A good number of songs into Future’s set, the second-to-last one of the evening, he paused and said, “I wanna take Birthday Bash to the next level. That’s what we came here to do.”
And just like that out came Drake, proclaiming he’s a “Legend,” and the raucous capacity crowd at Philips Arena confirmed it by singing along to every word of the hook.
Future disappeared for a few minutes while letting Drake command the stage for himself. The Toronto rapper then jumped into his infectious verse on Fetty Wap’s “Come My Way.” There was no need for backup singers as the audience sang along to every word.
Using every inch of the stage, Drake followed it up with “Know Yourself.”
Before Future joined him on stage again, Drake told the audience that Atlanta should be proud of the hometown guy Future because he’s “crushin’” it right now.
There was no disputing the claim. Not only did Future also surprise the audience with appearances from rap’s newest ‘it couple’ Meek Mill and Nicki Minaj (who affectionately called the Philadelphia rapper “baby”), he held his own with a redeeming performance from last year’s Birthday Bash where he reportedly mumbled through most of the set.
On Saturday night, true Future fans (a good amount of them at Philips) were rewarded with more than a dozen songs from his “Beast Mode” and “Monster” mixtapes. He ended the night performing “Commas” with Drake still on stage.
Had the night ended there, it would’ve been a success, but as we’ve come to expect from Birthday Bash over a remarkable 20-year run, there’s always more.
The next set and grand finale was none other than Yeezus himself.
To no one’s surprise, Kanye West’s stage setup was the only one of the evening that was different from all the others. The wait was indeed worth it though.
Just around 11 p.m., West started with “Power” and then “New Slaves.” He wore bleach-stained jeans, an extra long gray button up (almost looked like a robe) with a v-neck, chain and brand new low-cut Yeezy Boost 350 shoes. His wedding band was also visible.
Similar to his Billboard Awards performance, there was a lot of smoke this time, too, but the sound was loud and clear.
West followed up “Black Skinhead” with his verse on Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like remix.” Next up was “Mercy,” where, to the crowd’s delight, West got an assist from none other than Atlanta’s 2 Chainz, who wore a bright orange traditional African top. Being that it was Birthday Bash 20, there was no way Chainz was going to be allowed to leave without first performing “Birthday.”
West dipped into his collaborations once again and performed his verse from “Put On” before giving a shout out to Migos, Future and Drake–some of “my favorites,” he said. Next came “Blessings,” “Jesus Walks, a partly a cappella rendition of “Touch the Sky,” “All of the Lights,” and “Good Life” (where he substituted Atlanta in place of all references for other cities).
According to a Philips Arena employee, West went at least 45 minutes over time, but the crowd certainly enjoyed it. Former Georgia Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley was one of them, albeit backstage.
The rest of the night before that was a success, though the Drake appearance and West performances ultimately proved to be worth the price of admission.
Other highlights included Ludacris’ homecoming (he was formerly Chris Luva Luva for the station when it was Hot 97.5), which featured some new stuff but was highlighted by his classics “What’s Your Fantasy,” “Southern Hospitality,” and “Move,” for which he brought out Mystikal to the crowd’s uproarious delight.
Wale claims Washington D.C. as home, but he let the crowd in on a secret by revealing he lived off Campbellton Road for four years. Upon learning this, it was no surprise to feel he felt at home, spending the early part of his set more in the crowd than on stage. Aside from West, Wale may have been the other best dressed act of the night wearing an Army coat, black jeans and a T-shirt and really bright, spiked gold shoes.
Also of note is that only two of the three Migos members were on stage, but that didn’t stop energetic performances of “Hannah Montana,” “Freak No More,” “Fight Night,” “Handsome & Wealthy,” and “One Time.”