Published Jul 30, 2014Wiz Khalifa reverse-engineered OVO Fest, and the response was deafening.
Three-quarters through his headlining set of Under the Influence Tour: Toronto Edition, Khalifa brought out hometown hero Drake — the same artist who will be dragging out surprise guests on the same stage come August 3 and 4. Not until Drizzy burst out to the imperial thump of "Trophies" did we get to hear what 15,000 or so '90s babies sound like at full-throat after a two-hour contact high.
"This 416 shit is all I know!" hollered Drake, who took Wiz out for dinner the night prior. Then he launched into "Started from the Bottom." Khalifa danced around stoned and gleeful, happy to quit bogarting the spotlight and pass it to his friend.
For better or worse, that's where the magic peaked. So when Khalifa unleashed the triple-punch of smash singles "Young, Wild and Free," "No Sleep" and "We Dem Boys" — the lead anthem from his forthcoming Blacc Hollywood LP — it felt almost like a happy denouement instead of the climax of this brisk, overcast midsummer night, even as a platform raised the now-shirtless star and his mic stand 12 feet above the dais and he playfully stage-dove into the pit.
Wiz's Under the Influence Tour has become an annual rite of summer, and a platform for newer artists to hone their performance chops. With Tyga dropping out, this year's line-up reads like a who's-who of Billboard newbies trying to build off one or two crossover hits. New York's Mack Wilds — better known as actor Tristan Wilds, who played Michael Lee in HBO's The Wire — charmed with exuberant renditions of "Henny" and "Own It." The dreadlocked Ty Dolla $ign nailed "Paranoid," the song, he said, that "changed my life." Everyone sang along to Rich Homie Quan's "Type of Way," and the Bay Area's IAMSU! — the most stage-ready of the lot — led a co-ed crowd through "Beat the Pussy Up" before performing "Gas Pedal" in honour of Sage the Gemini, who failed to make it across the border.
The freshmen sets were smartly held together by selections from DJ Drama, who filled the dead air between the modest set changes. The last time I tried to see Young Jeezy in concert in this city, someone in the club pulled a trigger, bullets flew and a police investigation began before a single raspy rhyme was spat.
Under the Influence, however, draws a fanbase decidedly more in the Wiz camp than the street-hardened Jeezy one. One guy, looking like a Dazed and Confused extra, walked directly over to a garbage can and threw his lighter into it, then turned to me and said, "Oh, fuck, dude. I just threw out my lighter. You got a lighter?" When I apologized that I didn't, he looked at me like I had three heads and no lighter; it was only 7:35. Which is to say, there was no threat of violence. A scalper referred to the attendees as a "lawn crowd."
Jeezy, who has officially dropped the "Young," ran through a list of career highlights — "Put On," "Super Freak," "I Love It" — before gigantic block letters that spelled his name. The tour's veteran was dressed in all black everything, including a Blue Jays hat and TORONTO football jersey. He drew cheers as he dragged Quan from the wings to perform "My Nigga."
After a whopping five openers, Wiz opened to the catchy "Work Hard, Play Hard." In a plaid shirt slung over a hole-y white tee atop hole-y white jeans, his rash of tattoos climbing up his neck and onto his face, the lanky pride of Pittsburgh delivered sing-along hits like "Whip It Around," "Roll Up" and "Black and Yellow," the latter of which was punctuated with blasts of the appropriately coloured confetti. The mostly underage Taylor Gangsters lapped it up and a thick cloud of marijuana plumed into the sky.
The cool night was primed for a Drake cameo.