With on-stage sets reminiscent of his come up and surprise guests in Dipset, 21 Savage, and Lil Uzi Vert, Drake’s SiriusXM show put his hit-making abilities on full display
Drake is standing in front of an unnamed music executive at an unnamed label boardroom, microphone in hand, with his talent put in question. He’s asked to show what he’s capable of, before launching into his 2009 breakout hit “Best I Ever Had.” Within a fragment of a second, the room is filled with screams.
This isn’t a scenario likely to happen in 2023 — an era when Drake is now 11 No. 1 albums and 12 No. 1 singles deep into his catalog. But it did happen, as an on-stage reenactment of one of the moments that led him to where he was Sunday night: Playing a career’s worth of classics at New York’s iconic Apollo Theater.
During the second night of Drake’s career retrospective at the Apollo for SiriusXM, where the hits and fan-favorites were far too extensive to even fit into the 40-song setlist, the 6 God’s stage represented both where he came from and where he is today. Outside of the fake label office he performed in, the Apollo stage also took the form of Drake’s childhood bedroom in his mom’s basement, as well as a Harlem deli where he brought out special guests Dipset (just like the one the group performed at during the 2003 Source Awards).
But in 2023, Drake really has very little left to prove. Not his rap IQ or admiration for those who came before him. Not his prominence as one of the best-selling artists of all time. And especially not the fact that he has an arsenal of hits for every occasion. Still, they all were on display at the Apollo.
As he explained at the second show while detailing where he came from for a crowd of his biggest supporters — including his No. 1 fan in his mother — the two-concert experience was about showing gratitude.
“The fact that I can still make music, and the fact that you still care. The fact that we can still, after all these years, from [Degrassi’s] Jimmy Brooks til now, just relate to each other somehow,” Drake said toward the end of the show. “I’ve thought about maybe [being] like, ‘Ah, it’s been a good run maybe I should just leave while it’s hot, while it’s good.’ But the love that I still get til this day after all these years. I’ll let you know, I’ll never leave you high and dry. Imma still keep cooking up, as long as you listen. I’ll be there for you. In your darkest moments and your happiest moments, I’ll be there for you.”
Pushed back twice, initially following the death of his Drake’s friend Takeoff and once more for production delays, the show felt like an expertly crafted victory lap for a man 15 years in the game. The setlist itself was truly Drizzy at his very best — enough for fans to FaceTime their friends and show them what they were witnessing throughout the night.
Opening with “Over My Dead Body” off his 2011 album Take Care, Drake threw on a cardigan for old times sake and sat on the recreation of his childhood bed. While to most, the song may feel like a softer start to a stacked set, it gave die-hard fans a refresher on one of Drake’s most appreciated musical eras. “Trust Issues” and “Marvin’s Room” also kept the crowd engaged, perhaps because hearing either of those two songs in concert in 2023 felt like a dream, before Drizzy tackled other B-sides and standouts such as “Feel No Ways” and “Jungle.”
Then came the singles. As he stood in front of the fake boardroom on stage, Drake delivered “Over,” “Headlines,” and more all in one sitting. Perhaps the only downside to having so much material and trying to fit it on a setlist is that most of the songs were condensed by half of their runtime, if not more, to keep the show around a two-hour set. Still, the crowd didn’t seem too upset that their favorite cuts were shortened — after all, Drake was performing them over a decade later.
Mid-to-late 2010s hits prompted a bit more of an uproar in the crowd, with “God’s Plan,” “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” “Controlla,” “One Dance,” and “In My Feelings” marking yet another stacked run. And shortly after More Life’s “Passionfruit,” and later chart-toppers like “Way 2 Sexy,” and “Wait for U” came the first surprise guest of the night — outside of Aaron Judge sitting on a balcony watching, of course.
Lil Uzi Vert arrived on a green-backed stage, prompting the ground to shake all the way in the back of the venue with his Jersey club hit “Just Wanna Rock.” Drake then joined him for “XO Tour Llif3,” before the Canadian MC entered his 2022 bag — moving on to a calculated solo collection of Honestly, Nevermind standouts such as “Sticky.” (Here’s to hoping “Texts Go Green” finds itself on a future tour set.)
After toasting his latest solo effort, Drake channeled the same energy he brought to night one at the Apollo and surprised the crowd with Dipset, as he wore another one of Cam’ron’s iconic jackets. The crew came out to Killa Cam’s “Oh Boy,” and toyed with a few other tracks, including “Hey Ma” — all while rapping in front of an on-stage Harlem deli featuring a Big L mural.
Drake’s student-of-the-game moment then turned into a vet moment when he brought out his friend and Her Loss co-star 21 Savage, but before they ran through their newest collab album, a fan fell from the lower mezzanine of the venue to the orchestra section.
21 and Drizzy quickly left the stage as security pushed through to guide the fan to safety, and within 15 minutes, an Apollo staffer told the audience that everybody involved was “absolutely OK” and that the “show must go on.” The venue has since released a statement, noting that it’s investigating the situation and that “no major injuries were reported.”
“We still got work to do, New York,” Drake said before he and his collaborator performed their No. 2 single “Rich Flex.”
While it was difficult to take your mind off the image of a man falling at a show, the rest of the event ran smoothly — as Drake and 21 closed the night with a Her Loss run and a performance of “Legend,” both of which were well received. “If you guys feel like me, if you enjoyed that experience, feel free to come see me and my brother this summer,” Drake said, announcing an apparent tour with 21. “We’ll be around.”
“As performers, you kind of never know what to expect,” Drake continued. “And I just wanna let you know, and I mean this when I say this… This group of people in this type of building, it’s almost impossible to get the two. This crowd is an absolute f—ing 10 out of 10… We apologize for the delays and all that s— but thank you. You gave me so much confidence and joy to get back to performing.”
Drake didn’t have to prove anything with his Apollo shows. He’s known to have hits, he’s known to have connections and an eye for special guests, and he’s known to care about his legacy — this event now being part of it. But perhaps, it was all just to show himself and his fans that he could put on a show worthy of being held at such an iconic venue. This weekend, he did exactly that, while reminding fans that his reign is far from “Over.”