Drake, Nicki and Wayne's Young Money Reunion in Toronto Was Worth the Wait, Despite Some Missing Pieces

Budweiser Stage, August 1

Despite Weezy's close call at the border, a three-hour delay and an unfortunate scheduling conflict, October World Weekend ended on a high note

BY Veracia AnkrahPublished Aug 7, 2022

The Young Money reunion show in Toronto — as part of Drake's October World Weekend concert series, and co-starring Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne —  was scheduled for August 1, Simcoe Day in Ontario and, conveniently, the Monday after the Caribana weekend. Folks from all over the world visit Toronto around late-July/early-August, and Drake's annual summer concert (typically branded as OVO Fest) is likely the last major event they experience before heading back home.

But the day of the event, visitors and Torontonians alike woke up to a public service announcement on Champagne Papi's Instagram story, a black screen reading that he tested positive for COVID-19 and thus had no choice but to reschedule the show. 

A cloud of anger, anguish and disgust filled the air. How dare the 6 God take this moment away after 16,000 of us emptied our life savings with only two weeks' notice (and nearly three years since the last OVO Fest)? Speculation flooded social media: did Lil Wayne not make it across the border? Was Nicki unable to find adequate child care for her son, whom she and the Barbs call Papa Bear?

These are questions concertgoers will likely never receive the answers to — only three days later, Drake shared that he had tested negative and that the only available date on the Budweiser Stage schedule until the fall was that Saturday, August 6.

As you can imagine, anyone who just left the city was rattled. August 6 was also the date that Burna Boy, the African Giant himself, would take the stage at the first-ever Kultureland festival in nearby Markham, performing hits including what some would say is the song of the summer, the Toni Braxton-sampling "Last, Last." Toronto is a cultural mosaic of sorts, the most diverse city in Canada (and one of the most diverse cities in the world), and as a result, its Black population — small but mighty, of Africans and Caribbeans — heavily comprises the rap and Afrobeats demographic. Not only were many priced out of purchasing OWW tickets, but those who weren't were forced to choose between two major concerts happening at the same time.

As the popular phrase goes, "united we stand, divided we fall." Last night's crowd at Budweiser Stage, despite being completely sold out, lacked the enthusiasm expected for a star-studded event built on the nostalgia of hip-hop lovers who grew up during the golden age of Young Money Entertainment. Gauging the crowd's reception, those in attendance were either too young to know song lyrics from 2007 to 2011 or not very well-versed in any YM song outside of "Bedrock." Not to mention, the show began three hours after the expected start time — a pattern of tardiness Drake is practically welcoming at this point, as if to compete with the likes of Lauryn Hill.

Around 10 p.m., displayed on another black screen appeared the words, "Unfortunately, Lil Wayne had issues at the border. Luckily, Drake runs the border." Shortly thereafter, the Young Money commissioner overtook the stage, a ball of energy, displaying intricate footwork and spitting his tongue-twister flow over "I'm Goin' In," "Uproar" and "A Milli."

Next, the Queen's movie introduction filled the screen with dancers dressed in latex catsuits. Nicki Minaj emerged rapping "Do We Have A Problem" in a 50-inch ombre platinum pink wig, sporting a green Louis Vuitton getup with a matching pochette and purse. Both are incredibly necessary to YM's First Lady as to carry a variety of lip glosses and her Hello Kitty mirror. She's posh, poised and only rapping about a third of her lyrics because she's either forgotten them or expects the audience to finish them for her.

Minaj performed fan favourites "Did It On 'Em" and Feelin' Myself," debuted her upcoming single "Super Freaky Girl," and brought dancehall artist Skillibeng on stage for "Crocodile Teeth (Remix)." He received an underwhelming reception and stopped performing his second song "Whap, Whap" to interact with Nicki. Again, a majority of the Torontonians to know and appreciate Skillibeng's artistry likely weren't in the crowd.

Finally, the man of the evening, one-time Young Money signee Drake, made his long-awaited appearance to "Yebba's Heartbreak" from last year's Certified Lover Boy, floating toward the stage through the audience as fans screamed and extended their hands out at the mere sight of the cornrowed superstar. Drake crooned on "Marvin's Room" and "Laugh Now Cry Later," moved to newer dance records like "Sticky," gave local rapper Smiley the birthday present of a lifetime (a duet of their collab "Over the Top" and a "Happy Birthday" from the crowd), head-bopped to "Knife Talk," and dropped more "Free YSL"s in support of Young Thug and Gunna more times than one could count. It wasn't Drake's strongest stage performance — possibly because he is recovering from COVID — but his undisputable catalogue is difficult to not enjoy. Upon leaving the stage, he promised he'd be back with the rest of his beloved team to perform songs he wasn't sure he remembered the lyrics to.

Until then, special guests Big Tymer$ (a.k.a. Birdman and Mannie Fresh of Young Money forebears Cash Money Records) took to the stage with the calmest rap delivery that only GOATs from down South could display, performing "Still Fly" and "Get Your Roll On." Finally, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Drake returned, opening (of course) with "Bedrock," while colourful Flintstones animations lit the stadium screens. This moment was the most cohesive of the night, an exhale throughout the venue from all who were waiting to see the three artists responsible for the soundtrack of their adolescence together on one stage. The trio hit the audience with back-to-back hits "Up All Night," "Moment 4 Life," "The Motto" and "HYFR," performing them in unison, hyping one another up with energy reminiscent of Nicki's iconic Hot 97 Summer Jam performance in 2014. 

It's up for debate whether this performance can be considered a full Young Money reunion as many of the label's iconic artists weren't in attendance (such as Tyga, Lil Twist and Shanell). But, to close the show, Gudda Gudda and YM President Mack Maine performed their "Every Girl" verses after spending the nearly 15 minutes prior ad-libbing to every song (and, in case you were wondering, Maine is still willing to "get behind the Christian like Dior"). The reunions — of Young Money and of Drake's summer fest with Toronto — felt like a renewing of vows, even though not all necessary parties could be present.

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