Life after Drake’s Club Paradise Tour has been hard, to be honest. I bought tickets to Drizzy’s DC show two months ago, thirty minutes after they went on sale. I emptied my bank account funds set aside for the following two weeks in order to make it happen. As the concert approached, I would make the same financial risk in order to buy tickets to the Hotel Noir after party sponsored by Grey Goose, if only because the mere possibility of meeting Drake was worth paying the extra money for.
I’ve written before about my deep love for Aubrey “Drake” Graham, and for the words he decides to let out of his mouth. And if I wasn’t certain about our connection before, I definitely am now. The Club Paradise tour is full of great performances, the recipe for great half-memories, and the best way to rap and cry at the same time. It was worth it.
I am proud to bring you an Instagram-filled recap of exactly what went down, exactly how I conveyed that to Brittani Nichols, and the feelings I garnered throughout what other people consider an average Friday night and I consider one of the greatest things to ever happen in the history of time.
I went to the Verizon Center on May 25 with Danny, one of my best friends and also a member of my rap posse, the Homo Mafia. (He goes by “The Glorious F.A.G.,” which honestly really does stand for “Fendi and God.”) Nobody else wanted to go. We got ready by holding Drake marathons in my bedroom and trying on our party outfits for one another. When the countdown to Club Paradise reached T-Minus 7 Days, shit got serious and we began our social media campaign to get Drake’s attention in the form of a Pretty Money Records production called “Over YouTube Aubrey,” as well as a lot of tweeting with the hashtag #LilCFeatDrake.
Then suddenly, over 200 views and 70 tweets later, it was the big day.
My drink of choice was rum and, of course, Diet Coke. I wanted vodka, both because it is my girlfriend and because it was only 10 dollars, but Danny doesn’t like vodka. We compromised and bought Bacardi. Can’t a bad bitch get clear liquor anymore?
In order to arrive to the concert on time, we had to leave by 5:45 PM at the latest. We began drinking at 4:30. #YOLO.
I wore my YOLO shirt and denim shorts to the concert, and carried a “You Do You” tote. I was very seriously hoping someone would recognize the eternal philisophical connection between Autostraddle’s mantra and Drake’s former motto, “I’m Doing Me.” I also needed a way to carry my clothes for the after party to the concert, seeing as I live in the middle of nowhere. (Drake and I are both uptown ’til we die.)
On the way to our metro train, I carried my phone on my shoulders like a boombox and played selected tracks.
Danny and I arrived at the concert incredibly faded, mostly because we wanted to feel close to Drake. (Later, he would ask the entire stadium if we were collectively drunk enough, and the audience would moan ‘yes’ on top of uproarious applause.)
We ran to our seats, and on the way someone pointed at me and said, “oh my God she is really going for it,” and I said thank you just to make her feel awkward. Later on, the woman we sat behind thanked me for “going free,” and it was at this moment that I became aware that various people thought I was braless.
This is me putting it out there on the record that I was wearing a strapless bra to the Drake concert, which is better than no bra at all by far.
Danny and I smelled the first blunt being smoked in section 411 during 2Chainz, who put on a strong performance and was super fun. My signature moment from this portion of the concert was when I demanded to know why he didn’t rap his “Beez in the Trap” verse to Danny, who simply replied, “Carmen, he did, and you just rapped the entire thing.” Let it be known, thus, that I out-rapped 2Chainz and all I have to show for it is my bad drunk memory.
Me: BRITTANI WHY ARE YOU NOT HEREE
Me: they already remixed kanye
Me: Save these texts for the as post I have to write tomo
Brittani: Lol. Ok.
Me: I will let you know when drake shows up #2chainz
During this performance, Danny pondered whether or not he was drunk enough. “Maybe I am drunk,” he remarked, as he was feeling the beat. “Look at my hand motions.”
Also, 2Chainz played “Spend It” and I freaked out.
