FOR ALL HIS questionable qualities, give Drake credit for his stacked Would You Like a Tour? ... uh ... tour. Those wanting to check in on the world of mainstream rap, R&B, and the ever-blurring lines between the two can't do better than the lineup of this rolling riches 'n' romance revue: singsong rapper Future, scorching soul man Miguel, and Drake, who's suddenly the biggest rapper to come out of Canada since Snow.
Would You Like a Tour? started rockily after its scheduled kickoff was delayed a few weeks (originally scheduled for September 25, the Portland date was supposed to be the tour's opening night). And three days before the tour began, Future was dropped from the bill briefly because of a beef with Drake, and then re-added. (The news broke at the perfect time, publicity-wise, it should be noted.)
Though he resides at the bottom of the bill, it'd be a shame if the tour were missing Future, an Atlantan who broke through last year on the strength of Pluto, his commercial debut. In a genre evolving at light speed, Pluto feels like a shift into hyperspace. Future—his measured, marble-mouthed croak Auto-Tuned to the hilt—sings about UFOs, Anakin Skywalker, "space rockets," and his beloved astronaut chick: "I wear my heart on my sleeve, you got my heart in my stomach/Without a doubt in my mind, I'm takin' off and you comin'."
If Future is the cosmic prince of pop-rap, Drake rules planet Earth. One difference between the two is that Drake—a toothy former child actor and Degrassi: The Next Generation cast member whose real name is Aubrey Graham—can more or less sing, as heard in "Hold On, We're Going Home," the glossy hit from his third studio album Nothing Was the Same.
The merits of both Nothing and Drake are up for debate; the former is uneven, the latter a fascinating mix of repellant and relatable. But Drake's legacy is established: He is the first rapper to ride emotional vulnerability to superstardom in a sphere that has traditionally rewarded stone-faced self-confidence. (The unfair and unflattering role Drake's romantic partners often play in his songs is a worthy discussion for another day.)
And then there's this show's middleman, and odd man out stylistically: Miguel, whose Kaleidoscope Dream was one of the best albums of 2012. The powerhouse singer is a more traditional R&B artist, albeit one with the skills and aesthetic inclination to give the genre a thoroughly modern makeover. His irrepressible passion might be Miguel's best quality: Every song on Kaleidoscope Dream sounds whispered into your ear at point-blank range.
You see, Miguel is a master at taking great songs, pouring himself into them, and making them smolder, whereas his Would You Like a Tour?-mates tend to detach themselves from their tunes through lyrical incongruities and insentient production. Both Drake and Future are frequently lauded for their sincerity, but too often, it's sincerity of the straw-house variety, the kind that collapses under scrutiny.
There's no question that we are smack dab in the middle of Drake's moment, and that Future is primed for a big 2014. But here's hoping both are occasionally watching the set they're bookending night in and night out, and learning something from Miguel, whose music is made of bricks.