By Jeremy D. Larson
“I think he’s going to bring out Nicki,” said four different Drake fans when asked what they expected Drake to do at Governors Ball. This is New York, after all, the city that gave us Nicki Minaj, hip hop, and other things of decreasing importance. This is also the headlining rap set at Governors Ball Music Festival, one that has historically been an autonomous champion of the name on the marquee, not a celebration of the various stars that might be around. “Historically” also means “since 2013”, which is the first year Gov Ball put a rap headliner up, and it was Kanye West, whose own megalomania cripples the very definition of the word.
Of course, Kanye’s show at Gov Ball in 2013 was one of the most memorable live shows in music festival history. He debuted three or four songs off his yet-uneard Yeezus album, and the entire audience was left wondering if Kanye had sampled Marilyn Manson or had gotten really into noise music like Pan Sonic and Whitehouse. Kanye’s set was a spectacle. He was equal parts hype-man and focused performer, obfuscating himself and doing more than 50% of the show on a platform in the middle of the crowd hidden from all of the stage lights. Kanye didn’t need anyone else.
Then it was OutKast‘s victory stroll in 2014. There were some faint expectations for them to roll out the red-carpet for some New York guests, but with the exception of Killer Mike’s cameo on “The Whole World”, the ATLiens went through a snappy, seamless, and altogether decent mixtape of their career without the help of anyone. The crowd really loved “Hey Ya!”
And now we have Drake, a guy whose entire songwriting career is based on the idea of friendship. For Drake it’s f–k a fake friend, no new friends, why can’t we be more than friends, we should maybe stay just friends. The key to understanding Drake is that he’s not that he’s some soft, sensitive and inexplicable meme, it’s that friendship is the metric by which he measures every facet of his life. Drake is not about love and death, he is about the pillowy path of least resistance in between those things.