Waka Flacka Flame
I actually singled out Waka Flacka Flame for being a sub-par rapper in “Over YouTube Aubrey,” but it was obviously meant in good humor. Waka Flacka Flame exceeded my expectations at this concert, and performed many songs I didn’t even realize he was responsible or partly involved in. Suddenly, I was even more excited to be there. The opening acts I’d been dreading were turning out to be good entry points into my complete and total elated drunkenness, in which I began to introduce myself to people as “Lil Carmen.”
Meek Mill is fucking amazing. During this performance, “all the bad bitches who know they’re beautiful” were prompted to say “HEY,” or something similar where we made noise. I of course played along, seeing as how I am the second baddest bitch in the nation and obviously egotistical.
This was also the portion of the concert in which Danny bought a beer, making me want to buy a beer after J. Cole’s upcoming slot. A drunk girl attempting to escape from Row G passed me and was very, um, hands-on. I began to wonder aloud if all women who like Drake are lesbians, or if I just hang out with too many lesbians who like Drake. The answer is pretty obvious. Let it be known that Drunk Touchy Girl did not have any gay motivation for using my body as a human handrail.
J. Cole performing at Club Paradise always brought the same tried-and-true sentiment to my mind: can I hit it in the morning? No rapper on the bill, aside from Drake himself, has ever come so close to explaining my own life experiences.
He performed the song live, although I was super disappointed when Drake didn’t come out on stage to perform his verse. Danny is incredibly into J. Cole and was delighted that he was going to be there, so I mostly fed off of his excitement during this portion and sipped my Stella Artois. We had spent some time listening to J. Cole and both decided he was “heavy” and “artistic.”
This portion of the concert also led to one of my best tweets of the night, inspired by J. Cole’s dedication of “Blow Up” to “all my haters.”
After this concert ended, I bought my beer and stashed it in my cupholder for Drake’s performance. I also went to the bathroom, although by the time we left it became clear Drake was next and I couldn’t stop saying “Drake Drake Drake Drake Drake” over and over again on the way there and the way back. I ran to my seat, and then sat there for what felt like forever. Suddenly, a kind woman named Rosalind who was sitting one row behind us tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I could photograph her crew. I had to say yes, especially when she complimented my hair.
Rosalind was with a man named Big Ed and a man with a broken hand, though he was doing nothing to nurse it and it didn’t even have a bandage on it. When she asked why we came to the show, I replied that “we’re aspiring rappers.” Danny broke in. “She’s an aspiring rapper. I’m more like DJ Khaled – I just yell on the track.”
Rosalind asked Danny and I how long we’d “been together” and told us we “were super cute.” We blushed and then, just when it would have gotten awkward, something amazing happened.
“Lord Knows” was playing.
Me: is it okay if i respond to “all the rappers in the house say hey”
I volunteered to write this post because I knew I could do justice to Drake’s performance. But maybe I can’t.
I want to tell you about how it felt to see Drake performing live, but I’m afraid it will sound totally tween of me and I typically keep all of my weird, deep, and intense feelings about Drake’s music to myself. So let’s break it down.
This concert wasn’t something I would have invested over 100 dollars in if it wasn’t important to me. For reference, I’m an incredibly broke college graduate who had Kraft Mac n’ Cheese for dinner the past 11 nights in a row. I love music, but you’d be hard pressed to find many performers I’d be willing to pay over 60 bucks to see live, ever. I went to Club Paradise because Drake is important. I know it sounds stupid, but it’s true.
What always brings me back to Drake is his intense relevance and his strong voice. As a storyteller, he has a real way with words, and his lyrics always hit home. His songs are melodic and harmonious – and, in many instances, deeply honest and moving. In a hip-hop landscape dominated by AK-47s and model-chasing, Drake has consistently attempted to discuss friendship and romance, his attempts to find closure, the struggle to make it, and the desire for self-fulfillment. But despite the money and the cars, his lyrics always break down to being kind of like how you feel every day. It’s amazing.
I stand by every feeling I’ve ever had about Aubrey Graham.
I’m just proud to understand him.
