Drake was contemplative Friday night (Feb. 2) before kicking off his It’s All A Blur – Big as the What? Tour with J. Cole.
At 7 p.m., he fired off an Instagram post alerting concertgoers in Tampa, Fla., that the doors for the Amalie Arena had finally opened. Quoting Kurupt as inspiration, Drake’s caption discussed the rigorous, competitive battles in rap and what’s lost amid that tireless pursuit of greatness. “As long as there’s competition, there will never be peace. Everyone wants to be the one,” read the quote.
For the opening night of Big as the What? Tour, Drake, and Cole inched closer to rap immortality after producing a monstrous 50-plus song setlist that left the 17,000 fans in attendance stunned.
The rap tandem threw everything but the kitchen sink as they seamlessly connected on their signature hits. With Drake leading the way with his arsenal of chart-toppers, nothing was left to chance, especially when he and Cole joined forces at the tail end of the concert. Though the lovefest between the two MCs was admirable, it didn’t change their trigger-happy moods, as they targeted their hapless peers with vigor and veracity. “I don’t like to win by five, I like to win by 45,” spewed Drake.
Embodying the spirit of first-ballot Hall of Famers, Drake and Cole’s shoot-first, ask-later mentality on their Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper “First Person Shooter” proved not to be trash talk but a guarantee of what happens when two blockbuster talents with Super Bowl hype share the same stage together.
Below are Billboard’s nine best moments from the opening night of Drake and J. Cole’s It’s All A Blur – Big as the What? Tour.
College Gameday Vibes
Tampa’s Amalie Arena mirrored a college homecoming atmosphere courtesy of the special touches made by the OVO commander. He brought in a marching band to kick off the concert and later, cheerleaders who danced along to various records, giving the football-designed set a collegiate feel.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith Joins The Madness
With the tour theme centering around the relationship between rap and sports, Drizzy invited ESPN First Take host Stephen A. Smith to analyze Drake and Cole’s string of lyrical performances. Of course, Smith was demonstrative as usual, hurling insults at both men as if he were shooting a live episode of his own debate show. Social media star BenDaDonn — who previously made skits with Drake on Instagram — joined in on the fun, playing the role of a reporter, giving play-by-play moments, one that included announcing the start of J. Cole’s set.
Young Drake Enjoys His Comeback Season
On the first It’s All A Blur Tour, Drake started his show with an actor playing his younger self while reading him the lyrics to “Look What Have You Done.” This time, his younger self was at a pseudo locker room where Drake later met him. The two shook hands during “Virginia Beach,” which ultimately kicked off the performance this time.
Drake Strives For Perfection
If there’s one thing about Drake, he never repeats the same mistake twice. The complaint often heard from the first It’s All A Blur Tour was his vocal miscues on certain records. Tonight, out the gate, Drake went straight into his R&B bag and quashed doubts about his vocal capabilities, performing “Virginia Beach,” “Marvin’s Room,” “Teenage Fever,” “Feel No Ways,” and “Jungle.” While it’s important to note that Drake is a rapper first, his efforts to improve vocally are appreciated because someone of his stature can easily skirt through those issues by not caring or being lackluster.
When Rap & Sports Collide
Throughout the night, Drake and Cole discussed how rap and sports are analogous because of the competitive nature often found between the two and why they approach the genre like bloodthirsty lions.
“The rap game is a tough thing to be a part of,” said Drake. “It’s kind of like sports. “You do your best to make people happy. You do your best to compete. You do your best to put food on your family’s table. A lot of people that aren’t in the game love to sit around and talk about the game. They love to shit on us, take us down, but this show, is really isn’t about me. It isn’t really about Cole. This show is about each and every one of y’all.”
Travis Scott Showed Up, Well Sort Of…
Travis Scott Showed Up, Well Sort Of…
During Drake’s three-song run, where he performed “MELTDOWN” and “SICKO MODE,” a huge statue of Travis Scott’s head floated its way onto the stage. Considering its ability to shoot lasers from Scott’s eyes mid-performance, this prop was the coolest one of the night. Other props included a giant floating bra, a replica of Drake’s Air Drake plane, and his colossal statue of the late Virgil Abloh, which appeared on the last tour.
One of the key highlights from Drake’s last tour was his gift-giving ways. From gifting purses to thousands of dollars to fans, he carried on the tradition by giving two lucky attendees $10,000 each after they revealed they worked dozens of overtime hours to attend tonight’s show.
Cole Gives an Update on The Fall Off, Recites “The Secret Recipe” Acapella
After a torrid 2023 features run, J. Cole updated fans Friday night that he was close to finishing his long-awaited album, The Fall Off. “Right now, I’m at the tail-end of working on this album I’ve been working on for a long time,” teased Cole. “It’s called The Fall Off.”
Following the crowd’s eruption, he asked if they loved rap, and recited his smoldering verse from Lil Yachty’s “The Secret Recipe.” Drake added gasoline to the fire when he tantalized fans further admitting to have heard Cole’s upcoming album before dubbing it “a classic.”
Flower Giving Moments
Since hip-hop is currently a bloodsport, where beef and turmoil are second to none, seeing Drake and Cole, two of the genre’s most prominent rappers of this generation, show each other love was noteworthy. Early in their careers, rap fans pitted the two against each other, hoping a lyrical feud would lead to a seismic battle for the throne. Fortunately, neither fell for the bait and remained brotherly throughout their journeys. Often, Cole called Drake “The Goat” during his performance, and the 6 God returned the love, thanking him profusely for joining his tour.
After Cole concluded his set, he and Drake hugged on stage and ruminated about how they had plotted to make this tour happen for years. “Thank you to my brother for something we spoke about for a long time come true. I appreciate sharing the stage with you every time,” said Drake.
That moment later sparked a “Remember the Verse” challenge, which tested their memory during a performance of “In the Morning,” before pivoting to “First Person Shooter.”