21 Savage Plays His Greatest Hits at 'I Am > I Was' New York City Tour Stop

21 savage
Keeyahtay Lewis on behalf of The Howard Hughes Corporation

21 Savage performs The Rooftop at Pier 17 on Aug. 8, 2019.

21 Savage fans have been waiting for this moment. Their favorite rapper has gone through hell and back, making headlines for his arrest and detention by ICE in February. After spending nine days at one of the worst detention centers outside of Atlanta, he was granted bond and won his freedom. This was a time for a celebration. His fans weren’t going to let rain stop them.

On Thursday night (Aug. 8), 21 Savage’s i am > i was Tour stopped in New York City on The Rooftop at Pier 17 at the seaport. Unlike other dates, this bill didn’t feature North Carolina’s DaBaby, but he was replaced by Slaughter Gang affiliate No Plug, Chicago’s Calboy, and Atlanta’s Young Nudy, who is also 21 Savage’s cousin. At around 8 p.m., after No Plug warmed up the crowd, concertgoers were instructed to go to a 4th floor event space as a safety precaution of the impending thunderstorm.

What was initially a 20-minute delay to let the rain pass turned into nearly an hour, but fans needed to keep the energy up. During that time, an impromptu dance circle broke out, and fans rallied behind security to kick out a pesky guy who was doing too much. It seemed the longer 21 fans had to be corralled and confined into this space, the more eager they became. With no formal announcement of a show cancellation, security finally got the green light to let fans back up on the rooftop, where they ran up the escalators to quickly secure their spots near the stage.

Rain or shine, the show must go on. There were no performances from Calboy or Young Nudy as scheduled, but 21 returned as the main event. A little after 9 p.m., fans watched a montage video of 21’s career, soundtracked by one of his earlier hits “Skrrt Skrrt,” as well as “4L.” He paid his respects to Johnny B, his best friend, and Tayman, his younger brother, whom died from gun violence. The rapper has gone through many levels of self-improvement since his youth, shown in his progress of putting the street life behind him to become an entrepreneur, educator, and budding rap star. It’s no coincidence that 21 spent most of his set perched atop of a stage, overlooking his fans and the city skyline like a boss, symbolizing how he’s the rapper you gotta get through to reach the summit now.

A few songs in, 21 revealed his Crenshaw t-shirt he was wearing, a salute to the late Nipsey Hussle. From there, he took it back to Savage Mode with “No Advance,” “Feel It,” and “Ocean Drive.” For “No Heart,” he instructed the crowd to open up the mosh pit and for them to sing his song loud. It was perfectly executed.

The second half of the show transitioned into i am > i was tracks, but also included his guest verses on smash hits by Cardi B (“Bartier Carti”) and Post Malone (“rockstar”), the latter of which topped the Hot 100 in 2017 for eight weeks. i am > i was was released in late December last year, and it was clear that many of the album’s tracks are still in heavy rotation by this crowd. Whether it was “monster,” “pad lock” or “1.5,” his fans made sure to shout every word.

While the screen projected images of skulls and other horror-flick imagery throughout the show, it served as another public service announcement for the uninitiated. One video clipped various news outlets reporting on 21’s ICE arrest, showing the outpouring of support he received from the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Future, J. Cole, and DJ Khaled. The video maintained a message that all the success and hard work can be taken away in an instant. It ended with 21 describing his arrest to ABC News’ Good Morning America

"They didn't say nothing," he added of why he was being arrested. "They just said, 'We got Savage.'”

In some cases, it takes someone going through an unfortunate situation to return with a fuller purpose. The crowd’s “Fuck ICE!” chants were definitely warranted in this climate, as more headlines about their actions at detention centers continue to upset Americans. 21 even acknowledged that New York can be a tough crowd to gain respect for rappers who aren’t from here, thanking the crowd for showing him genuine love. 

The appreciation of 21 Savage’s hit-packed show is one thing, but another is realizing his importance as an activist. Outside of music and a pending Savage Mode 2 release, 21 will continue to be a positive impact in his community by evolving his financial literacy campaign and back-to-school initiative. He’ll also be a voice for immigration reform, proving that setbacks only make for bigger leaps.


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