NEW YORK — Yeah. There was going to be a good show Tuesday night. And not just because it was T.I., who’s proven himself time and time again as a not just a bankable artist in the studio, but as an electrifying stage showman as well. Even though he was performing at the tiny (compared to the major arenas you normally catch him in) Highline Ballroom, the atmosphere felt like something major was about to go down. Something you immediately write about on your Twitter page, blog, Facebook or plain old text message. It just felt like one of those nights when you should be right where you are.
As the line filled out, stretching from the velvet ropes at the door, past Western Beef and the nearby housing projects, our expectations were immediately confirmed when Jay-Z pulled up in his Maybach (well, his driver actually pulled up) and casually strolled to the front of the building like he was on a red carpet. Screams ensued, and Jigga and company were quickly escorted to a VIP entrance.
Jay’s appearance meant one thing: Tip was going to big-dog it and pull out some guests. Not that the songs he did by himself on Tuesday night weren’t welcomed, but NYC means extra special. So, after surprising the fans with guest spots from Swizz Beatz, Lupe Fiasco and the whole Grand Hustle clique, Tip and Jay performed their track “Swagger Like Us” onstage for the first time ever.
Tip, who demanded his sunglasses before the music played, started the song with his verse (which is last on the record) and after a taste of the chorus, Jay came from the back. “Ho-oh-vaaaaaah,” the people started calling out within seconds, going along with the playful singing Jay does on the verse. Yes. A classic moment. No Kanye or Lil Wayne, the other stars of the track — that historic moment is probably planned for a major stadium appearance to come — but Tip and Hov did very well on their own.
Tip’s most energetic surprise of the night, however, was Swizz Beatz, hands-down. The “Monsta” was a beast onstage during “Bring ‘Em Out,” singing the chorus and even beat-boxing at one point. After Swizz was given the floor for his own “That Oprah” and “Money in the Bank,” Tip politely asked, “Do you have a rag?” The two then went into “Swing Ya Rag,” which caused several audience members to wave bandannas of various colors in the air. Swizz and Tip waved theirs hankies as well.
T.I., of course, was celebrating the release of Paper Trail, which is already being heralded by some as his best yet, certainly the strongest since his bust-out album Urban Legend.
Old favorites, like “Big Things Poppin’ ” and “U Don’t Know Me,” were accepted with the same zeal as new bangers such as “Live Your Life” and “What Up, What’s Happenin’.”
“All I got to say is thank you for all the love and support I’ve been getting from New York since day one,” he told the crowd. “Whenever I was comin’ up here doing my thing, ni—as always held me down.”
When DJ Drama signaled to everyone that it was time to go home after “What You Know,” a bona fide closer, Tip pulled the concert encore, running out with no shirt for “Whatever You Like.”
Brooklyn’s own Maino, one of Tip’s good friends, opened the concert with his hit “Hi Hater.”