In the 13 years preceding this edition of the festival, Austin City Limits has hosted only three hip-hop headliners: Kanye West in 2011, plus Eminem and Outkast last year. It was a fact that Canadian rapper Drake, dressed this night in a simple black T-shirt and matching jeans, seemed astutely aware of from the outset of his 90-minute performance on the Samsung Galaxy Stage, which began promptly at 8:30 p.m. (CT).
"I knew I was coming to Austin, Texas, so I tried to put something special together," he said after blazing through three brief renditions of "Legend," "Trophies," "Headlines" and "Over," a couple of which were marked by dazzlings bursts of pryo.
It was clear by their relentless rapping and singing that the tens of thousands in attendance -- mostly in the young 20-something range by the looks of it-- would've praised his set as a success no matter what. But the 28-year-old hip-hop star continued to butter them up -- "I consider Texas my second home ... there's no love like Texas love," he proclaimed -- before the reveal of that "something special," all the while barreling through a dozen career spanning snippets, including critically acclaimed cuts "Tuesday," "Blessings," "HYFR" and "Started From the Bottom."
"All I have for you tonight is a reward for being the best crowd I've seen all f---ing year," he said after leading a thunderous a cappella chant-along to the latter track???s final chorus.
With that, Atlanta-bred rapper Future strode onto the stage to perform a hat-trick of his own material, "F--k Up Some Commas," "Trap N----s" and "Where Ya At," with Drake's verse on that final song serving as a bridge to the live debuts of two selections -- "Jump Man" and "Big Rings" -- off the duo's just-released chart-topping mixtape, What a Time to Be Alive.
Drake arguably squandered his chance to wow in a similar situation over two consecutive two weekends in April at Coachella by failing to bring out any guests save for an apparently tongue-hungry Madonna (it's still awkward), so his live collaboration with Future here was a smart idea. The move, along with a few bursts of sky-high fireworks, imbued him with just the right amount of extra oomph to conclude with the aptly titled "Energy" on a convincingly commanding note.
See photos of Drake:
Drake through the years
Drake brings out Future at ACL day 2: 'I tried to put something special together'
NEW YORK - MAY 26: Drake performs at S.O.B.'s on May 26, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage) *** Local Caption ***
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 28: Rapper Drake onstage at the 2009 BET Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on June 28, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John Shearer/WireImage) *** Local Caption ***
Actor and Rapper Drake Graham, known simply as Drake, attends A Conversation with Drake sponsored by the Nashville Chapter at Ocean Way Studio on November 19, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 02: Rapper Drake poses in the press room during The GRAMMY Nominations Concert Live! at the Club Nokia on December 2, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
(L-R) Trey Songz and Drake attend DJ Clue's birthday party at M2 Ultra Lounge on January 21, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 05: Singer Drake attends Axe Lounge at Fontainebleau Miami Beach on February 5, 2010 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - APRIL 24: Canadian actor, rapper and recording artist Drake performs during day 2 of the 41st annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival at the Fair Grounds Race Course on April 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Skip Bolen/WireImage)
NEW YORK - JUNE 15: Drake visits Best Buy on June 15, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 12: Singer Drake arrives at the Cash Money Records Annual Pre-GRAMMY Party at The Lot on February 12, 2011 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/WireImage)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 05: Drake performs at Chateau Nightclub & Gardens opening in Paris Las Vegas on March 5, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 08: Drake attends John Wall's 21st birthday celebration at Greenhouse on September 8, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 18: Hip-Hop vocalist Drake (aka. Aubrey Drake Graham) performs during the 2011 WildJam at HP Pavilion on December 18, 2011 in San Jose, California. (Photo by C Flanigan/WireImage)
OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 29: Rap artist Drake performs during the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game between Team Alfredsson and Team Chara at Scotiabank Place on January 29, 2012 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 05: Drake performs at Ovo Fest 2012 at Molson Amphitheatre on August 5, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Sarjoun Faour Photography/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 18: (L-R) Singer Usher, music producer Noah '40' Shebib and rapper Drake in the audience at the 40th American Music Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 18, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/AMA2012/WireImage)
LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 891 -- Pictured: (l-r) Musical guest Drake during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on September 13, 2013 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - DECEMBER 31: (L-R) Drake and Rick Ross attend Sean Diddy Combs Ciroc The New Years Eve Party at his home on December 31, 2013 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 24: Drake performs at Palais Omnisports de Bercy on February 24, 2014 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 22: Hip-Hop artist, Drake, celebrates during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the Toronto Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets during the NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on April 22, 2014 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Dave Sandford/NBAE via Getty Images)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ - JANUARY 31: Drake performs at the Bootsy Bellows Pop Up event on January 31, 2015, in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 18: Drake performs on stage during 2015 Music Midtown at Piedmont Park on September 18, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paul R. Giunta/WireImage)