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Drake bests Lil Wayne at Amphitheater throwdown

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Conceptually, Drake vs. Lil Wayne is probably summer 2014’s most innovative blockbuster tour. Sponsored by video game-maker Capcom and designed as an interactive event, the show was packaged with an app, that allowed fans to vote to “power up” their favorite rapper to determine starting order. The app also allowed fans to score points through the night and eventually determine a winner. While a glance around the crowd didn’t show evidence that a majority of concert goers were actually using the app, it was a cool idea, introduced at the concert by massive street fighter avatars for each rapper kung fu kicking across digital screens that split the stage.

Warrior Lil Wayne with his menacing grill and wild flying dreds was a totally credible character. Warrior Drake, clad in ninja gear, was significantly less threatening. (Is he going to wrap you in his hoodie and auto-tune croon you to death?) Perhaps for this reason alone, the audience picked Weezy as the evening’s starter.

The NOLA rap mogul came out in fighting form, backed by a live band and spitting a ferocious version of “Blunt Blowin’” to raucous cheers from the audience. A couple quick clips later Drake hit the stage, clad in white and spitting “The Language.” The crowd seemed to explode. From there the show unfolded more as an electrifying live mixtape than an actual battle. The two rappers took turns quick mixing their hits. For Weezy in particular the instrumental arrangements from the band seemed to elevate his tracks, adding a heavy metal edge to songs like “Money on My Mind.”

In between tracks the rappers soft-joshed each other. Their banter follows a storyline that has remained consistent throughout the tour. Drake touts his new energy and current hits, Weezy reps for the classics. Weezy was clearly the superior fighter, but Drake was the better lover by a long shot and he leaned on his suave skills with the ladies to win him points throughout the night. For an emotional rendition of “Hold On, We’re Going Home” he rode across the crowd on a moving platform. Lil Wayne later derided it as a “stripper pole” but it undeniably endeared him to the crowd.

An hour or so in, the rappers faced off to trade verses and hooks, but even that didn’t come off with the confrontational fury of a real rap battle. However, the concert did deliver on its promise of a high energy throwdown. The two rappers performed for nearly two and a half hours with only a brief break for a DJ battle which saw the beat masters take turns dropping Texas classics to hype the crowd. The show built to an explosive climax complete with pyrotechnics and sonic booms. Lil Wayne put in a furious rendition of “A Milli” and Drake blasted back with his ubiquitous 2013 banger “Started From the Bottom.”

When the votes were tallied, it was a coup for Canada and the Toronto crooner won the Austin crowd, but clearly there was no bad blood. As both rappers pointed out repeatedly through the show, Lil Wayne discovered Drake and signed him to his Young Money imprint launching his career. In the end, the show felt more like a celebration than an actual battle, a reminder that Lil Wayne’s label has long been a dominant force in the world of hip hop and it has no signs of slowing down. As the concert was closing an amused Drake picked out a woman in the front row wearing a Lil Wayne for President shirt. She came up on the jumbotron, an older white lady with a homemade tee, grinning ear to ear. The whole crowd went wild in an enthusiastic cosign.