For one day only, US hip-hop royalty descend on London with Lil Wayne’s Young Money stars Drake and Nicki Minaj performing in Hyde Park. It is perhaps fitting, however, that even a bill as impressive as this cannot avoid falling victim to the unpredictable British Summer.
Both The Weeknd and Wiz Khalifa channel drug-induced spirit in their music and mid-afternoon sets. Wiz soon establishes himself as the loveable stoner out for a good time in a fun, if forgettable, main stage set. Performing his hits such as ‘Young Wild and Free’ with a relaxed energy and his trademark cackle works well, however a playback of Maroon 5’s single Payphone is a misstep even more superfluous than Khalifa’s own guest verse in said track. Across the field, The Weeknd surrounds himself in the same thick fug of smoke as Khalifa but chooses to lurk in the haze, not giggle in the mist. Drake’s Canadian protégé plies his three mini-albums into one fifty minute set that follows the path of his recorded output; sparkling in places and dragging interminably in others. Quite why Abel Tesfaye feels the need to interpret the sleazy late night paranoia of ‘Wicked Games’ and ‘House Of Balloons’ in the style of a pomp-rock band is anyone’s guess but even Bon Jovi would think twice about these guitar solos wailing around these narcotic lullabies.
Over on the main stage, Nicki Minaj is still in two minds as to whether she is a hip-hop lion or pop kitten, switching often in a set of mixed fortunes. It’s clear that whilst Nicki ‘Beez In The Trap’ she is doing it through brainless bosh fodder like ‘Pound The Alarm’ and ‘Starships’. Alarmingly, these songs sound worse live - thudding out from the poor sound system and sinking into the muddy floor below. ‘Super Bass’ aside, pop is really not Nicki’s strong suit as proven by a glorious run through her rap heavy guest verses for other stars. From repping Anna Nicole Smith through Trey Songz ‘Bottom’s Up’ to the still WTF? heavy turn on Kanye’s ‘Monster’, this is truly Minaj’s arena.
The first lady of Young Money returns during Drake’s headline set, again showing her ability to flip a song on its head with a cameo appearance. ‘Make Me Proud’ aside however, Drake’s set is marred by technical problems, rendering much of his eagerly anticipated set barely audible. Hyde Park is a residential area and the concerns of the locals are not to be discredited but it’s a worry that in a Summer which will see Rihanna, Blur and Madonna all passing through the central London location things can’t be turned up to an audible level from time to time. Soldiering on regardless, a returning Weeknd (thankfully sans guitarist) helps provide the highlight in Drake’s set with ‘Crew Love‘. Despite being rain soaked and cupping their ears toward the stage there is no doubt that the London wing of the Young Money team are indeed, loving the crew tonight.