“NY, let’s take a trip down memory lane this weekend,” Drake shares on Instagram just five days before his anticipated shows at Harlem’s historic Apollo Theater. After postponing the events twice, the Canadian rapper finally took the stage this weekend, playing the historical Harlem venue on Saturday, January 21 and Sunday, January 22. The intimate shows were his first full concerts in nearly five years, with both set to air on Drake’s exclusive SiriusXM channel Sound 42 in the coming weeks.
As the guests find their seats and settle in, OVO co-founder Oliver El-Khatib DJs as team members Noel Cadastre and Mark Robinson join him on stage. Following their set, at around 9pm, Drake launches into the night with ‘Over My Dead Body’, sitting on a bed and wearing a cardigan in a set meant to represent his mom’s basement. The space holds significance for the rapper since it’s the place he used to spend time dreaming about the life he has now. “You know, I spent a lot of time in competition mode and I ended up being taken by that mentality and my psyche,” he tells the crowd after performing ‘Wu Tang Forever’ and ‘Trust Issues’. “Sometimes I’m in a mode of trying to represent for all you beautiful people that support me and I want to make sure I’m not letting you down,” he says. “Tonight I just wanted to leave that alone for a second and I wanted tonight to be about gratitude because I’m so grateful for all of you.”
The night is filled with tributes and shoutouts, including one for his mom before he starts to sing ‘Marvin’s Room’. “My number one supporter, my mom, is sitting right up there,” he says. “I’d like to pay tribute and respect to all the times you never told me no. You never told me no. If I said I could do something, or if I said I could be something, you never told me no, and that means the world to me.” Before performing ‘Say Something’, ‘Feel No Ways’, ‘Practice’, ‘Jaded’, and ‘Jungle’, he tells his mom and the crowd, “Tonight, I’d like to take you on a journey of some of the songs that I probably would’ve never made if I didn’t have somebody to tell me that I could do it all the time.”
As ‘Karaoke’ plays, the set changes, opening up to a record label boardroom. Drake wears a black leather hoodie with his OVO owl symbol as he raps ‘Best I Ever Had’, and other massive hits like ‘HYFR (Hell Ya Fucking Right)’, ‘Started From the Bottom’, ‘I’m on One’, ‘No New Friends’, ‘Know Yourself’, ‘God’s Plan’, and ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’. At the beginning of ‘Controlla’, he shares, “I got good New York memories to this song right here. New York turned this song up for me by the way. I love y’all for that.”
Next, he goes off stage and the lights turn green as the song ‘Just Wanna Rock’ begins to play and Lil Uzi Vert makes a surprise appearance. Drake returns during Lil Uzi’s ‘Xo Tour Llif3’, at one point asking the crowd to “make some noise for my actual real brother.”
Another transition occurs, this time with the stage becoming a Harlem Bodega. It’s the same set Dipset used at the 2003 Source Awards. Fellow rappers Cam’ron, Juelz Santana, Jim Jones and Freekey Zekey emerge to join Drake on stage. “My dream for doing the Apollo would be to share the stage with these legendary guys,” he says. “These guys influenced my brothers and me so much and I’m so glad I got to do two nights at Apollo with the Dips.”
The star-studded night continues as 21 Savage makes an appearance. But as ‘Rich Flex’ starts to play, a staff member comes on stage, and Drake announces they have to stop to see if a fan, who fell off the balcony into the orchestra pit, is safe. After a brief wait, Drake lets the audience know no one is injured, adding, “we still got work to do New York.” 21 and Drake perform ‘Rich Flex’ and ‘Privileged Rappers’ before a large Apollo sign lights up behind the stage during ‘Spin Bout You’ and tracks ‘Jimmy Cooks’ and ‘Knife Talk’ from ‘Her Loss’ follow.
“Thank you for this night,” Drake says as the evening comes to a close. “Like I said, it’s an evening of gratitude. It’s really nights like these that let me know I have the greatest job in the world,” he says. “You give me the confidence to know after all these years, after all the no’s that we’ve heard, after all the doors that slammed in our faces, it’s this exact group right here that lets me know I’m exactly where I need to fucking be and I’m not going nowhere no time soon. So, thank you again from the bottom of our heart.”
“I’m grateful for my family, my friends, and just to be on this journey with you and the fact that I can still make music and the fact that you still care,” the rapper tells the theater.
“You know, the fact that we can still, after all these years from Jimmy Brooks till now, just relate to each other somehow. I’ve thought about maybe being like, ‘Oh it’s been a good run, maybe I should just leave while it’s hot’ but the love I still get to this day after all these years, I’ll let you know I’ll never leave you high and dry. I’m gonna still keep cooking up. As long as you listen, I’ll be here for you, in your darkest moments or your happiest moments I’ll be here for you,” He says, before closing the night with a performance of his track, ‘Legend’.
As he finishes one of his most iconic shows to date, he parts with, “If you ever say, ‘That’s probably too far-fetched of a goal’ just go watch my old haircut on Degrassi. If you can have that haircut and you can make it to the fucking Apollo stage you can do anything in the world. Have a good night.”
‘Over My Dead Body’
‘Feel No Ways’
‘Best I Ever Had’
‘HYFR’ (Hell Ya Fucking Right)
‘Started From the Bottom’
‘I’m on One’
‘No New Friends’
‘Laugh Now Cry Later’
‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’
‘In My Feelings’
‘Just Wanna Rock’ (with Lil Uzi Vert)
‘‘Xo Tour Llif3′ (with Lil Uzi Vert)
‘Way 2 Sexy’
‘Wait for U’
‘Calling My Name’
‘I Really Mean It’ (with The Diplomats)
‘Dipset Anthem’ (with The Diplomats)
‘Hey Ma’ (with The Diplomats)
‘Privileged Rappers’ (with 21 Savage)
‘Spin Bout You (with 21 Savage)’
‘Jimmy Cooks’ (with 21 Savage)
‘Knife Talk’ (with 21 Savage)