When it comes to Drake, it takes a village.
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He has investments and business ventures as wide-ranging and unpredictable as restoring an old surrealist art amusement park to launching his own production house, with the latter having earned him his first Emmy nomination for outstanding drama series as an executive producer on the HBO drama series “Euphoria” last year.
So last November, when Drake approached his team — a combination of life-long friends and industry veterans — with the idea of launching a career-defining 54-date jaunt (and two dates still TBD) across the U.S., now known as the “It’s All a Blur tour,” they were ready for anything.
Tasked with putting the larger puzzle pieces together was longtime DJ-turned-manager and business partner Adel “Future” Nur, along with Matte Babel and Anthony Gonzales, who round out the management team. The three are just a few of the brains behind DreamCrew — the all-purpose production house with one hand in visual arts, and the other, according to their website, in “Drake’s entire professional career and business portfolio.”
Babel joined Drake in 2017 just as he began to invest in endeavors outside of music. Rising to the role of chief brand officer, Babel began to help the crew foster a mysterious image while making the impossible possible: They’ve offered very few behind-the-scenes looks at the tour since it launched at the top of July (a few weeks after it was originally scheduled to launch), and Drake himself has rarely said much to the media in recent years, apart from a few, seemingly random one-offs.
Between Drake’s back-to-back takeovers at both the Forum and Crypto arenas in Los Angeles, Babel shared a few of the logistics behind the massive production — which he says deploys the largest fleet of trucks ever used for an arena trek.
“We don’t like to do ‘serious press,’” Babel prefaced ahead of the conversation. “Early on, Drake got burned — got misquoted and misrepresented and I think it’s maybe made us overly cautious. Future runs a tight ship: He seeks and optimizes potential to the point where he’s built a ton of infrastructure and other businesses surrounding Drake, who already has so many interests that are also constantly evolving. When you go to him with a ‘This isn’t happening,’ Drake says ‘Figure it out,’ and we always do.”
When it came time to start conceptualizing the tour, months after Drake had delivered a hits-filled performance at the Apollo Theater, the blueprints called for colossal, stadium-sized floors. Incorporating robots, special effects, crucially timed lasers, 30-foot tall inflatables, and three separate stages, the “It’s All A Blur” tour is designed to hit the audiences with sensory overload.
The show is intended to be a celebration of Drake’s career thus far, starting with the moment he was peer-pressured into smoking marijuana before his audition for “Degrassi.” Despite the fact that he thought he had failed the job interview, the TV show went on to launch his storied presence in the entertainment industry. Audiences follow the narrative in the form of surreal stage props like a massive flying Peter Pan, a UFO and drone-powered sperm, and the setlist honors his most beloved songs with experimental elements like an ampiano-infused DJ set that repurposes his radio hits. For each date, the props have to be re-sequenced — this includes rebooting the dancing robots, all of which sit at different heights throughout the show.
“We had started conceptualizing and drafting ideas under the assumption we were going to play stadiums. In the end, Drake wanted this tour to be more of an intimate experience for fans that had been riding with him for the past decade and it’s tough to do that in a stadium,” Babel says.
“Arenas are intimate enough to watch a show, to fortify that connection between an artist and his fans while still being large enough to serve a well-sized audience. That’s why there are so many elements and everything is so large — it’s a stadium-level show. There are so many moving parts that need precision — so much so that there is a multitude of things that can go wrong on any given night. We tried many times to cut some of the props or at least scale them down, but he wasn’t having it. He was like, ‘No, I want to have the same show — regardless if it’s a stadium or an arena.’”
Once the tour kicked off, it did experience a few hiccups, including the show at Memphis’ FedEx Forum being called off nearly a week before it was supposed to take place “due to the magnitude of the production of the Drake concert,” according to the camp’s official statement, which added that it was “logistically impossible to bring the show as designed” to the venue. His first of four shows at the Forum in Los Angeles faced similar issues.
“It was like figuring out a Rubik’s Cube,” Babel explains. “The Forum is a very small building that’s outdated and it doesn’t have a lot of the rigging points a lot of the new arenas have. So we had a lot of trouble bringing that show in there, and finding out how to make adjustments. [Drake] didn’t want people to come to the Forum and not see a show they’d already been seeing online and a show they expected to see. In the end, he was like ‘I don’t care what you guys have to do. Figure it out.’ We went back and forth on the phone, trying to do the proper research to make it happen, and we still went back and said ‘Maybe we shouldn’t,’ and in the end, we got it done.”
“We” also includes lighting director John Torres, who returned to this tour after contributing his skills to the Apollo show, and creative director duo Amber Rimell and Bronski.
“We wanted to accentuate the essence of the show and really combine the intimacy of a theatre piece with the power and scale of Drake and his music,” Torres says of bringing the closeness of the Apollo show to arenas. “The monolithic center stage was an excellent canvas to explore architecture through light and the team both inspired and challenged me to find the perfect hybrid between a classical aesthetic and full-on spectacle.”
Bronski and Rimell are the London-based creatives behind TAWBOX, the production studios that also put adventurous visual effects for Stormzy’s 2019 Glastonbury set, which earned the duo a BAFTA nomination for best entertainment craft team, and Olivia Rodrigo’s performance at the 2021 Brit Awards, among numerous other showcases.
“Working closely with Drake, Matte and the whole team has been a truly remarkable experience,” the pair tell Variety. “Our goal was to deliver creative concepts that complemented Drake’s overarching vision to take everyone in the audience on their own personal journey – starting from where it all began for him. Using innovative techniques and designs that have never before been deployed by a tour of this stature, we were able to showcase vital moments throughout his career using bold lights, colors, contrast and darkness, delivering a one-of-a-kind visual masterpiece that we are incredibly proud to have been a part of.”
Other team members wear more than a few hats. Chubbs, on Drake’s security team, has gone on to launch his own label outside of the camp. Some are even more out of left field: the idea for one of the tour’s merchandise designs (the “Lost and Found” T-shirt that depicts the mountain of bras thrown at Drake during his shows) came from the crew’s resident nurse.
Everyone’s on “rap time,” Babel says, referring to the speed of execution the team has managed to adapt to over the years. And this show has been their biggest testament to “rap time” yet. With every passing week, Drake has welcomed a revolving door of guests: he’s been escorted into the venue alongside Lebron James and Steph Curry and has welcomed J. Cole, Lil Yachty, Skillibeng and Sexxy Red to share the stage with him. The latter was added on as a regular opener for the tour in August and it’s Drake’s goal to incorporate more surprise openers as the tour continues through October, though they won’t be announced until the night of the show.
As if this weren’t more than enough to keep tabs on, Drake also has a new album dropping at the end of the month. “He’s relentless,” Babel says. “He has been working on this album for a while… as soon as he dropped ‘Her Loss,’ he just kind of kept recording, and we’re waiting for him to finish the work. The songs I’ve heard are incredible — and obviously, from a managerial standpoint, it’s a uniquely incredible experience to work with an artist that can be on a tour of this size and still hype the fans up even more by telling them there’s another project on the way.”