The eight annual OVO Fest kicked off in Toronto on Saturday August 5 on the RBC Echo beach portion of the Budweiser stage and wrapped up Monday when artists—and tons of surprise guests and acts—took over the main stage, practically shutting down the city and blowing up Twitter.
Joining Drake for the main show were OVO deputies Roy Woods, DVSN and Majid Jordan all pulling their weight to open for Drizzy, getting 20 minutes of stage time each.
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That is a stark contrast from the first OVO concert were Drake shared top billing.
In attendance were fans like LeBron James, birthday boy Shawn Mendes, teen Olympian Penny Oleksiak, and Blue Jays Jose Bautista and Marcus Stroman—and anyone lucky enough to score a ticket before they sold out, willing to fork over $300 for a lawn seat… or ready to part with $100,000 for a pair of last-minute seats.
— PK (@PeterKash) August 7, 2017
If you weren’t there, don’t worry. Here’s my recap of all the highlights and surprise guests—with a little help from social media.
The first OVO concert of the weekend was Saturday night. The soca-inspired fete arrived right on the heels of Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival, which kept partiers dancing in to the wee hours of the night. Ultimate Rejects, Kranium, Charly Black, Bunji Garlin and Machel Montano had flags and rags waving from 6 p.m. to well after midnight.
For many, growing up these tunes were relegated to being bumped from basements by our generation’s West Indian fathers on Saturday mornings. But this past Saturday a massive crowd—many of whom weren’t from the Caribbean—were singing the lyrics in unison as if we were in Spanish Town, Jamaica, not South of Lakeshore Boulevard.
Times have clearly changed. And while the thought of the world’s biggest reggae and soca artists playing a big concert in Toronto isn’t exactly new, with the OVO stamp of approval, it’s brought the niche genre of music to the mainstream.
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If you had the stamina to whine and grind for that long Saturday night, you were treated to a surprise appearance by the main man himself. Drake—who wasn’t scheduled to perform—left his own party at nearby pool bar Lavelle to grace the stage and perform “One Dance” and “Come Closer.”
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But the real litmus test for Drake, Noah, Oliver, Nico, Future, Chubbs and the rest of the OVO family is the big concert. And this one was the biggest yet.
The loudest cheers throughout the night were for the Canadian acts. The loudest of them all could be heard when the lights dipped for Aubrey Graham.
The cheers were immediate as the lights eventually hit the stage—but where was Drake? He was barely in sight. Instead the anticipation grew as it became apparent the stage would be host to a replica of Toronto’s largest tourist attraction. Drake recreated the famous Views album cover and opened his act atop of a specially commissioned CN tower, performing the lead song on More Life, “Free Smoke.” The CN Tower and its coordinated lights were a background character and remained a personality for the rest of the show. Next to Kanye’s floating stage on his Saint Pablo tour, this is as extravagant as a set design gets in the world of hip-hop.
— Todd Shapiro (@iamToddyTickles) August 8, 2017
— Jacob Dearlove (@jacobdearlove) August 8, 2017
— Jack Boland (@TorSunphoto21) August 8, 2017
Now it wouldn’t be OVO Fest without surprise guests. Twelve to be exact. “Out in front of four seasons, looking like a damn football team” is right.
Playboi Carti was first up and performed “Magnolia” and “wokeuplikethis*.” Next, Rae Sremmurd sang the theme song to everyone’s favourite #MannequinChallenge that went viral earlier this year, “Black Beatles.”
The high point of the concert was the next stretch, which showed off the versatility of the sound Drake and co. have inspired. French Montana came on stage to join Rae Sremmurd to perform “Unforgettable.”
Then Drake sang the island-inspired “Blem.”
As Drake wrapped up, fellow Toronto artist Tory Lanez joined him on stage to perform “Controlla.” This was a vital moment because it showed that two of our city’s homegrown hip-hop talents aren’t fighting anymore. In the past Lanez took shots at Drake claiming to lead a “New Toronto” sound and covered “Controlla” with his own remixed version. To see the two together signified an unified front.
Drake brings out Torrey Lanez. Beef squashed. #ovofest
— luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) August 8, 2017
Then biggest surprise guest came out: Cardi B, who has no real musical tie to Drake. She got the place jumping to the summer club banger “Bodak Yellow.”
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When Migos came out though it was far from a surprise. The fact they performed at Veld just north of the city, and had recent music with Drizzy, means their inclusion was all but guaranteed. Migos played Donald Glover’s Golden Globes speech tribute song “Bad & Boujee” and “Portland,” which meant that Travis Scott came out and joined the crew.
… Which LeBron James seemed to enjoy.
Never let another ride your wave !!!
— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 8, 2017
Scott stuck around to perform “Butterfly Effect” and “Goosebumps.”
If you’re wondering why Drake left PartyNextDoor on off the set list, fret no more. PND represented Mississauga and popped in to perform “Recognize” and “Come and See Me.”
It wouldn’t be an OVO Fest without the tradition of a throwback artist charging up the crowd with nostalgia. In the past, we’ve seen big names like Stevie Wonder, Nas, Lauryn Hill and Will Smith. This year Nelly got the crowd going with his hits “E.I.” and “Hot in Here.” Older millennials danced like they were in high school again; high school kids looked on, bewildered.
As the clock reached well after 10 p.m., it was time for the Toronto artist Drake has co-signed.
Fellow Toronto native The Weeknd came out and performed “Starboy” and “The Hills” for the crowd before singing “Crew Love” with Drake.
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Drake then put the pressure on The Weeknd, hinting to a future “OVOXO” collab album.
Before the night came to a close Drake brought out his most recent signing, Baka Not Nice (and you guessed it Toronto native), to perform his smash hit “Live Up To My Name” and “Gyalchester.”
Drake signed off by pledging more music—and that it would be made in Toronto, as if he was getting points for Can-con.
— DS (@TheDrizzySource) August 8, 2017
As the night closed, I thought about how far the urban music scene has come thanks to OVO’s meteoric rise? All four headliners on the biggest concert at the Budweiser Stage this summer were Canadian. Better yet, the concert that was trending on Twitter and the envy of the hip-hop world was carried by artists from The Six.
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