“This one is for the haters who tell me I make too much music for women. Fuck yeah, I make music for women. And listen carefully – I don’t make music for “bitches,” or little girls. I make music for women destined to be women. And ladies – I’m so fucking proud of you.” – Drake
They made us wait for Drake for a pretty long time, considering the breakout between each artist typically lasted 10-15 minutes. I knew it was Drake’s time because instead of putting up a banner, they hung up a huge black curtain that covered the entire stage. When it unfurled, there was an incredible, towering structure made of lit LCD screens and two jumbotrons on either side. Drake stood alone on stage, in a black muscle tank. I stood up and never sat back down. It was time.
During Drake’s performance I did many things, including but not limited to: chugging a beer, rapping too hard, tweeting too hard, putting my hands over my face, crying softly, and grinning. I hugged Danny and a few times I slugged him softly in the arm because I knew he was as excited about the track Drake was performing as I was.
I couldn’t have asked for a better selection and a better performance.
Drake’s Set List*
I’m On One: In which Danny and I were waiting for DJ Khaled
She Will: In which I died. One of my favorites.
Forever: In which Danny and I continued waiting for DJ Khaled
Uptown: In which I actually died.
[Shout Outs to His Tourmates]
Round of Applause, with Waka Flacka Flame
Amen, with Meek Mill
[Spotlighting the Audience]
Over My Dead Body: In which I took a horrible video.
Make Me Proud: In which Drake spoke eloquently about his deep appreciation for women.
HYFR / Hell Yeah Fuckin’ Right
The Motto: In which I obviously had to lose my shit.
Headlines: In which the sickest light and video show of all time began, and I wished Brittani was rapping with me.
Drake absolutely killed it at the concert, combining both flawlessly rapped verses with beautifully performed vocal pieces. He called many of the lower-billed artists onto stage at one point, and you can see where it happened in the set list: “Round of Applause,” “Stay Scheming,” “Amen.” There were no surprise guests or unexpected antics, although there were at least two occasions where Drake set off fireworks on stage.
Perhaps even better, though, was how connected the audience felt to Drake and how much effort he put into making sure we had a good time. Aside from taking approximately 30 – yes, 30 - minutes to single out audience members, spotlight them, and thank them for coming (“I see you in the black tights, I see you in the pink shirt, I see you holding the sign.”), Drake also spoke from the heart about how much it meant to him to have our support. Every single artist told us that women in Washington, DC are more attractive than women elsewhere, and it always struck as a canned line. But Drake saying, “thank you, because without you, I wouldn’t be here,” struck me as real and genuine.
At one point, Drake asked that we all lift up our phones. Danny took out a lighter and I couldn’t help but capture it. The only advantage to being in a nosebleed was being able to see how amazing that looked altogether.
I forgive Drake for not calling me out to the stage to perform alongside him, but mostly because he went out of his way to spotlight section 411 when he was talking to the audience. Maybe he knew where I was sitting. Maybe he even noticed my shirt.
The After Party: #DrakeHotelNoir
Danny and I were VIP at the after party, but not because I’m in the Autostraddle Hot 100 or an aspiring rapper. We paid to be there. They wrapped our wrists in Grey Goose branded plastic bands and attempted to con us into buying bottles of cherry vodka to drink with nothing but limes. I drank beer instead, mostly because of the being broke thing. Danny and I kept joking about how we were living a fabulous dream out but we had both ended up being pretty much out of money by the time we had the chance. We forgot to take a photo of ourselves before we left for the Howard Theater, but I can easily describe what we wore as “incredibly attractive.” I was in a black mini-dress (with pockets!) that has a slight zebra print accent and platform heels. Danny wore a black shirt, pink tie, and black pants.
The next morning I still wasn’t ready to take off my wristband. I’m having a lot of trouble admitting that after party ever ended.
