Big-name musical collaborations are almost impossible to pull off live: Conflicting schedules, label affiliations and egos make it difficult to get two (or three, or four) major artists on the same stage. That fact can be difficult when an artist such as Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill decides to hit the road.
At this point in his career, some of his best-known tracks are collaborations or group effort with fellow members of Rick Ross’s Maybach Music Group. Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares” tour is underway, but instead of using recorded vocals from his collaborators to fill gaps, he has managed to recruit some major stars to help him out. The tour stopped at the Fillmore Silver Spring on Friday, and though Mill had hinted at a big surprise, no one seemed prepared for the appearance of rapper Drake, who, with the possible exception of Ross, is the biggest draw in commercial rap at the moment.
It’s a testament to Mill’s rising stock that on every date so far, he has been able to pull artists such as Waka Flocka Flame, TI and Trey Songz onstage at mid-size venues. As has been noted time and again, all eyes are on the brash street rapper to see whether he can become a mainstream success. The release of his high-stakes solo label debut, “Dreams & Nightmares” was just pushed from Aug. 28 to Oct. 30 so he can focus on perfecting the album. In the meantime, Mill has been having fun on tour and generating buzz with help from some famous friends.
He kicked off his set with “Flexing” from this year’s “Dreamchasers 2” mix tape and “Tony Montana” from 2011’s “Dreamchasers.” For the single “Actin’ Up,” Mill was joined by DMV native and fellow MMG signee Wale, who also performed his own bounce-beat-influenced “Bait” and assisted during an MMG set. “Rozay Ain’t Here, but we gon’ vibe out!” Mill said before he and Wale ran though snippets of “Stay Schemin’ ” and “Bag of Money.”
Mill screamed out, “I’m having the greatest time of my life!” just before the DJ dropped the opening church organ notes of “Amen,” a collaboration with Drake. Something about the blasphemous thrill of giving thanks for women and wealth over gospel chords has inexplicably made it a huge hit. Just as the crowd prepared to start shouting out an absent Drake’s lyrics, the Canadian rapper walked onstage and started rhyming. It was so unexpected that it took a second for stunned concertgoers to recover before they started shrieking and snapping pics, enjoying the surreal experience of seeing someone so famous up close instead of from the upper deck of a huge arena.
Drake said that when Mill was on his “Club Paradise” tour, which came to the District in May, Mill always obliged his requests to perform an extra track or two, so he would do the same. Drake performed one of his own songs and a snippet of “The Motto” before breaking out. Meek Mill wisely saved his most crowd-pleasing tracks — red-cup anthem “House Party” and “Ima Boss” — for the post-Drake portion of the evening and showed that while superstar guests are cool and all, he doesn’t need help holding down a stage.
Godfrey is a freelance writer.