Over the past weekend, Drake performed at Tyler the Creator’s annual Camp Flog Gnaw festival. During the week’s lead-up to the event, Tyler had fans in a frenzy when he announced that there would be a secret headliner at some point during the festival. Many speculated that Frank Ocean was going to be the surprise guest. Given his and Tyler’s Odd Future connection, along with the string of new singles he’s been releasing over the past couple of weeks, it would have made perfect sense for the elusive and enigmatic Ocean to mysteriously pop up to put the alternative fanbase in their feelings. Fast forward to the last night of the festival where it was revealed that Drake was the secret headliner. This move led to sanctimonious and collective outrage when Drake got booed off-stage. Yes, Tyler fans were left so disappointed and upset about Drake being the headliner, that they booed him off-stage. At first, everything was good. It appeared that he was just going to do a mini-set of a few songs. However, fans became agitated when it became apparent that he was the closing act. The initial cheer and praise turned into anger and melancholy when fans began to boo and groan. Fans had been anticipating Frank Ocean to be the surprise guest. In a last-ditch effort to connect with the audience, Drake stated, “You know, Imma tell you as I said, I’m here for you tonight. If you want me to keep going, I will keep going.” The crowd responded with a loud chorus of boos and no’s, prompting him to end his set early and exit off the stage. After clips of the incident started to circulate on social media, many within mainstream hip-hop criticized Tyler’s fans. A large majority has called them ungrateful for the way they treated Drake. This has prompted a conversation focused on entitlement, respectability politics, and expectations to take place in the wake of this debacle. While the mainstream audience is questioning who would boo Drake, I argue that they’re allowed to feel whichever way they want. Allow me to chime in.
We first have to analyze and acknowledge where Tyler went wrong in all of this. Drake and Tyler the Creator’s respective fanbases are from two different worlds. Tyler, since his beginning, has always represented the “alternative” within hip-hop. His fans have always been the weirdos, outcasts, and degenerates of hip-hop. A mainstream pop act like Drake doesn’t match the aesthetics of the openly fluid and weird Camp Flog Gnaw crowd. Drake and his cohorts represent the popular kids who likely picked on those who identify as Tyler the Creator fans. Add in the anticipation surrounding Frank showing up, fans were just thrown off guard to see Drake come in and take all the wind out of their sails. Frank Ocean also made more sense as the secret headliner. He’s mysterious, fluid as a bisexual man, and unique as a vocal talent. Just like Tyler, he could never be placed in a box.
When it comes to the booing, I may be in the minority on this, but I can honestly say that I was happy to see Drake get booed. What better way to encompass a lesson on managing one’s expectations than by having one of the biggest artists of this decade get booed off-stage. After the show, Drake released a statement saying that the experience was humbling. I’m sure Drake didn’t expect to get that reaction from the crowd. He’s been winning for the past decade. So having an audience not be into him was probably a well-needed shock. It serves as a great shot of reality. It says that even if you’re the biggest act out at the moment, you should always come humble, ready, and without any expectations that every audience is going to love you because you’re popular. Find ways to reinvent yourself and expand your reach and artistry into different crowds and aesthetics.
Many users on social media have been throwing accusations of entitlement when it came to Tyler’s fans wanting Frank Ocean over Drake. I find this opinion to be shallow and lacking empathy. Fans are paying customers. If you’ve taken time to cultivate a cult-like audience, it’s best to have what they would enjoy best into consideration. They are entitled to feel however way they want. It’s honest and true. In Tyler the Creator’s case, he cannot preach to his fans about themselves, along with being authentically honest about their taste, but then chastise them when they express those true emotions. You cant pick and choose when you want authenticity, even if it involves an artist you like. All in all, Drake will be fine. He isn’t the first nor will he be the last entertainer to get booed. It’s ok to realize that you’re not for everybody.