Drake, the recipient of much recent critical hype while his new album, Take Care, is out-selling everything else on the market, headlined Hot 93.7’s Jingle Jam last night at the XL Center in Hartford, cycling through about an hour’s worth of material with a full band behind him.
The music was complex and textured, with wave after wave of deep, pants-rattling bombs and shimmering Rhodes pads that repeated unusual chord progressions, providing kaleidoscopic beds for Drake’s rhymes. He’s a genuinely charismatic performer with a laser-beam presence, and he seems to pull that off without excessive flash (the set design took care of that). It’s hard to avert your gaze.
That attraction, I suspect, projects from the same center that landed him a role on a television show, Degrassi: The Next Generation, in 2001. But there’s also a cloud of introspection and melancholy that hangs over even his more patently absurd, memorable lines, like in the tender, stalker-ish “Marvin’s Room” (“I think I’m addicted to naked pictures / And sittin talkin’ ’bout bitches that we almost had / I don’t think I’m conscious of making monsters / Outta the women that I sponsor til it all goes bad”), that makes you wonder, incredulously: Dude, need a hug?
The women in the audience, to a person, thought so, and that presented some awkwardness. Drake repeated the chorus of “Every Girl” (“I wish I could fuck every girl in the world”) as he walked around the stage with a half-smile, and the ladies, many of whom seemed to still be in high school, chanted along.
Philly’s Meek Mill, the teeny bopper-ish quartet Mindless Behavior and, to a greater extent, Pittsburgh’s Wiz Khalifa, warmed up the crown, with Khalifa’s set lavish, lengthy and well-received enough to consider him a co-headliner of sorts. Smoky outlines of bongs and weed leafs littered the backdrop as Khalifa revved through crowd-pleasers "Black and Yellow," "On My Level" and "Cabin Fever."
"Who's got the best weed in the house?" Khalifa yelled out, before pointing to cloudy area on the floor, stage left. He just knew.