Wale fans refused to let a rainy evening spoil their Thursday night plans (May 25) as concert-goers with umbrellas in tow packed New York City’s Irving Plaza for the rapper’s Shine tour stop.
To kick off the show, opener Rotimi — known for his role on the Starz hit series Power — graced the stage. The multi-faceted star dived into his 2014 single “Lotto,” sans 50 Cent, and his LL-Cool J-inspired track “Doin’ It.” Swarmed by an army of scantily clad dancers, the R&B singer exuded confidence throughout his set. Rotimi also thanked the night’s headliner for including him on his latest offering Shine. “I wanna thank my brother Wale for putting me on “Thank God,” he said.
After Rotimi catered to the ladies with his sensual sounds, D.C. natives Phil Ade and Chaz French injected heavy doses of hip-hop vibes in their sets. First, Ade took charge and performed cuts from his forthcoming project Selfish, including “FaceTime” and “The Truth.” French then delivered lively performances of “Pull Up” and “Way Out.”
He also spent time onstage ruminating about his new-found success, including a deal with Motown Records last March. “I remember begging for shows and begging for features,” recalled French, before thanking God for his blessings. Hip-hop star Kent Jones followed with a spirited set. Donning glittery red shoes and gaudy chains around his neck, Jones rapped, sang, and even hopped on the keyboard, performing his new single “Sit Down,” and his 2016 Billboard Hot 100 smash “Don’t Mind”.
As a warm-up, Wale’s DJ, DJ Money, played several notable gems, including Rick Ross’ “600 Benz” and Folarin’s throwback record “Nike Boots.” At 9:50 p.m., Wale zipped across the stage and delivered the crowd multiple bangers, beginning with the Lil Wayne-assisted “Running Back.” He followed up with memorable hits from his catalog including “Bait,” “Chilln,” and “Girls on “Drugs.”
“This is a real hip-hop show,” he fearlessly declared. Drenched in sweat, the MMG/Atlantic Records signee took off his shirt to reveal a black tank top, and continued his onslaught. Wale then brought back Rotimi to help anchor the chorus for “Thank God,” the intro to his fifth album Shine. As the two shared the stage together, the crowd proved to be worthy back-up singers, aiding Rotimi on the empowering hook.
Once Rotimi exited the stage, Wale catered to the ladies for a good portion of the show. After breezing through his 2015 jam “The Need to Know,” he led a profanity-laced chant to usher in his next record, “The Break Up.” “F–k my ex,” Wale barked callously at the top of his lungs, as the crowd recited along. Wale then allowed his partner Tre to lead the way on a sweet medley for the ladies. The singer weaved through some of Folarin’s classics including “That Way,” “Matrimony,” “Diced Pineapples,” and “The Body.” As he began singing “Lotus Flower Bomb,” Wale jumped back onstage to rap his poignant verses. “I got hits, n—a,” he yelled to the crowd.
He swerved back to Shine mode with a performance of “Te Llamo.” Following his performance, the Ambition MC had a few choice words aimed at his detractors. “I don’t give a f–k about numbers. I’m one of the hottest n—as in this sh-t. I’m one of the dopest n—as in this motherf—er,” he said.
“I felt like Ambition was a great album. I felt like Gifted was a great album. I felt like The Album About Nothing was a great album,” he continued. “I wanted to make an album where I can go on stage every night and f–k with my n—as.”
Then, out of nowhere, Joe Budden walked onto the stage. The host of Complex’s new show Everyday Struggle — which recently featured Wale — had a request. “For those of y’all that are unfamiliar, my name is Joe Budden and I’m a huge Wale fan,” he said. “All of this is great and I saw the little list. I’m gonna be upset if I traveled from New Jersey to Irving Plaza… you gotta at least do a verse of “Fine Girl,” pleaded Budden. Wale obliged and gifted his fellow MC with a verse from the dance-heavy record.
Folarin then kept the momentum going by delving into his summery track “My Love,” before closing the show with “My PYT.” Relishing the final moments of his concert, Wale made his way towards the sound booth and stood on top of it. As his band steam rolled through the Michael Jackson-interpolating single, he absorbed the adoration.
For one night (at least), Wale didn’t have to combat the negativity surrounding his album sales or entertain any jabs sent his way. With a hearty showcase that displayed his prowess as an on-stage performer, Wale appeared unfazed by any negativity and proved his career isn’t defined by sales figures.