This Side of Club Paradise: Drake Invades Columbus

If pressed to describe the bus, I’d likely depict it as 2012’s answer to Soul Plane.  A high standard to live up to, indeed, but fitting— I was on my way to Club Paradise, Drake’s college arena tour with Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky, and ready to do me.

I made the conscious decision to leave my jacket unzipped, exposing the white/red YMCMB t-shirt (“too safe”, according to the person I was with) underneath, and exchanged knowing glances with others who had paid similar homage to Birdman’s clique.  I figured this was no different than wearing my Flip Murray jersey to a Cavs game.

The array of memorabilia for sale was one of the more compelling aspects of Club Paradise, and I swear that’s not an insult. Obscure items caught my eye, particularly shirts that read “TDE” ($35) and “WAVY” ($45), along with Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80 album on something called a CD ($12). Some Googling and Urban Dictionary-ing enlightened me: TDE stood for Top Dawg Entertainment, apparently DJing for the openers, and WAVY was a quasi-underground movement associated with a Californian named Max B.  Vegas just listed the over-under of combined TDE and WAVY purchases at 10—for the entire tour— and wouldn’t take bets on the amount of CDs sold.

Dusty McFly took the stage at 7:50 p.m. to a crowd of 3,000, and that’s a generous number.  Low in capacity but considerable in heart, the audience was quickly won over by the soothing sounds of “I’m Out Here”, in which Dusty derisively refutes the merit of anyone who doesn’t regularly dine at Benihana’s.  Actual lyric from the chorus: “If you ain’t eatin’ Benihana’s/ Get the fuck out.”  With my abacus, I tallied at least twenty-one individuals that subsequently fled the arena.  For good measure, Dusty ended his two song set with a piece that reiterated the idea of getting ass and getting cash, aptly titled “Get Ass Get Cash”.

A$AP Rocky ingratiated himself to the crowd by inquiring, “Y’all smoke weed here?” which, in a shocking turn of events for a college campus, received a resounding applause.  His next bit of probing—“Ain’t Bow Wow from here or something?”— didn’t resonate as well, but I let out a few hearty cheers.  The man to my right scoffed my reaction, as if to say, “Are you really that proud that Bow Wow is Columbus’ claim-to-fame?”  I looked directly at his pretentious face: “HYFR I am! Didn’t you, like every child of the early 2000s, spend countless hours in your driveway shooting hoops to the Like Mike soundtrack?”  That shut him up pretty good.

At this point, everyone except Mrs. McFly was anticipating Rocky’s performance.  To my disdain, he proceeded to showcase his entire crew.  And by entire, I mean I had to bring out the abacus again just to categorize everyone:

  • 12 hype men scattered across the stage whose job solely consisted of raising both arms up and down, feigning a sense of excitement.  I started to call them “LRMR” because they rode Rocky’s coattails to wealth while possessing the qualifications of a sixth-grader.
  • 5 guys (one amusingly wearing a trench coat) given microphones to spontaneously bellow phrases such as “SWAG” and “Slurp the Purp”.  These were the unsung heroes of the show, increasing the comedic value of each song by thirty thousand hundred million.
  • 2-4(?) actual rappers.

The A$AP conglomerate got the crowd rocking with “Pretty Flacko”, which contrary to popular belief, is not about an AFC North quarterback, and followed it up with “Peso”, my favorite song ever about Mexican currency.  Unfortunately—reminiscent of LeBron circa 2007—Rocky was too focused on passing to the Donyell Marshalls and Damon Joneses surrounding him rather than simply doing him.

Evoking his Gregorian predecessors, chants were a key theme of Kendrick Lamar’s set.  “I’m going through something with life,” Kendrick confessed, “But pussy and Patron will make you feel alright,” the crowd was instructed to reply.  Though I can personally vouch for the aforementioned P&P treatment method, requiring such massive audience participation was a mistake for an opener and left everyone disinterested.

The dreaded thirty-five minute intermission followed, and I deliberated buying a WAVY sweatshirt just to see the perplexed look on my roommates’ faces when I wore it.  (For those wondering, I decided not to.)  Finally, Drake came out, and the real show started as he began to make small talk with the audience.

I decided to keep tabs on the amount of times he used the phrase “fuck with”.  His record for one sentence was three: “If you fuck with me, and fuck with the teams I fuck with, then we’re about to have a great time CO-lum-BISS O-hi-O.”  You can check the accuracy of my phonetic spelling at 0:32:

(Semi-important side note: Listen to Drake justify his “it feels great to be home” comment.  I was skeptical when I initially heard it—Drizzy came of age in Toronto, spent time in Memphis, and has no connection whatsoever with Columbus outside of touring— yet at the end of the intro, I was thoroughly convinced that every relevant moment of his life went down in the 614.)

As the analogy goes, Hank Aaron/Barry Bonds* is to the single-season home-run record as Drake is to the single-sentence “fuck with” record.  However, I encourage my readership to challenge this number.  At the very least, more “fuck withs” will be dropped in casual conversation, and that’s a cause anyone can get behind.

Three highlights from Drake’s portion of the show:

  1. “Uptown” will always be his most anticipated song in Columbus just for “I see all this money through my Ohio State Buckeyes.”  The buildup to this line became palpable as soon as the crowd realized what was up.  As an added bonus, he followed “Uptown” with “Stay Schemin’”.  When it came time for “Bitch you wasn’t with me shooting in the gym” (a reference to Kobe Bryant’s recent divorce), Drizzy implored the crowd to join in and received an emphatic response.
  2. Drake took time to shout-out various audience members, and hilarity ensued.  He poked fun at a man with glasses by saying, “You might not be able to see me (laughter), but you can hear and that’s all that matters.”  He called BS on someone with a knockoff OVOXO shirt, but assured him that “we good”.  One chick held a sign boasting of a backside thicker than Nicki Minaj’s; Drake demanded that she turn around for some visual proof.  “I may have to give that an ass-stamp later,” he noted.
  3. The crowd, embodying the YOLO spirit, went craziest for “The Motto”.  In an act of good faith, Drake allowed Lil’ Wayne’s verse to play in full.  This made me excited purely for the chance to say “Skeet, skeet, skeet: water gun” in unison with 20,000 other people.

I didn’t think much of the announcement made after Club Paradise promoting the official after-party at Long Street— I assumed Drake, Kendrick, and the A$AP gang had to get back on the road and would no-show.  Not only did they come, but they jammed out to “Sloppy” (a classic for all my Clevelanders out there) in the process!  You can’t make this stuff up.

In case of the off-chance that someone in the VIP section of Long Street’s “Official Drake Show After-Party” wasn’t aware that Drake, in fact, was the night’s guest of honor, he took it upon himself to acquaint with the masses: “I go by the name of Drizzy Drake, in case you didn’t know.” How courteous.

Matt Borcas