The most captivating thing about “Drake’s Homecoming: The Lost Footage” is the drama that unfolded in the days before its limited release on Thursday.
Built around a 2009 concert from a then-22-year-old Drake at Toronto’s Sound Academy — a show that served as a hero's welcome and solidified him as a star on the rise — the now-hotly contested concert film boasts footage “previously believed lost and destroyed” cut together with new interviews.
While promo for the film promises fans a deeper look into the Canadian rapper-singer’s rise from successful "Degrassi: The Next Generation” teen star to one of the biggest rappers on the planet, what plays out in the footage is an entirely different story.
To recap: In February 2009, Drake signed a deal with the promoters of his hometown concert. He agreed to the concert’s filming, was paid a $15,000 fee and promised a 15% profit royalty for his participation in the project (a cut he likely couldn't care less about now), but he probably didn't foresee a lazy attempt to exploit his fame in the future.
Monday, however — just days before the movie hit theaters for a one-night engagement — the rapper and the film’s producers were clashing over its release.
Drake disavowed the project on Twitter, his team blasted it as “unauthorized,” and the company distributing the film filed a libel suit against the rapper the day before its release; they are seeking both unspecified damages and a declaration from the court confirming that the release was authorized.
This drama might lure curious viewers and diehard fans, but it’s evident just minutes into the film that the fallout is vastly more entertaining than anything that happens on-screen.
In the five years since these cuts began collecting dust, Drake's story has accrued countless accolades, including a Grammy, sold-out arena tours, platinum albums, and dozens of hit records. None of that is covered in "Homecoming."
Instead, viewers are subjected to a embarrassingly one-sided story about the players who brought Drake to Lil Wayne’s Young Money.
Interviews with Rap-A-Lot chief executive James Prince, his son Jas Prince (long credited with discovering Drake and bringing him to Wayne) and prolific Southern rapper Bun B appear amid performance shots.
With repetitive and dull interviews, sloppy editing and terrible performance footage, "Homecoming" is a disastrous watch. Seriously, it’s like a couple of audience members were given Steadicams and approximately zero direction.
There are, however, a few rare moments for fans.
Drake purists will appreciate a glimpse at how far their hero has grown as a live performer, and the origin story explored in the film may surprise them.
Most of the testimony from the Princes are focused specificially on how much Wayne initially resisted Drake and how tough a sale he was.
The youngest Prince, who discovered his music on MySpace, had to persuade both his father and Wayne to believe in the rapper — with Wayne hating his music and the eldest Prince not feeling Drake's singing.
“I didn’t like what I heard,” James Prince says early in the film. “I wasn’t impressed.”
“Wayne told me he sucked," Jas Prince later recalled in a soundbyte that has been used to promote the film. "He was like, 'Jas, you know, don't play me that ... no more, he's not good.'"
Nevertheless, viewers will need to take it all with a very large grain of salt, considering the director didn’t bother to go beyond the Princes' recollection of his ascent, which makes the word “documentary” an unwieldy tag when it comes to referencing the film.
With just one night in theaters, "Homecoming" will likely end up forgotten, just like the countless other shoddily produced music documentaries that languish on Netflix and collect dust in ever-dwindling brick-and-mortar music stores. Even the Princes have distanced themselves from the project in the past few days, despite having a stake in its success.
Better follow Drake's advice: If you're thinking about seeing what all the controversy is about — don't bother.
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