With Meek Mill, Tinashe, Rae Sremmurd and Dej Loaf
Gexa Energy Pavilion, Dallas
Friday, July 17, 2015
Watch out, world: The title of Best Hip-Hop Power Couple may be about to change hands. As Nicki Minaj entered the homestretch of her marathon 38-song tour kickoff at Gexa Energy Pavilion on Friday night, she brought out her boyfriend Meek Mill to perform two of his new songs. And then it happened: Minaj licked his face. That's when the real fireworks started.
Then Minaj and Mill set off on "All Eyes On You," and the crackling chemistry between the two couldn't be replicated by any other duo in the game right now. Between Meek's recent release from jail and embarking on the blockbuster Pinkprint tour together, the two seem ready to conquer the country. And as actual sparks rained down from the rafters during the closing lines, "We was the flyest/Up in the building," you couldn't help but feel they will do just that.
Before the night got all physical, Minaj was clearly enjoying herself — and really, she's earned it. Over the years she's evolved from "Roman" to "Superbass" to "Anaconda" and established herself as one of the most influential female rappers of all time, as well as an empowering role model. (That's right, gasping suburban mothers; even the "Anaconda" video won't change our minds on that.)
When she first hit the stage in an outfit that looked like it came straight out of Game of Thrones, the scene felt more like a cult ceremony than the first stop for an all-powerful hip-hop tour — but she has a way of acquiring acolytes either way. Minaj couldn't help but be overrun with joyous laughter when the 20,000 Dallasites in attendance paid tribute to their queen as she rose from the stage. Maybe she says this to all the cities, but she's already claiming it to be one of the best audiences of her career.
The set started with "All Things Go" and stayed low tempo until Minaj pivoted to bangers with "Feeling Myself." With absentee accompaniment by Beyoncé, she seared through her verses while being circled by her army of dancers. The line between her pop and hip-hop stylings was constantly blurred by visual overload and Minaj's whiplash-inducing stage presence. Then she jumped into her best verses of the last year ("Only," "Truffle Butter") in a medley, but it ran short due to the (heartbreaking) lack of Drizzy and (appreciated) absence of Lil Wayne.
When she switched back to her slower songs, the opening chords of "Grand Piano" prompted a grown man in front of me to double over in tears while confetti rained down from the sky. Until this moment — seeing the profound effect the song had on this person — Minaj’s ballads had never quite hit home for me. But between the crowd singing along, this man having a breakdown and Minaj rubbing away tears onstage with a wide smile, I’d be lying if I said I kept a dry eye throughout the performance.
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Eventually the crowd's stamina began to — understandably — wane as the impressively long setlist wore them down, so another one of Minaj's openers, the hype-fueled Rae Sremmurd, reappeared to help get the party restarted on "Throw Sum Mo." But before that, Minaj broke out her deep cuts. She dropped “Itty Bitty Piggy” from her 2009 mixtape and tested the audience on the lyrics, almost as if their name was pop quiz.
When the second verse came on, Minaj cut the music off and extended her microphone to the audience. Without hesitation, they recited almost the entire verse in unison and left Nicki speechless. “Do you guys have any idea how epic you are?” she asked. “Dallas, ya'll are insane.”
Then again, this was just the first stop on her tour. Chances are there will be plenty more sparks flying in the weeks to come.