Hotel Noir was exactly like a music video. The women were plentiful – and beautiful – and there were about nine different crowds with bottle service surrounding me as I sipped on my Bud Lite. It was amazing seeing over three people in one room at a time who like Drake, and these people loved Drake. Probably almost as much as me, to be honest. We were all communally rapping, sipping, and dancing. Some of us were attempting to break into the corded-off VIP section within the VIP section. Some of us did not get in. And some of us decided to start beef with the bouncer for that section by remarking, “I’m ten times hotter than that trashy white girl in the denim jacket” mere minutes before she fell over.
A note to that bouncer who looked at me like I couldn’t get in a VIP section if I was with Drake himself: My name is Carmen Rios and it’s sad you haven’t heard of me. I’m damn fine and I don’t need you to agree with me to know it. I hope one day a trashy model vomits on your shoes.
The after party was fun, for sure – it had great music, good liquor (or so I’ve heard, from Mr. and Mrs. Can Afford Bottle Service), and waitresses in black booty shorts carrying Champagne bottles with sparklers mounted on top. I saw more than my share of what looked like models taking photos of themselves on their iPads and I even saw a man who looked like Rick Ross. But the biggest problem was that the guarantee of Drake and other members of Young Money was definitely deceitful, and from my work looking up YouTube videos of Drake’s after party speeches, that seems strange. The DJ just kept yelling, “Drizzy is in the building!” but I never once saw anyone clamoring in the building to find him, nor did I see any of the other rappers from the concert. Not even 2Chainz. I kept craning my neck to see past the poorly-dressed dude in the VIP VIP section but Drake was nowhere to be found for certain. And what felt like seconds later, he was reported to have left and the party cleared out.
“Drizzy is in the building!” – A Liar
This meant one thing and one thing only: I wasn’t going to be meeting Drake. Not even for ten seconds, or for a minute. It makes no sense, but it was slightly disappointing. I’d been dreaming super big and eventually I had to go home.
I had left the party earlier in the night to smoke a cigarette with Danny because of my impending anxiety attack about capitalism, and talked a little bit about how weird it felt being in such an unaffirming environment. At the concert it felt like I was kind of invincible, and at the after party it felt more like I was invisible. I’d been rudely pushed and asked to move – despite ample space for the other person to do so – by more than dozens of women within the first half-hour, and people gave Danny and I sideways stares for drinking bottles of beer in the VIP pit. I didn’t appreciate feeling like an outsider, especially since I’d paid to be there and wanted it just as badly, if not worse, than they all did. I went outside to clap my hands and scream, “bitches ain’t shit!” and then we went back in.
The second time I went outside I was never going back in. A white dude in a red tee shirt was yelling at the bouncer about how he “had paid to see fuckin’ Drake” and wanted a refund. I took off the Lady Gaga heels and slipped back into my flip-flops, which I’d stowed in my small bag because I knew I’d want them. A man passed Danny and I as I was putting them on on the side of the road and remarked, “hipster through and through.” At that moment I surrendered to whatever powers of God make people interpret me as a hipster, even in an animal-print dress at a Drake after party.
“I don’t think of you as my fans. I think of you as my motherfuckin’ friends.” – Drake
Moments later, Danny and I helped a woman with one crutch find a cab, despite her saying over and over, “I know it isn’t right but I know how the world works and you’ll get a cab before I do.” Five minutes earlier I’d been lounging on the sidewalk when someone yelled out of their car, “watch your legs in the street!” This was the beginning of a long series of drivers interacting with me via their side window, specifically when three cars backed up at a traffic light all simultaneously yelled to me about how much they loved my hair.
I used my phone to find a gay boy’s way home before Danny and I finally settled into a cab and attempted to convince the driver to buy us McDonald’s. We got home and I put my phone on the coffee table and played “Uptown.” The Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese never tasted better.
*A lot of this was done by (bad) memory (the next day) based on the general Club Paradise set list available online. If you notice something missing or in the wrong place, please let me know! No but really. I’d love to make it as accurate as possible.
Special Note: Autostraddle’s “First Person” personal essays do not necessarily reflect the ideals of Autostraddle or its editors, nor do any First Person writers intend to speak on behalf of anyone other than themselves. First Person writers are simply speaking honestly from their own hearts.