Drake might’ve started the closing night of OVO Fest at Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre by grinding more salt into Meek Mill’s wounds, but the rest of the night was pure love — for his city, which he’s nicknamed the 6 — and his surprise guests, his “idols,” as he called them, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams; and the newer generation Future, Travi$ Scott and Skepta. He even brought about 50 of his boys onstage.
One thing Drake has always done at OVO Fest, now in its sixth year, is give credit and stage time where it’s due. He shares it; he abandons it for his guests; and he commands it solo. But he came out swinging after his OVO signing PartyNextDoor opened the second night. Drake was not going to leave the public beef with Philly rapper Meek Mill behind in July. Meek started it and Drake has more than finished it, and maybe even finished him.
Drake took the stage as a “charge up” on an iPhone appeared on the video backdrop. And when it hit 100 percent, the multiplatinum-selling artist — who was originally dissed on Twitter by Mill who said he didn’t write his own raps — performed his retaliatory diss tracks, “Charged Up” and newest “Back to Back to Back Freestyle,” as dozens of hilarious anti-Meek memes flashed on the screen. One gave the embattled rapper a Participation Award for his diss track effort “Wanna Know.”
Standing motionless for impact, Drake warned: “You did it to yourself boy. I’ll never let anybody disrespect my city.”
Then, he moved on, at least for the next hour and 40. “I’d like to formerly welcome you to the 6,” he said, intent on the rebranding (20 years ago, the Toronto hip hop community dubbed it the T.dot, which stuck, then it was the 416 for the area code, and now, will it become known as the “6” for the shared number in the 647 addition?). Drake got some of his guests doing it too, mentioning “the 6.” His next album will be titled Views from the 6.
Wearing a black and tan Jordan flight suit/jump suit — later he wore a white one — with a few small patches like the Canadian flag, of course, Drake brought out U.K. rapper Skepta for “Shut Down,” and Atlanta’s Future for “Trap Niggas,” “Real Sisters” and “F*ck Up Some Commas,” and explained that the best thing about OVO is he gets to bring his brothers out. Then, he walks off, as anticipation in the sold-out amphitheater builds.
“Work it. Make it. Do it. Makes us harder, better, faster, stronger…”
And there it was. Kanye West.
The man had only just been in Toronto last week for a 12-minute hit-packed medley that was supposedly cut short to go to fireworks to close out the Pan Am Games. Tonight, he was back in camouflage pants and hoodie to give the city close to 40 minutes of “Stronger,” “Power,” “Black Skinhead,” “Wolves,” “All Day,” “Niggas in Paris,” “Don’t Like” and more. And he rocked it, as much as any rapper can, leaping, falling to his knees, on his back to menacing, sometimes cacophonous tracks, and a gargantuan overhead lighting fixture that dropped and angled above him like a square UFO about to beam him up.
“I’m so happy my brother Drake brought me out to your city tonight,” he said, adding that he had to bring someone too “for the new generation.”
Travi$ Scott — arrested this weekend at Lollapalooza for disorderly conduct — came bounding out and immediately leaped into the pit, then back onstage for “Upper Echelon.” “Shout out to the motherf—ing 6,” he says, “I made it across the border with no passport.” He then took off his shirt, because, well, guys that are in shape like to do that. After “Antidote,” he gathered up his clothes and West continued. He closed out his set taking Big Sean’s lead role for “Blessings,” featuring Drake. It was past 10 p.m. at this point.
“You tired yet or what?” asks Drake, taking the reigns for a bit, including the debut of “Hotline Bling.” Then it was time for another guest. He repeated the bit about his favorite part of getting up on this stage is that he gets to bring his idols “to the 6.” And out walked Pharrell.
The vibe was much the same as when Drake brought out Stevie Wonder in 2011. The energy level seemed to drop. So N.E.R.D.’s “You Know What” might not have been OVO material, but Pharrell said “let’s speed it up” and delivered his Daft Punk collab “Get Lucky.” When he was finished, he said “these are some trying times here, man.” But he wasn’t talking about the tough crowd. He really was talking about injustices in the world.
“We’re having a tough time in America. Tonight, I wanna talk to you all about this word called ‘freedom.’ There is such a divide out there in the world right now, I feel like no matter who you are and where you come from, you deserve your freedom. It’s crazy to be talking about this in 2015…so tonight, I just want your energy. I just want your help. I want you all to scream so loud when I say that word ‘freedom’. I want to know what your freedom looks like, what your freedom sounds like, and what your freedom feels like. Toronto are you with me?” And they were. Drake too.
And when Pharrell was over, Drake said he and Kanye, “we all look up to you. Thank you for everything that you’ve done for music, man, for real. You are the King,” as the crowd roared their approval. “We look up to you — the way we dress, the music we make, the beats we wanna make, the hooks we write, everything that you’ve ever done. And now you’re on a mission to change the world and we appreciate that.”
Drake then ended the night with “Started From the Bottom,” “Marvin’s Room,” “10 Bands,” “R.I.C.O. (his Meek Mill collab), and “Know Yourself,” for which he was joined by 40 or 50 of his friends onstage. And with a few minutes to go before the city’s 11 p.m curfew, he just couldn’t resist and reprised “Back to Back Freestyle” and hinted at the next diss “3 Peat.” He thanked all his guests this year, plus opened PartyNextDoor and promised to return next year. Now what a fest it would be if the two quietly patched things up by then and Meek Mill was a surprise guest.