OVO Fest: Drake & Future pack the house at Summer Sixteen Tour stop in Toronto
Toronto, ON – On Sunday, Aug. 1, I attended Drake and Future’s Summer Sixteen concert in Toronto, as part of Drizzy’s OVO Fest.
The concert took place at the Air Canada Centre for the first time since the inception of OVO Fest, and I found the ambiance to be one of excitement, but far removed from the louder, open air, festival vibes of the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre.
My theory is that the dark ambiance of the ACC, the incredibly structured seating, the lack of sunlight, the lack of vitamin D, and the lack of an open-air atmosphere caused the Summer Sixteen crowd to be more docile in comparison to previous OVO Fest crowds.
However, given the duration of OVO Fest, its popularity, and its value to Drake, October’s Very Own, Live Nation, and all other parties involved, I understood why it took place at the ACC. The bigger, the better.
It was clearly a packed house, and prior to entering the media pit, I noticed a number of familiar faces throughout the venue, including Drake’s friends, members of his entourage, past and present collaborators, and other members of Toronto’s diverse hip-hop community.
The purple lights and balloons at the ACC created a mega, Atlanta strip club vibe that was a great prelude to Drake and Future’s set, whose “What A Time To Be Alive” collaboration was highly-influenced by Atlanta’s strip club sub-culture.
As I stood in one of the most congested media pits that I have ever been in, staring at one of the tallest stages that I have ever seen, I listened to the eager Summer Sixteen crowd to various hip-hop records from the last few years, which culminated in thousands of people singing along to Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot Nigga.”
Soon after, Roy Woods took the stage, performing many of his recent hits, and records from his Exis EP.
Even though I am a Roy Woods fan, and even though I believe that he possesses immense talent as a writer and vocalist, his set lacked animation and engaging visuals.
As I photographed him, I thought that he could benefit from some support in the form of projections and possibly backup singers.
In fact, his performance at Summer Sixteen reminded me of The Weeknd’s opening set at the first OVO Fest, which at the time, also lacked in production value and novelty.
Following Roy Woods’ set was DVSN’s performance, which was absolutely amazing, and well-thought-out.
DVSN’s backup singers were dressed like Afro-American gospel choir singers, they definitely played the part impeccably, and Daniel Daley’s stage presence was that of a world class R&B act.
Clearly channeling the classic R&B energy of the 90s, DVSN took the Air Canada Centre to church, and I thought that their mashup of Prince’s “Purple Rain” and Aaliyah’s “One In A Million” was arguably the most intriguing R&B mashup of 2016.
It will be interesting to see how DVSN’s catalogue and future performances evolve, given the group’s strong start, which is a testament to the wealth of experience possessed by Daniel Daley, Nineteen85, and the rest of the OVO team.
About an hour after DVSN’s stellar performance, the crowd at the ACC absolutely lost their minds when Drizzy hit the stage, and any reservations that they possessed prior to his entrance.
As her took the stage, Drake’s capacity to control a crowd, and his capacities as an MC were clearly that of a seasoned vet that has performed in front of hundreds of thousands of people.
The pyrotechnics, high volume of bright lights, elaborate lighting, and incredibly high stage were a testament to how far Drake has come since making a cameo appearance at Lil Wayne’s concert at the same venue in 2009.
As I photographed him, I reflected on the fact that Drake has surpassed Weezy on virtually every level, especially when it comes to producing chart topping hits, touring, and performing on a regular-basis.
During his opening set, Aubrey played some records from the last few years, including hit songs from If You’re Reading This It’s Too, but for the most part he focused on playing records from Views.
It has been amazing to see Drake’s evolution from an independent artist in Toronto, who was doubted by many individuals within Toronto’s hip-hop community and elsewhere, to selling out the largest stadiums in the world, and repping Toronto on a massive scale.
About half an hour after Drake’s set, Future hit the stage, and as I photographed him, I reflected on how influential he has become to hip-hop in 2016.
He played numerous records from his various mixtapes, and also performed hits from What A Time To Be Alive.
His simplistic, strip club and codeine-inspired rap flows seem to make more waves in 2016 than Wu-Tang did in 1994, and the nuances of hip-hop culture, pop culture, and media are profoundly different, and more complicated than they were a decade ago.
With that said, DJ Esco and Future make great party music, they know how to energize a crowd, and even though I enjoyed their set, I was cognizant of the fact they are far removed from the greatest hip-hop performers of all time.
Summer Sixteen was impressive, especially in terms of its production value, but it was less awe-inspiring than the multitude of Drake performances that I witnessed and photographed between 2009 and 2013, simply because he has become one of the most influential musicians alive, and I expected Summer Sixteen to be as grandiose as it was.
The novelty of Drake’s ascent to super-stardom is gone, and yet I still look forward to seeing him evolve as an artist, I still look forward to hearing his new projects, and it will be interesting to see how his career as an actor plays out.
Written by Ajani Charles for HipHopCanada
Photos: Drake & Future’s Summer Sixteen Tour at OVO Fest
Photography by Ajani Charles for HipHopCanada
Photography by Ajani Charles for HipHopCanada
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