Mr. Miyagi and Daniel. Piccolo and Gohan. Lulu and Ace Boogie. Students often become teachers, especially in the hierarchal rap world where seniority is both a gift and a curse. Nowhere is this constant ebb-and-flow of ranking more evident than on tour: co-headliners, openers, billing slots, set times, even backstage riders all amalgamate into a stewy metric of poppingness. Where, when, and how many paying fans can your name draw, right now? Rap's premiere dynamic duo of the past decade has been Jay Z and Kanye West, and the Watch the Throne tour was a clinic in excess: over-the-top, over-your-head imagery, inspiration, style, packaging, and performance. Recording sessions in European châteaus, "Niggas in Paris" performed sixty-leven times every night. It was a tour so flashy and fantastic that I remember it from the MSG floor almost as a stunned daze, like when Rocky's vision floods in the ninth round with bright lights, his hearing drenched with deafening echoes.
Not to take away from the Watch the Throne spectacle at all, but it's pretty dope to see Drake and Wayne do nearly the exact opposite. The two titan rappers have thrived not necessarily by making the most critically-acclaimed art, but the most relatable. Wayne's infinitely-quotable one-liners make up an encyclopedia of the stoned alpha-male psyche, while Drake counterbalances with soft-focus lust songs and an ever-growing catalogue of anthems that make bottle-service sparklers feel like Olympic torches every weekend. It makes sense they'd join forces on a tour concept as winking and approachable as Marvel vs. Capcom, the pipe-dream fighter for every 10-year-old dude when it debuted in 1998, all grown up now and ready to approach major life decisions with the same reckless abandon as picking a character from a stacked roster. Besides giving the artists and tour an immediate cultural common ground to its audience, the Marvel vs. Capcom concept places Wayne and Drake on an even playing field; today, they're two masters with different schools and styles, forced to share the same physical plane, artistic direction, and super-combo hit songs. We'll have to wait until next month to see what Round 1 really looks like, but off vision alone this game is worth the quarter.