REVIEW: Drake & Future's 'Summer Sixteen' Concert At MSG Was The Precedent Of The Future Of Rap

By Isha Thorpe

August 12, 2016

August 8, 2016 was the day that Drake and Future forced me to critically analyze the current state of hip hop and rap; and where these two things were headed, in the very near future.

The Debate

The day started out as usual. I woke up, went to work, published some of my usual fire hip hop and R&B news stories for iHeartRadio…you know, the usual. But, something different happened later on in the afternoon. A colleague of mine, Bilal "Blogzworth" Morris, 32, and I, 24, were discussing something about rap when a younger perspective came into the mix: iHeartRadio intern Jose Angeles, 20.

He was adamant about telling us that younger hip hop artists today who make more “turnt” music should still be respected as talented rappers. Opinions were flying back and forth, and before you knew it, it was a full-out debate: Bilal & I versus this college student.

LAST NIGHT AT THE GARDEN 🌲🌿🌺🌻🌷🌹🌳

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Drake’s Performance

So, when I arrived at the “Summer Sixteen Tour” concert at Madison Square Garden in NYC later on that day, this debate was still very fresh on my mind. It wouldn’t dawn on me until the show actually started that I was literally standing in an enormous arena where I was going to be smacked in the face with live performances showcasing both sides of the argument from earlier—and for hours straight.

Unless you’re completely out of touch with American (and Canadian…and worldwide) society, you know that Drake is an incredible recording artist with multiple accolades in music. So, of course he started the show off on a great foot as he busted straight onto the stage by spitting bars off of “Summer Sixteen.” From there, he went to rap some of his old hits like “Headlines,” “Trophies,” “Worst Behavior,” “Energy,” “Back To Back,” to name a few. From day one, Drake has been a dope wordsmith that drew you into his music with hot lyrics and effortless flow.

As the show progressed, Drizzy got into some of his more recent hits like “One Dance,” “Controlla,” “9,” and more. And not surprisingly, he had the crowd – me included – on our feet, praising him, the 6ix God. Not only do Drake’s fans know how much of a dope rapper he is, but so do well-respected heads in the game who always give him his props for always doing his thing on the mic. From his no chill punch lines, to his wordplay and hidden; secret-coded lyrics that require thought to break apart and decipher, Drake is one of the realest in the game right now -- I predict that he will be for a very long time to come.

@troubleman31 legendary at the garden #S16

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Future’s Performance

Then, we have another reigning hip hop figure in the industry: Future AKA Future Hendrix. Now, his flow and overall musical swag is completely different from Drake’s. His music is more on the “turnt,” party-vibed, trap feel. He doesn’t rap the same type of bars that someone like Drake does, but don’t get it twisted, he’s still an upcoming hip hop king like Drizzy, but in a completely different way. When Future was performing his hits like “Wicked,” “Low Life,” among others, I could’ve sworn that the entire arena was shifting left and right, and the floor beneath was going to collapse. This guy’s music put the audience in a completely new, energized mood than Drake’s music did. Not a more energized way, just a different one. “It’s like a vibe. It puts you in a certain mood, it’s kind of aggressive, but it still sounds good,” Jose later told me when I asked him why he liked turnt music like this. “It makes you want to Dab and move.”

However, though Future is one of the hottest people in rap right now, many older fans of the genre are hesitant to give him props. Why? It’s because he isn’t spitting like rappers they grew up on, who Drake reminds them of. In his music, Future doesn’t spit a hot 16. Instead, he focuses less on structures of verses, and more on production vibes and catchy hooks. Many people who grew up on rap – and were even blessed to witness its “Golden Age” – are used to this music sounding a certain way. So, they aren’t quick to jump on this new (sound) wave.

“My personal definition of rap would have to be writing and understanding the science of how to make words play on beats, play on cadence, and bars—16 bars,” Bilal revealed to me. “To me, if you don’t have 16 bars, it’s not a rap song.”

He added: “I don’t want to say that one is more credible than the other because I do think that we do need to recognize that it is hip hop. But as far as rappers are concerned, I do think that a J. Cole or a Drake is a more credible rapper than a Future or a Lil Yachty, or all these young boys coming up now who don’t think about the science of writing bars. The science of rapping raps, it’s more just about how you feel, which is cool. But, it’s just not rap.”

It’s pretty interesting that many – like Bilal – feel this way because Future is making a name for himself in rap. The artist even recently became the quickest rapper to have three #1 albums in a single year. Reaching this milestone definitely means that the music Future, and others like him are making are not only considered rap music, but dope rap music that’s sticking to the culture faster than ever before.

Jose recalled a time that an older person told him she didn’t like this generation’s rap, at a BBQ. “They were playing cookout music like 2pac, the calm stuff. And then when I played Migos and stuff, she’s like ‘Oh my God, what is this? It’s so many cursing.' And she’s like, ‘Oh, this has no meaning to it,’ he told me. “And I’m just like, ‘No, you’re just old.’ Not old in terms of age, but she’s not up to date with what the millennials, in our generation, are listening to.”

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99 Questions...

So, as I’m watching Drake and Future, these two completely different types of hip hop figures kill it onstage – and being unconditionally loved by their fans in different, but equal ways – I start to wonder more about hip hop’s future. Without warning, so many questions start crashing into my mind and I can’t seem to stop them:

Are they both hip hop?
Are they both rap?
Is one more rap than the other?
How is rap and hip hop going to look in the next 5, 10, 20 years?
What is the true definition of rap? Is there even one?
Should rap become more categorized, to keep certain artists in their respective sub-divisions?

