The Booing of Drake Could Lead to The End of Surprise Festival Acts

Credit: Allen J. Schaben

As I was sifting through my list of article ideas to write yesterday, a startling news story broke: Drake, arguably the world's biggest rapper right now, had been booed off-stage at Tyler, the Creator's Camp Flog Gnaw festival. The apparent reason behind this was the crowd's expectation that the secret headliner of the festival was to be the notoriously reclusive Frank Ocean.

You can see why they'd be excited to see Ocean. He's surprisingly quiet for such a famous and popular artist, and hasn't performed in concert for over two years. Once you couple that with his friendship with previous Odd Future bandmate Tyler, and his recent single releases, you have a perfectly good explanation as to why the crowd were expecting him to make his comeback at the festival, and why they were disappointed not to see him.

However, that does not excuse the reaction that was given to Drake upon his appearance. Drake is hugely famous, not only earning recognition for his music but also his acts of charity, including a $200,000 donation to relief efforts in Houston following Hurricane Harvey, and the nearly $1,000,000 given to various Miami residents and organisations in the video for 'God's Plan'. He's had his controversies, but it's hard to find many modern artists who haven't. His controversies mostly stem from personal feuds with other artists that, frankly, are none of our business, and certainly not worthy of an audience reaction this hostile. Booing an artist for performing badly, being late or drunk onstage is understandable. Booing a surprise artist because you built it up to be someone else in your own head is petulant. It's The Last Jedi all over again; the fans built their own collective headcanon and lashed out when they were presented with something different that didn't match it.

Tyler, the Creator's reaction was not an apologetic one. He went on the offensive, saying that "some created a narrative in their head and acted out like a**holes when it didn't come true", before adding that it was akin to "mob mentality and cancel culture in real life". He's got a point; as soon as Drake appeared on that stage, the crowd let their feelings be known, with video clips showing booing, groaning, and yells of "No!" from the crowd when he politely enquires as to what they want him to do. His response to their jeers is quite remarkable in the circumstances.

“It’s been love. I love y’all. I go by the name of Drake. Thank you for having me.”

His walk off the stage, 20 minutes earlier than scheduled, was the culmination of a surprise that had been misjudged and an audience that felt they had been misled, and it gave us an insight into the increasingly unsympathetic culture in which we now live. Social media has given people a platform to shout their disdain for celebrities directly at them, which in turn leads to it happening more in real life. This was part of that: they didn't care that Drake is a huge and successful artist in his own right, they didn't care that he is a human being who might be emotionally affected by their jeers. He wasn't Frank Ocean, and they wanted him to know that.

Drake will come out on the other side of this with his head held high. Indeed, he has already jokingly claimed that he has "just signed a 10 year residency at Camp Flog Gnaw sorry kids see you EVERY SINGLE YEAR". His egotistical lyrics show him to be a man of confidence, so he likely hasn't been too affected by the experience.

But that isn't the issue anyway: this behaviour has set a dangerous precedent for any future festival-goers who are underwhelmed with a surprise feature. Festival organisers must be wary in future and be crystal clear with what they are planning, so as to avoid any potential future incidents. It's a shame, as surprise acts do invoke a sense of excitement and mystery going into a weekend. This incident may be the end of that, all because some people couldn't accept that their surprise was the world's biggest rapper. These people have played themselves, and everyone else with them.

Now we wait for Drake's diss track...