How This Drake Tribute Party Started As a Farce and Became a Phenomenon

We all know going to a club with a dress code and $10 cocktails means you’re bound to hear a Drake song (or several) at some point in the night. But what if celebrating Drizzy was the ONLY reason for the party in the first place? If that sounds like you’re kind of night, then chances are you’ve heard about the bi-monthly, Hotel Figueroa-based event that unintentionally morphed from a tongue-in-cheek tribute night into a diehard gathering populated by the Cult of Drizzy. When promoter/DJ Rej Dhingra launched the event with his business partner Sal Moreno, he really had no idea what he was getting into. But now it’s become a church gathering for fans of the 6 God that’s big enough to tour, stopping at SoCal hotspots from San Francisco to San Diego. This weekend, the Drake Party makes its OC debut at the House of Blues Anaheim. We got a chance to speak with Dhingra and one of the party’s resident DJs, Matt Oliver, about the origin of the Drake Party and why having rap’s Canadian king actually show up to this shindig would probably be the worst thing ever.

So are you guys hardcore Drake fans? How did this party come about?
Rej Dhingra: So the first thing about that is I’m not a Drake fan at all. So that’s something that’s important. But the way that it was started was, I was a promoter at the time and I was producing events. Sal Moreno (of production company The Well) was the events director for Hotel Figueroa in Downtown LA and I rolled into one of their events and saw a lot of opportunity there and I ran into him and said I’d love to get involved in here and he was cool about it and he said I should come and talk to him about that. My background is doing a lot more pretentious music, like new disco and house. I grew up on hip-hop but wasn’t really into the newer stuff. So when I walked in he goes “Hey man check this out, I got this crazy idea, what if we just threw a Drake-themed party?” And I looked at him and go “Man that sounds so stupid. Like that’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard ever.”

So why did you decide to do it?
He explained this story about his hotel threw a pretentious fashion party and the DJ was playing music that nobody wanted to hear and he asked the guy “Man can you change the music?” and he said no that was all he had. So he kicked the guy off and he put on his laptop and asked people what they wanted to hear and literally he just played Drake songs all night. He told me that and then he said “I have ready to go” and I said that if I was gonna do something like this it would have to be the biggest joke ever. It has to be so ridiculous that I can feel okay. So I said we had to get So I immediately got the domain name and started calling up my friends to DJ and I had convince them to do it, everyone who talked to me was like ‘why would you do this?’

Matt Oliver: Except for me, because I was like the biggest Drake fan. We were out raving for three days for EDC and ironically I’d found my iPod from 2010 in college, which was just loaded with five or six bootleg mixtapes of Drake hooks, So Far Gone….so he told me about the party and I was like man this is the greatest idea ever! I was the opening DJ for the first one.

Dhingra: There were a few catalysts that actually made me feel okay about in the end. Me and Sal were actually gonna cancel the party because it was one of those things we were really uncertain about but talking to Matt and the venue really wanted it so we pushed it and the first one ended up getting 500-600 people.

Oliver: It’s also crazy cuz my DJ name is also my social tag, Matt Oliver PR. So publicists for celebrity DJs started hitting me up saying “hey we saw your party, can we get my client on the list to get a table.”

So there ended up being a lot of Drake fans who weren’t in on the joke who would hit you up?
Dhingra:There’s always been some weird associations with this, like over time we’d get people from OVO hitting us up or Drake’s dad’s manager hit us up and he’s like “Oh, we can have Drake’s dad appear.” As time went on the show started growing to the point where the line at Hotel Figueroa went through the lobby and out around the corner to Figueroa and Olympic. So we had to find a bigger venue so we went to the Globe Theater which is a 1,200 capacity venue and we were pretty close to filling it up. Then we went to Union and then we did two shows in San Francisco and the first one sold out like two months before the show. Keep in mind this is just a tribute party.

So is this like church for Drake fans?
Dhingra: Yeah I think the majority of the people who come to the Drake Party, especially in San Francisco, are returning fans. They’re dedicated. Also I think what sort of adds to it is that most tribute parties out in LA they just crank out the music and that’s that. But we celebrated Drake’s birthday by getting an OVO cake made. We pass out Drake faces to everyone and it got to the point where I was walking in San Francisco and I look outside a window of building and I see one of the Drake faces. Everybody has those faces if they come to the party. We also pass out glow sticks and confetti…so it’s an entire experience. We have a great visual artist who does motion videos for screens at the videos, he’s like a custom VJ so we really do put a lot of effort into it.

We’re constantly getting hit up by big DJs but our thing is well, if we’re doing fine with our friends DJing it’s like the Top 40 element where you don’t care who the DJ is. Let’s just stick with that versus going the old route of “who’s DJing tonight?” It’s really more about the fans, it’s the kind of party where people are staring at each other more than the DJ.

That said, who are the main DJs you use for the party?
Oliver: The main DJs are me, Reg, Ollie from Space Yacht and Chad and Dan and Chad Kenny from Brownies and Lemonade.

Dhingra: My whole thing about picking DJs initially was I really wanted people who don’t take themselves seriously but now after the party took off Ollie opens up for Rich Chigga and Brownies and Lemonade has gotten huge and had 4,000 people at the DoLab at Coachella. So it’s funny that these groups of people we put together are now going out on their own and Drake party is sorta like home for us.

How would you describe the culture of Drake fans? At least the ones that show up to this party?
Oliver: The fans of Drake are not the cool kids, we’re kinda like the outcasts but also the guys who like pop music. It’s almost like the emo kids who were kinda made fun of, but now it’s this party that’s really hard to get into.

Dhingra: I also find it interesting from my perspective because I wasn’t into Drake and I always had a lot of friends who were and now I understand it. You have this generation of guys who are into emotional rap music, for them this is their outlet. I have guys begging me to DJ and these are like men who just wanna play slow Drake.

Does Drake know about this party at all? Would you be stoked if he came? Or just weirded out?
Dhingra: So over time as the party evolved, my business partner’s wife (Meg Moreno) is like the biggest Drake fan of all of us and now she’s a partner. She works at Live Nation and from what I understand, they know about the party because Live Nation does Drake’s tours so those Drake faces are there at that office. So they know about it but it’s not a big thing and if anything we’ve been given sort of the go ahead because of the way we do it. I also think the worst thing that could happen would be Drake coming to the party or any sort of official resemblance of anything actually Drake. People just wanna live in the dream of it. The whole MO of the part was this needs to be ridiculous, you need to laugh at the whole concept.

The Drake Party comes to House of Blues Anaheim tomorrow night. For full details and tickets, click here.

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