Super Bowl LIV weekend has arrived in Miami, bringing with it a seemingly never-ending parade of spectacles supplied by the biggest names in entertainment.
One such event was the EA Sports Bowl, which took over the American Airlines Arena last night and brought some of the most exciting acts in hip-hop to downtown Miami. The 305's own DJ Khaled was the headliner, accompanied by Megan Thee Stallion, DaBaby, Meek Mill, and enough rappers to give Rolling Loud a run for its money. Khaled has built his empire out of Miami, so it was only fitting he received top billing for the concert.
Superstar femcee Megan Thee Stallion, bolstered by the momentum of her breakthrough 2019, kicked off the evening's proceedings. The newly crowned hip-hop heavyweight demonstrated her top-tier twerking skills and incomparable knee strength with “Realer,” and her dancers joined her for "Freak Nasty.” As is customary with many of her live shows (including her headlining RapCaviar performance at the Fillmore Miami Beach last fall), the H-Town hottie brought a handful of lucky audience members onstage for a game of Simon Says. Before jumping into "Cash Shit” and her new single “B.I.T.C.H.,” she stopped to thank her fans for their unwavering support. “Y'all made ['Cash Shit'] go platinum, and for that I appreciate y'all," she said to wild applause. "And I'm gon' keep rocking with y'all as long as y'all keep rocking with me!"
Next up was DaBaby, who seemingly emerged out of nowhere as "Suge" reverberated throughout the arena to deafening cheers. He was soon joined onstage by two adults dressed as babies — one boy and one girl — as he handily rapped “Goin’ Baby” without breaking a sweat. Later he sprayed water from a bottle on nearby audience members before launching into “Vibez.” Like Megan before him, he also performed his portion of “Cash Shit,” which ultimately felt like a missed opportunity for the two of them to trade bars. Joined by fellow North Carolina rapper and collaborator Stunna 4 Vegas, Baby descended into the general admission section and snapped selfies with excited fans in Sections 106 and 120 as he closed his portion of the show with “BOP.”
Meek Mill’s time onstage was prefaced by footage from his compelling documentary, Free Meek, on the screens. "I want to thank y'all for helping me get back to my family, my money, and the life I love,” he said to a loving crowd after taking the stage. The Philadelphia rapper honored the lives of Kobe Bryant and Nipsey Hussle by calling for a moment of silence and asking the audience to put their lighters up. He ran through beloved hits such as “24/7” and “Going Bad,” but his choice to perform “All Eyes on You” — his famous collab with ex Nicki Minaj — was as well received as it was out of place, considering he and Minaj (along with her new husband, Kenneth “Zoo” Petty) engaged in a heated confrontation in a Hollywood clothing store last week.
After Meek wrapped up his set, many concertgoes began shuffling out of the arena, seemingly not all that interested in catching DJ Khaled "and Friends" during their headlining performance. When Khaled finally emerged onstage in a teal jacket as “All I Do Is Win” blared over the speakers, it would’ve been a natural reaction for attendees to roll their eyes as if they knew exactly what was about to come.
But the “and Friends” part of Khaled’s billing proved crucial, mostly owing to the fact that Khaled is primarily a producer and not a rapper by trade. When Miami hip-hop icon Rick Ross walked onstage, it became clear something very special was underway. What ensued was nothing short of a love letter to the 305 from several of the most accomplished hip-hop artists the city has produced. Ross performed classics such as “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)” and was soon joined by Trick Daddy for “I’m So Hood,” which prompted a grateful response from Khaled, who expressed gratitude for both rappers’ longtime support of his career.
Trick then took center stage to perform his 1998 hit “Nann” with the accompaniment of his longtime collaborator, radio cohost, and Love & Hip Hop: Miami costar Trina. The Diamond Princess — wearing a stunning zebra-print dress and rhinestone-studded thigh-high boots — expertly rapped every word of “Look Back at Me” with the same self-titled "baddest bitch" attitude fans have come to love her for over the past two decades. With Trina, Trick, and Rick Ross onstage at once, Khaled marked the moment by honoring the city they all share: “This is historic right here. This shit don't happen every day!”
Khaled brought out Ludacris for a braggadocios rendition of “Move Bitch” and an “All I Do Is Win” reprise before taking a second to explain the connection between Miami's and Atlanta’s hip-hop scenes. As audience members began whispered among themselves about who from Atlanta could possibly join the party, Quavo and Offset — representing two-thirds of Migos — emerged to perform “Bad and Boujee” and “Pure Water” alongside Khaled. They were followed by a yellow-tracksuit-wearing 2 Chainz, who ran through “Watch Out” and “I’m Different” before introducing young artists on his upcoming compilation album, No Face No Case.
After a quick set from Yo Gotti, it seemed the crowd had just about had enough. “I got more,” DJ Khaled said to exhausted, weakening cheers. Fabolous was next, and kept his performance to short renditions of “You Be Killin 'Em” and “Make Me Better.” After he left the stage, Khaled appeared confused about how to properly introduce his next guest.
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“This next performer is a legend. I don’t even know how to — you know what? Just bring him out.” From the first three notes of the track and the “Bangladesh!” producer tag, fans knew exactly who it was and erupted in thunderous applause.
Minutes after his 13th studio album, Funeral, hit streaming services worldwide, Lil Wayne stormed the stage while rapping "A Milli" with a mike in one hand and a blunt in the other. He flawlessly delivered career-spanning hits “Steady Mobbin’” and “Uproar” and thanked Khaled for inviting him and allowing him to run the show as if it were his own, all with an endearingly large, toothy smile.
Khaled closed out the show with “Higher,” his collaboration with John Legend and Nipsey Hussle that earned the producer/songwriter his first Grammy Award last weekend. He asked the audience to raise their hands to heaven and declared, “This here is for Nipsey. This is for Kobe. This is for Gigi.” Coming from an artist who's best known for being comically obnoxious, the gesture came across as a true moment of reflection from Khaled. It was a somber divergence from an otherwise jubilant evening. One can only hope that all who were in attendance appreciated the significance of this performance — we won't likely see this many Miami legends under one roof again for some time.