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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

September 7, 2010 at 9:43 AM

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Bumbershoot 2010 day three notable act: Drake

Posted by Andrew Matson

Bumbershoot 2010 is over. The most notable act I saw on the final day of the three-day festival was Drake.

The Seattle Times' full Bumbershoot coverage is here, laid out artist by artist and including video interviews with Wheedle's Groove, Anvil, J. Cole, Visqueen, The Physics and Fatal Lucciauno.

drake05Click photo for gallery; photo by Genevieve Alvarez/Seattle Times

Biggest bummer of Canadian R&Bemo sing-rap superstar Drake's Memorial Stadium set at Bumbershoot:

The cliché stadium rap band.

For those not in the know, a stadium rap band is a team of hired musicians grafted onto arena performances of famous rappers' songs, the idea being that running pre-existing tracks directly through an arena's speakers isn't enough, or that an arena audience needs a more concrete visualization of music being made onstage than a DJ can provide. It's a rockist concept, and enforces the idea that when rap really gets serious, it becomes rock.

Prejudiced concept aside, the manifestation of a stadium rap band is almost never successful or tastefully done, almost never like having The Roots play with a rapper (a la Jay-Z's unplugged album).

It's almost always like what happened at the Drake concert last night, where tumbling, echoing drums stampeded over drum/bass programming from pre-existing backing tracks, and — no joke — "Purple Rain"-style flying V guitar solos appeared out of nowhere, executed behind the head of the guitar player.

Drake's stadium rap band made Kanye West's "Show Me a Good Time" clumsy and busy when it should have sounded more like it does on record, lilting and subtly choppy, and the star-making "Best I Ever Had" had its winning melodies (produced by Boi-1da) completely obscured by echoing kicks and toms. Drake didn't assist in bringing any tunefulness back, opting not to sing most of his choruses.

Instead, he seemed most excited about rapping — not his strong suit, content-wise, but at least he was clearly understandable — and also swearing and women.

I watched moms and dads with kids look around worriedly at the people surrounding them on Memorial Stadium's astroturf, waving cigarette and pot smoke away from their noses, considering whether to move to the stands or not, wincing whenever Drake yelled curse words into the microphone, which he did often, like he'd just discovered swearing.

He treated women like he'd just discovered them, too, and advanced his already bi-polar sexual persona — "I want a hooker" VS. "I need love, I really do" — to the point where it put a noxious vibe in the air.

Almost everyone in Memorial Stadium knew every word to every song, and it was impressive how many hits 23-year-old Drake already has, considering he's released just one official album and a handful of freely downloadable mixtapes. The fact his fame is tied to the Internet indicates he's a new breed of popular rapper. Some of the tired ideas on display at his Bumbershoot concert suggested otherwise.

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