NEW YORK — You can call him [artist id="1283198"]Drake[/artist], Drizzy or even Young Angel. He goes by a few different handles these days since he split from "Degrassi: The Next Generation." But one thing is certain about the Lil Wayne protégé (formerly known as Jimmy Brooks): He's got the biggest buzz in hip-hop these days, new artist or not.
The upstart MC headlined the Hot 97 Who's Next Live series at S.O.B.'s in Manhattan on Tuesday night, where he swiftly ran through songs from his popular mixtape, So Far Gone, during a lively 30-minute set.
Instead of having to prove himself to the crowd, as others in the monthly radio-sponsored showcase have done, the still unsigned — although probably not for long — artist powered through selections in front of an audience that featured heavyweights like [artist id="1230523"]Kanye West[/artist], Bun B, [artist id="1162710"]Talib Kweli[/artist], [artist id="1715121"]Ryan Leslie[/artist], [artist id="502642"]Eminem[/artist] tour DJ/producer [artist id="1471110"]Alchemist[/artist] and executives from multiple record companies.
Drake hit the stage at approximately 11:20 and had the crowd, which also featured a mix of college kids and plenty of young women, singing along with him from the start.
Sporting a striped sweater, jeans and sneakers, the Toronto-based rapper and singer entered to an instrumental version of [artist id="1111141"]Coldplay's[/artist] "Viva la Vida," then quickly dived into his songs "Unstoppable" and "Uptown," for which Bun B joined him onstage.
"I'm a new artist, by the way," Drake slyly told the packed house. "I don't know if you can tell by this show."
You would think he had a catalog albums-deep by the way his songs were being chanted throughout his set. The rapper has released three mixtapes: the DJ Smallz-hosted Room for Improvement, Comeback Season and So Far Gone, which was released in February of this year and feted with a party attended by NBA superstar LeBron James.
The sold-out S.O.B.'s show marked Drake's last performance before he starts working on his debut album, Thank Me Later. The rapper told MTV News he plans to begin work on his solo project in June. He has yet to announce what label he'll sign to, however.
Since going on the road with [artist id="510062"]Lil Wayne[/artist] on the I Am Music Tour earlier this year, Drake has performed at a number of colleges and cities across the country, and countless YouTube highlights from each stop have been posted online.
Drake told the Manhattan crowd he purposely made New York his last stop.
Last month Drake blitzed through the Big Apple, making appearances at hip-hop radio stations, freestyling on Funkmaster Flex's show and reportedly working on a song with [artist id="1269"]Jay-Z[/artist], according to a Twitter dispatch from producer Just Blaze.
The trip has thrust his already building buzz into high gear, so Drake dedicated one of his last songs, "Successful," to New York.
"The game needs change and I'm the cashier," he rapped over slow snare kicks that boomed through the venue. The crowd, again, took care of the crooning on the song's chorus.
"I want the money, money and the cars, cars and the clothes, the hoes, I suppose, I just wanna be, I just wanna be successful," they sang in unison.
Drake ended the show with Young Money's "Every Girl" and his own breakout hit, "Best I Ever Had," as West, standing in the back of the room, danced along.
"Y'all make me feel a certain way," he said, as the chorus to "Best I Ever Had" kicked in. "You the f---ing best."