Drake is impressive without seeming to have fun

Drake was impressively haunted at Camden's Susquehanna Bank Center. MATT SAYLES / Associated Press
Drake was impressively haunted at Camden's Susquehanna Bank Center. MATT SAYLES / Associated Press
Posted: June 11, 2012

There's something not quite right about Drake.

The 25-year-old Canadian hip hop sensation went multiplatinum with 2010's Thank Me Later and his recent Take Care. His multi-rapper show on Saturday at Camden's Susquehanna Bank Center, performed under the umbrella concept of Club Paradise, was packed with rabid fans.

Drake should be enjoying himself, right? He talked up going to that Club, meeting ladies, getting drunk like his daddy and uncles once did (?!) on anything that was liquid. But from the dissatisfied melancholia drifting through Take Care and the manner in which he carried himself, Drake seemed to be carrying the weight of the world on his athletic shoulders.

Striding across the wide stage with a mood-ring show of dark blue-hues and lightning bolts, Drake announced every plea in a clear sing-song-y baritone. Through the ambient/house swell of "Lord Knows" (his cold ballads sound oddly like arid tracks Bjork or Peter Gabriel would use) Drake seemed boastful but remorseful, as though apologizing for his wealth and stealth.

Drake's smiling visage held an uncertain sadness, as though nothing could fill the hole in his heart. "Never thoughts of suicide/I'm too alive," he calmly intoned through the aggressive rhythmic twitter of "We'll Be Fine" before finishing that thought — "I still treat it like it's do or die."

When Drake talks about Club Paradise, he can't help but fuss about the smallest of troubles he'll encounter: having his elbow knocked in the men's room, getting stared down by another guy. Rarely do you find a rap artist admit grappling with issues of stature.

Misery loves company, so Drake had pals in on the glorious un-fun: the not-too-charming 2 Chainz (who did indeed wear two chains), the wildly entertaining Waka Flaka Flame, and Philly's Meek Mill, who helped Drake with the misty "Amen" before barking out his own pop-hop cuts like "House Party" and "I'ma Boss."

But Drake was at his best all alone. Take his swaggering vocal through the slow epic "Marvin's Room," which portrayed the MC/singer's every raw nerve. This wasn't hip hop. This was haunted-hop. Impressive.

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