The fact that Drake and Future also brought out surprise artists like A-Boogie, Cam’ron, Juelz Santana, T.I., Fat Joe, Remy Ma, and J. Cole didn’t help me break down all of these questions, either. These unannounced guests all fell in lanes in rap music, of their very own. A-Boogie is an upcoming rapper who’s makes light, fun music; Cam’ron and Juelz are more of the cool, lady’s men, street artists; while T.I. switches back and forth from trap to spitting clever metaphors in his rhymes. Fat Joe and Remy are more along the gangsta flow; while J. Cole’s music is a part conscience, part feel good, with 1990s story-telling flavor.

Defining Hip Hop and Rap

Let’s break things down, one step at a time first, before I reveal my conclusions.

First off, let’s define hip hop and rap. Britannica defines (I’m not lying when I say that first 20-30 definitions I saw on the internet were absolutely terrible) this as:

“A complex culture comprising four elements: deejaying, or 'turntabling'; rapping, also known as 'MCing' or 'rhyming'; graffiti painting, also known as 'graf' or 'writing'; and 'B-boying,' which encompasses hip-hop dance, style, and attitude, along with the sort of virile body language that philosopher Cornel West described as ‘postural semantics.’ Hip-hop originated in the predominantly African American economically depressed South Bronx section of New York City in the late 1970s.”

So, as you can see, the genre of rap comes from the culture of hip hop. Many people use these two terms synonymously and many people are very wrong. Hip hop and rap are not the same thing. Instead, the culture gave birth to the type of music.

With this knowledge, we can now answer my first two questions. Yes, Drake and Future are both hip hop and yes, they are both rap. Easy enough, right? But then…here’s where things can get tricky.

The Deeper Breaking Down (and I don't mean the dance)

Is one more rap than the other?

Remember, the genre is about MCing and rhyming. According to one of the greatest to ever touch the mic, rap vet Rakim, “An MC is a little more witty with his word craft, a little more intricate with the vocab.” So, Drake definitely fits this bill. Now, Future doesn’t have many intricate lyrics, but he does have rhymes in his music. This means that he can still be considered a true rapper, but just not an MC, which is fine. This perfectly brings me into my next question: how is hip hop and rap going to look like in the coming years?

Different types of rappers are making different types of music every single day. There are ones like Drake, who was giving fans in MSG life with his words, to the ones like Future, who murked fans that night with his turnt up beats and dance moves. Is it even possible to have any idea how the culture and music will look like in 5, 10, 20 years? And with this thought, even the definition of rap, itself, can be altered in the next few years, to fit the times.

Think about it. Rap has never stayed the same for very long. In the 1980s, rap lines were far from complex. Overall, they insisted of a simple AA, BB rhyming patterns. As the 1990s came, rhymes became witty with punch lines, wordplay and harder beats. Soon after, gangsta rap became a thing and before you knew it, rap made a quick swift again. With all of these changes, Bilal suggested a rather interesting way to help structure the music. He believes that more sub-divisions in rap should be implemented.

“When it was rock music, when those people got a certain age and the younger people came in, they were like; ‘No, this is rock’ and the old heads were like, ‘No, this is rock,’ he said. “But then, it became separated. You got Classic Rock. So, can we have Classic Rap? Is that fair?” Now, this doesn’t sound too bad. To piggyback off of what Bilal said, in the rock world, there’s rock mainstream, rock active, rock alternative, metal, etc. Dividing rap into its own set of sections, rather than only giving them unofficial names like “trap” or “wable” could help the genre to be more structured.

Don’t forget that hip hop was created in the late 1970s. This means that rap is only about 40 years old now. It’s about time sections become created, as the rock world did for their genre. If this were to be done, Future-types of artists can possibly even get the respect they deserve from older heads, as these men and women will be able to more clearly see that the newcomers’ music isn’t non-rap, but a new form in the genre that they love and that they know all too well constantly evolves to remain the voice of the youth.

Bilal confirmed: “I genuinely don’t think that old heads are hating. We called it rap. Now these youngsters heads are calling that rap? Let’s find out a way to put these into genres and categories that they belong. I just don’t think that they belong in the same field. But, they’re all hip hop, which is the culture—the best culture in the world.”

Final Review of the Show

That brings me (finally, amirite?) to my conclusion. Drake and Future’s “Summer Sixteen Tour” IS the future of rap. Since the late 1970s, rap has come a very long way. I can even argue that it’s the fastest -- not to mention influential -- changing genre of music in modern times. By these two incredible artists joining forces in this genre perfectly illustrates the trajectory that rap is heading in: a vastly varied one. It’s pretty scary when you think of this. Where will it end up next? But, it’s pretty exciting too, and keeps you on your edge of your seat.

There is more than enough room in the game for different types of rappers to shine, while respecting each other’s unique lanes. Drake, Future and all of their different types of surprises guests at the “Summer Sixteen Tour” concert at Madison Square Garden are proof that rap doesn’t have one certain form or structure or sound -- anymore. Like the people who grew up on the music; rappers have their own perspectives and personalities. And just because they’re from the same culture – like hip hop – doesn’t mean that they’re clones of those around them or people who came before them. Yes, respect the people that have paved the ways for newcomers, without a doubt. But, everyone is allowed to find their own paths, within their one culture. Drizzy and Future understand this, which is why they have come together in this tour to be the examples in rap today, and tomorrow.

So in a nutshell, rap is metamorphosing, which is a great and beautiful thing. After all, when something remains the same, it eventually ends up dead. I know you wouldn’t want that for rap, either. God forbid, hip hop would be next – we need that s**t.

Photo: Getty Images

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