Drake takes New York City through his career Saturday night at the historic Apollo Theater with support from 21 Savage and Harlem legends The Diplomats.
The Toronto rapper tore through his biggest hits and deep cuts (does Drake have deep cuts too?), transforming the stage from his childhood bedroom to a record label boardroom to a New York City bodega.
Drake opened the show paying homage to his roots, wearing a “Degrassi” jersey and sitting on a replica of his childhood bed, where he told the crowd he “wrote a lot of these songs.” The concert was “about gratitude,” he said, performing in front of his closest family and friends, including his mother and OVO co-founder Noah “40” Shebib, who has produced all of Drake’s albums.
The first act of the show was decidedly downtempo, with Drake belting out the less radio-friendly ballads “Over My Dead Body” and “Trust Issues,” as well as the fan favorite sentimental “Marvin’s Room.” Wasting no time, Drake stormed out of most of the song after just one verse and one chorus.
Early on, the rapper found himself repeatedly urging the crowd to turn up the energy. “We’re going there tonight, I promise you,” he assured an audience that, at least in the back of the room, was surprisingly quiet. “Don’t play shy with me.”
But when the set changed from his mom’s basement to a boardroom – where Drake rapped a guy in a suit representing the labels he’d given him early in his career – he hit Apollo with a much-needed triple shot of espresso: “The best I’ve ever done,” “Title” and “HYFR (Hell Ya Fucking Right).”
In fact, the show was full of No. 1 songs, from “God’s Plan” to “One Dance” to “In My Feelings.” It’s easy to forget just how many hits Drake has had until you’ve seen a crowd sing along to nearly every word in a 40-song set that didn’t bother to include “Nice For What,” “Hotline Bling,” “Toosy Slide” or “The Music Star.” “
With a guest list of industry figures and celebrities from Kevin Durant to Ice Spice, the show was exclusive. The entire stretch from Frederick Douglass Blvd to 125th St. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. Nearby, it was closed, with many spectators taking pictures of the Apollo marquee and attempting last-minute landing passes. Among the dozens of cell phones always in the air during the show, many weren’t recording video but FaceTime with people who couldn’t get tickets. Those lucky enough to be inside the Apollo were each given a free commemorative t-shirt and treated to a complimentary drink.
After the second intermission, the set turned to a Harlem street corner, where the diplomats did not enter the stage through the bodega doors. Dressed in Cam’ron’s famous pink mink, Drake performed “I Really Mean It”, “Dipset Anthem” and “We Fly High (Ballin)” with Cam’ron, Jim Jones, Juelz Santana and Freaky Zeke. Before they left the stage, Drake paid tribute to the influential New York rap collective, who presented him with a custom OVO x Dipset bracelet. “These guys from Harlem made us dress different, talk different, walk different, rap different in Canada,” he said.
Then, blasting from past to present, Drake brought out 21 Savage for several songs from their 2022 collaborative effort “Her Loss.” Standing in front of a giant neon Apollo sign, the pair traded verses on “Rich Flex,” “Privileged Rappers,” “Knife Talk” and “Jimmy Cooks.” In between songs, they teased a joint tour this year, with Drake saying, “We’re gonna hit the road this summer.” He has assured fans that he is not leaving anytime soon, hinting at a solo album in 2023.
Toward the end of the set, Drake shared his heartfelt gratitude for his fans: “I appreciate all the people that stick with me. I know it’s like a cool thing … to be like ‘Fuck Drake’ … but I’m deeply grateful to everyone for continuing to support us.”
He added, “I’ve thought about a lot of things in life, but none of those things are stopping me from making music for you right now, so I’ll be here for you at least a little bit. And I hope I can hurt more emotions for you, maybe this year. I might get bored and make another one, who knows!”
After closing the show with “Legend,” Drake cut the music and thanked the audience once again. “I don’t know how we made it here, but we did.”
As brash as his rap persona is, Drake was genuinely humbled by the enormity of this career milestone. Ending a 90-minute celebration of his journey from mixtape peddler to one of the world’s most successful hitmakers, he told the crowd, “My name is Drake, I’m from Toronto,” as if he were introducing himself to that very boardroom. The first time.
Check out the full setlist below:
- over my dead body
- Wu-Tang forever
- Trust matters
- Marvin Room
- say something
- There is no way
- to practice
- the forest
- The best I’ve ever had
- HYFR (Hell Ya Fucking Right)
- Start from the bottom
- I am not one
- No new friends
- know yourself
- God’s plan
- Laugh now, cry later
- Hold on, we’re going home
- a dance
- in my feelings
- Way 2 is sexy
- Wait for U
- My name is Calling
- Yebber heartbreak
- I really mean it (with diplomats).
- Dipset Anthem (with The Diplomats)
- We Fly High (Ballin) (With The Diplomats)
- Rich Flex
- Privileged Rapper (with 21 Savage)
- Spin Bout You (with 21 Savages)
- Jimmy Cooks (with 21 Savages)
- Knife Talk (with 21 Savages)
- the legend