Drake pulled out all the stops for Toronto at the ninth annual OVO Fest.
There’s no place like home. Drake made that immensely clear to the city of Toronto with his ninth annual OVO Fest. We’ve all heard him immortalize the term “chips with the dip” after the Raptors took home the Championships-- but many didn’t understand what exactly the “dip” meant. Drake, and the city of Toronto, gave us a clear cut definition by the time OVO Fest came to an end this year.
Consider this: the first weekend of August is generally the biggest weekend of the summer in Toronto because of Caribana. People from across North America, and frankly the world, gather into the city to celebrate Caribbean Carnival. Adding onto the already-major tourist attraction, you have the biggest entertainer in the world right now hosting his annual guest-filled festival in the city that made him the mega-star he is today. The excitement in the city was real, not only for the locals but for every tourist whose intentions were to see the 6ix God live in the 6ix.
The venue was slowly beginning to pack in by the time the doors opened at 6:30. Set times and opening acts for the show were unclear from the jump -- it’s OVO Fest, you never know what might happen. As the golden owl logo showed up on a massive screen on stage, local rapper Smiley (a.k.a Smiley_61st) kicked things off on a mild note. He was admittedly drunk, slugging down Hennessy out the bottle throughout his set. But when you’re on the rise and opening up for Drake at OVO Fest, you have a lot to celebrate.
The presence of the OVO crew and their extended family was evident throughout the building. Drake’s known to take care of the people close to him -- this time, it was easy to distinguish friends and family from regular concertgoers. Each of them was blessed with neon-colored lanyards that read “OVO Family.” Those considered “OVO Family” had their very own Box Office to pick up their tickets and a large section of seating reserved for them at the front of the audience.
Drake gave the second opening slot to Baka Not Nice who ran through a few songs but was unfortunately hit with tech issues after his third song. He came back, though, performing “Live Up To My Name” and then jetted out right after.
That’s when the anticipation arose for the main event. Drizzy Drake, the man of the hour, was ready to hit the stage. As excited as people were to see Drake, there’s been speculation ever since the line-up announcement about who he would be bringing on stage with him. A montage of the NBA Championships Toronto parade played across the screen as the audience eagerly awaited for Drake’s entrance. A curtain unveiled a massive replica of the Larry O’Brien while Drake strutted on stage rocking Master P’s #17 Raptors jersey and carrying the actual Championship trophy. For Toronto, this was a big moment, to have someone such as Drake commemorate the city’s only Championship win in their history. Opening up appropriately with “Trophies,” the grandiose entrance echoed Kawhi Leonard’s sentiment that the city should “enjoy this moment.” Drake jumped into “Mob Ties” right after but he didn’t waste any time before bringing out his first guest. Lil Baby joined Drake on stage for “Yes Indeed” before the Atlanta rapper jumped into “Drip Too Hard.”
It didn’t take too long to realize that Drake was simply here to play host for the evening. It felt like he was performing in front of a group of familiar faces. Day One of OVO Fest was as if Drake was hosting a personal concert with his favorite R&B acts as he watched from the audience. On Day Two, he was actively hosting the show, bringing out his friends and co-signs, while treating both Toronto and himself (once again), to a star-studded performance.
Drake filled in the between-guest gaps with strong solo medleys where he delivered fan favorites. A few cuts off of Care Package, some other joints off of Thank Me Later and Take Care, newer material from Scorpion, If You’re Reading This, and Views.
Among the big guests of the evening were Gucci Mane, Cardi B, Offset, DaBaby -- who came through at a record number of three times throughout the evening -- Tyga, YG, and Megan Thee Stallion, but there were four artists specifically that Drake knew would get the biggest reactions from the audience. Popcaan, who’s officially an OVO artist, confidently popped up on stage as he and Drake performed their remix of “Controlla.” The song never actually got an official release but the crowd knew the words to the remix as well as they did the original. From there, he also brought out Meek Mill who was joined by Rick Ross for “I’ma Boss.” It was a beautiful moment to witness, especially considering everything surrounding Meek Mill’s previous legal issues that at one point would’ve prevented him from even entering Canada. Rick Ross has been steadily working on Port Of Miami 2. His appearance at OVO Fest last night was confirmation that Rozay SZN is set to strike this August as he basked in the love that Toronto has for the MMG boss.
Drake’s final, and biggest guest of the evening, was Chris Brown. As Breezy entered on stage to perform “No Guidance,” Drake was already well-aware that, again, he’s playing host for the evening. As much as everyone else was there to see him, it was also a moment where he could show his own appreciation for his fellow artists and what they’ve contributed to the game. Even while Drake performed his second verse on “No Guidance,” he gave Chris Brown and his dancers the spotlight to wow the audience with their sharp choreography. Breezy went into a few more cuts as he commemorated his first time being allowed across the border in eight years, likely due to Drake’s connections.
Drake still brought everything back home to the 6ix, even with guests from across the border. He closed things off with his biggest record to date, “God’s Plan.” You wouldn’t think Drake had any more tricks up his sleeve but once again, this was a moment for his city; a city that’s been riding through him during the highs and lows since his come-up on Degrassi, and a city that he celebrated their first Championship with. As the Global Ambassador for the Raptors, he has as much passion for the game as an actual player for the team. And the “dip” he speaks of represents the same die-hard fans in the city of Toronto that passionately ride for him as they do the Raptors.
As he held the Championship trophy up one more time for the crowd to see, he directed the crowd to look behind them. He thanked the Billy Bishop Airport for allowing him to shut it down for the evening. Fireworks went off as he dedicated the light show to his late friend Mark Krispy Kreme who passed away recently. Although it was a night filled with excitement, the rapper used his goodbye for a moment of tranquility as fireworks went off, the Raptors chant faded while a bare R&B piano progression played in the background, and Drake slowly drifted off the stage.
OVO Fest might simply be Drake’s thank you to the city for their support but hopefully, he left the stage with an even deeper understanding of Toronto’s unconditional love for the 6ix God.