Drake teases tour, new music, brings out Dipset, 21 Savage for Apollo Theater debut in NYC

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NEW YORK — Drake is entering the new year with gratitude. His way of showing it is just slightly different from the average person.

The Canadian rapper returned to the stage Saturday night for the first time in years, making his debut at the Apollo Theater — and thanking everyone who got him there.

The concert was a victory lap for Drake, who looked entirely in his element as he banged out hits and teased a summer tour and the possibility of new music.

He crafted the show to create vignettes that reflect his beginnings acting in “Degrassi” and writing rhymes in his bedroom; his rise in the face of record label rejection; and his influences and collaborators, many of whom he brought to the historic venue in Harlem.

“I wanted to make this a show about gratitude. This was a little story that we put together, my deep love for my family, for my dear friends and for each and every one of you that have been supporting me for a long time,” he said. “We don’t need to say how long, it’s gonna make it sound like we’re all getting old.”

Celebrities in attendance included Justin and Hailey Bieber, A$AP Ferg, Kevin Durant, Ice Spice, Odell Beckham Jr., Richie Akvia, Michael Rubin, Will Makris, as well as his mom Sandi and producer Noah “40” Shebib. Appearances from Dipset and 21 Savage capped off the show, the first of a two-night concert for Sirius XM’s Sound 42, full of the rapper’s biggest and newest songs.

“I wanted to express how deeply grateful we are to be in this position,” Drake said. “I’ve done a lot of reflecting the last few years, really realizing the type of lightning strike that this run has been. And it’s really got kind of something to do with me, but it’s got everything to do with us, because I just feel like we’ve been relating to each other for so long.”

The three-level venue, where Black legends ranging from James Brown and Billie Holiday to Stevie Wonder and Patti LaBelle have left their mark, served as a striking contrast to Drake’s arena shows, channeling an intimate moment for the 36-year-old’s first concert since becoming a father.

Drake highlighted the various eras of his career, performing “Marvin’s Room,” “Best I Ever Had,” “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” “One Dance,” “God’s Plan” and more.

He also teased the possibility of new projects in 2023.

“I’ve thought about a bunch of things in life, but at this moment in time, none of those things are stopping making music for you, so I’ll be here for you for a little bit at least,” Drake said. “I hope I can strike up some more emotions for you — maybe this year, I might get bored and make another one, who knows?”

He also playfully switched up the lyrics for “Started From the Bottom,” rapping, “This summer, man, I’m back on the road, $100 million for some shows.”

Drake performs with Dipset, wears Cam’ron’s original pink fur jacket

The Dipset crew — Jim Jones, Juelz Santana, Cam’ron and Freekey Zekey — sauntered out of a replica of Harlem bodega with their enviable New York swagger.

Amid “I Really Mean It,” “Dipset Anthem” and Jones’ “We Fly High,” Drake revealed his outfit change from a Jimmy Brooks “Degrassi” jersey to a pink fur jacket and matching headband was not just paying homage to Cam’ron’s iconic look — it was the same pink mink Cam’ron famously wore.

Before exiting the stage, the Dipset crew presented Drake with a custom diamond-encrusted bracelet to mark the evening.

21 Savage joins Drake on stage for ‘Jimmy Cooks,’ ‘Rich Flex,’ more live

Turns out, 21 can do something for Drake, popping up to perform alongside him during the concert’s final segment.

The cameo didn’t even scratch the surface of the duo’s biggest hits, which have spanned years and recently culminated in their 2022 joint album “Her Loss”. The crowd raged to “Rich Flex,” “Jimmy Cooks,” “Privileged Rappers,” “Spin Bout U” and “Knife Talk.”

Drake admitted being a little behind on learning his new material, joking, “I don’t know how to perform this yet, but I know the hook, though” (which is really all that matters).

21 Savage praised his collaborator for being there.

“Since the first day I met this (man in) 2015, every week at least I heard from him,” 21 Savage said of Drake. Not about rap or music, just “‘I’m checking on you, seeing how you doing, bro.’ And he helped me every step of my career behind the scenes.”

Drake ends Apollo Theater concert with ‘a little old-fashioned New York sing-along,’ gratitude

“Thank you for an incredible evening, I couldn’t have asked for a better first show back. I’ll be out and about on the road this year, so I hope to see a lot of the same faces,” Drake said before closing the show with an oldie but goodie, “Legend,” off his 2015 mixtape “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.”

“I love you so much, and I appreciate you,” Drake said. “I know it’s cliché to say, but I would actually be absolutely nothing, face down in the mud, if it wasn’t for each and every one of you, so thank you. It’s been a lot of years, it’s been a long time. Thank you so much, I love you. My name is Drake, I’m from Toronto, I don’t know how the (expletive) I made it here, but we did, so thank you.”

The show marked four years since his last tour, 2019’s Assassination Vacation.

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