According to the Los Angeles Times, Drake was a surprise headliner at the festival, which featured billed performances by FKA Twigs, Solange, YG, GoldLink and Tyler himself. Social media users pointed to rumors of a surprise set from Frank Ocean — the elusive R&B innovator who launched his music career as one-third of Odd Future — as one possible reason for Drake’s chilly reception. Tyler appeared to confirm that theory in a tweet Monday: “I thought bringing one of the biggest artist[s] on the … planet to a music festival was fire,” he wrote. “Some created a narrative in their head and acted out … when it didn’t come true.”
Drake’s supporters have cast the incident as an unforgivable slight against one of the most successful entertainers of the decade. YouTube personality DJ Akademiks tweeted that he had spoken to Drake following the rocky set and that the rapper was “taking it in stride.” He said Drake characterized the performance as a “moment of humility which is always welcomed.”
Drake is taking it in stride tho... he told me personally regarding the camp flog gnaw performance it’s a “moment of humility which is always welcomed”. He also added “was just not my night. Wasn’t who they wanted to see”.— DJ Akademiks (@Akademiks) November 11, 2019
Nine years after releasing his debut album, “Thank Me Later,” Drake is an undeniable pop star, with four Grammys and 20 Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 songs under his belt. And that may have been part of the problem at a festival anchored by alternative rap and R&B acts. (Even Tyler conceded that Drake’s appearance may have been “a lil tone deaf knowing the specific crowd it drew.”) But it’s hard to ignore that public opinion on Drake has shifted since he first courted fans with brooding bars about his childhood trauma, failed relationships and struggles with fame.
Authenticity, an unofficial tenet of hip-hop since its early days, has always been a question when it comes to Drake, who first rose to fame as an actor on the Canadian teen drama “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” It’s hard to persuade people you “started from the bottom” when they watched you on TV for the better part of a decade, though in interviews Drake rejected the notion of a comfortable childhood. “My mother was very sick. We were very poor, like broke,” he told Complex in 2011. “The only money I had coming in was off Canadian TV, which isn’t that much money when you break it down.”
As Drake’s popularity grew, so, too, did questions about the rapper’s chart-topping tracks — specifically whether he penned them himself. Drake’s rumored use of ghostwriters has been central to his numerous feuds with fellow rappers, most notably Meek Mill and Pusha T. Drake and Meek publicly buried the hatchet last year; according to Setlist.fm, the rapper’s truncated festival set list even featured a song by his former foe.
But Pusha T reignited his years-long beef with Drake in last year’s “The Story of Adidon,” a scathing diss track that seemed to call the rapper’s very essence into question. The song referenced the rapper’s young son, whom he had not yet discussed in public, as Pusha implied that Drake had abandoned his child after devoting years of verses to his reportedly absentee father. Drake later acknowledged on his massive double album “Scorpion" that he had fathered the child. One track put the scandal in full focus: “Single father, I hate when I hear it / I used to challenge my parents on every album / Now I’m embarrassed to tell 'em I ended up as a co-parent,” he raps on “March 14.”
Drake’s on-and-off romance with Rihanna has also been a source of criticism for the rapper — particularly after the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards, where he unsuccessfully tried to kiss her while presenting her with the esteemed Video Vanguard Award. In a Vogue interview last year, the singer said it was the rapper’s effusive praise in the lead-up to the award that made her most uncomfortable. “I don’t like too many compliments; I don’t like to be put on blast,” she told the magazine, adding that the pair no longer had a friendship.
Drake and Rihanna’s past came up earlier this year when the rapper teamed up with Rihanna’s ex-boyfriend Chris Brown, who pleaded guilty in 2009 to assaulting the singer (and who got into a physical fight with Drake in 2012). “Drake has very publicly declared his love for Rihanna; in choosing to collaborate with Brown, he now publicly aligns himself with the man who battered her,” the Atlantic’s Hannah Giorgis wrote earlier this year.
Despite what the booing might imply, Drake’s career has not suffered as the result of his collaboration with Brown or years of ghostwriting accusations. This year, he added to his ventures as an executive producer of HBO’s well-received teen drama “Euphoria” and Netflix’s “Top Boy,” a gritty British crime drama that had been canceled by the U.K.'s Channel 4. Last week, it seemed as if he might be preparing for an album release after his team distributed flowers across Toronto in a marketing push. But we’ll have to wait a bit longer for potential new music from the rapper: the floral stunt was to promote his new marijuana distribution company.