduced himself after the track and exited the stage while Drake entered on the opposite end. After hundreds of people finished their synchronized scream to welcome Drizzy, the beat for 'We Made It' kicked in and the audience exploded. Drake counted to three while the beat built up and as soon as it dropped, with stage lights flashing to its rhythm, the crowd went crazier. And while the volume never quite got back to that level, Drake consistently received the crowd's highest decibels. After 'We Made It,' he moved onto hits from his entire catalog ('Show Me A Good Time,' 'The Language,' 'Crew Love'). Wayne returned and countered with 'A Milli',' '6 Foot, 7 Foot,' and 'Go DJ.'
About an hour into the show, both Wayne and Drake had thrown a few friendly shots at each other. Wayne mainly touched on being a veteran in the game, while Drake still has something to prove. Drake's jokes were him sticking out his chest to Wayne, letting him know that he's old news at this point. While it was all for fun, there was clearly some truth to each of their jabs. Each has what the other wants: Drake is trying to cement his place in rap history while Wayne yearns to remain one of genre's main attractions, even though his career has shown signs of wavering. So, fittingly, the concert's closing segment was a blow-for-blow battle between the two.
The first part of the battle covered the two's best hooks. Drake did his hook from 2 Chainz's hit, 'No Lie,' and Wayne followed with his hook from Fat Joe's 2006 banger 'Make It Rain.' Drake clowned Wayne by telling him that the song came out back when he had a MySpace. It was cute. From there, they performed their best guest verses before going into individual hits. One of the best moments came at the end of Drake performing 'Hold On, We're Going Home' where Wayne came back on stage to hilariously sing along. What made Drake Vs. Lil Wayne such a great show was the rappers' showmanship. These were two superstars with nothing to prove, who aren't really in competition with one another, but gave us the illusion that something was truly at stake on Friday night.