"I called 19 companies to build me a CN Tower and they all said no… until the 20th one," Drake said after descending from the (alleged) million-dollar stage prop. Although infamously "starting from the bottom," for the eighth annual OVO Fest, the 30-year-old star started at the top, taking his reign over the sold-out Budweiser Stage last night.
While Drake has become the symbolic king of Toronto, he has also created a court to harmonize his energy, starting with Roy Woods, dvsn and Majid Jordan, who opened up the night. Woods, whose Say Less album promo played in the background, performed standout cuts "Drama" and "Gwan Big Up Urself" before breaking into dance, leading itself to a flawless set from dvsn, which included a performance of their latest single, "Don't Choose." Next, Majid Jordan managed to illuminate the crowd wearing angelic all-white fits, but fans became increasingly anxious waiting for that big moment.
And then, it happened. Drake, perched on the makeshift CN Tower, replicating the cover of VIEWS, fired into the booming "Free Smoke."
The 6 God weaved in and out of VIEWS, making the theme because abundantly clear: this year's festival was for Toronto, by Toronto and featuring Toronto. Yet the celebration also called on neighbouring artists who performed their biggest hits; Playboi Carti ("Magnolia"), Rae Sremmurd ("Black Beatles"), French Montana ("Unforgettable"), Migos ("T-Shirt") and Travis Scott ("goosebumps").
With the atmosphere energized, Drake did something that shocked the crowd — he stopped singing "Controlla" and brought out one-time rival Tory Lanez to finish the set with his own version of the song.
"We had problems with each other, we had never even met each other, and then I met the man and he's a really nice guy!" Drake said, while simultaneously urging Toronto artists to unite in the name of music.
Although a pivotal moment for the city, there was a bigger moment Drake wanted to share. "I've been waiting for this fucking moment all night long," he bellowed. "This is the first artist to tell me I can rap and sing at the same time." Suddenly, St. Louis rapper Nelly appeared. The 20-year veteran rapper reversed time to perform "E.I.," "Ride Wit Me" and the Drake-assisted "Hot in Herre," while the crowd called back every lyric.
As the male-dominated lineup caught the attention of fans, it was reality star-turned-rapper Cardi B who caught the hearts of women (and men), performing "Bodak Yellow" in a floor-length fur coat. Her reception, loud and boisterous, could only be compared to that of two other homegrown artists — PARTYNEXTDOOR and the Weeknd.
A withdrawn PND took the stage to perform "Recognize" and "Come and See Me," while the Weeknd exuded his star status, pulling up "Starboy" and "I Feel It Coming" before diving into crowd favourite "Crew Love" with the Boy.
While Drake called the two R&B crooners the most important artists to come out of the city, he also took a moment to usher in a "new Canadian anthem," transitioning into Baka AKA Not Nice with a scorching performance of "Live Up to My Name."
In that moment, for Drake and for the city, "Live Up to My Name" represented more than just a song — it was an attitude that allowed a couple kids from Toronto to dream big and achieve even bigger.
"This is why you're the greatest city in the world," Drake yelled to a roaring crowd. "Other than my family, other than my friends, I only care about one thing, and that's each and every one of you in this city that we love."
Pick up albums by Drake, the Weeknd and Tory Lanez via Umusic.