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OVO Fest 2013: A New Hope

With the phoenix-shaped light show onstage and the perfect early August summertime evening weather setting the tone for Aubrey, he came on around 9 o’clock, wearing a nearly all-white outfit, bounding with explosive energy that was obviously hard to contain with all the surprises he had in store.

OVO Fest 2013: A new hope for Toronto
Drake at OVO Fest 2013 (Photo: HustleGRL)

OVO Fest 2013 – It’s truly difficult to put it all in words. The legend of OVO Fest has officially taken itself so far beyond mythical. The concert experience that Drake just accomplished can, and will be looked back at for quite a long time as one of the most historic and legendary concerts that has ever happened on Canadian soil. And we’re talking since Confederation in 18 fucking 67.

Due to the cancellation of the first day because of Frank Ocean’s strained vocal cords, I was caught suffering an insane wait in the worst line up in my concert going career (and that’s saying a lot, trust me. Live Nation really needs to solve that problem immediately), yet, I was graciously granted access with the fine folks of HipHopCanada.

Missing James Blake and Wale’s opening sets because of the line-up, I got there to see an anxious and beautiful Toronto audience filled with t-shirts adorned with Drake’s face, or slogans like ‘No New Friends,’ ‘Word on Road,’ and ‘OVO’ owl shirts (and some outdated OVOXO shirts) in a Molson Amphitheatre-swarming mob, as Toronto’s Caribana/American/Canadian hip-hop audience collectively wondered “What level is Drake going to take it to this year?

There was no way to guess. But oh, the people were gon’ learn!

OVO Fest 2013: A New Hope for Toronto

With the phoenix-shaped light show onstage and the perfect early August summertime evening weather setting the tone for Aubrey, he came on around 9 o’clock, wearing a nearly all-white outfit, bounding with explosive energy that was obviously hard to contain with all the surprises he had in store.

“Headlines” was the first number he launched into, exciting the ecstatic crowd with the idea that this night would be filled with hit songs and huge moments. And with clear, powerful confidence, Drake rocked the mic with unrelenting aggression. More animated than he’s ever been and more appreciative of Toronto than he’s often spoken, this night was meant to satisfy those who had been down since day one. So how does he show this crowd?

By bringing out Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd for the second god damn song “Crew Love,” and making hardcore OVOXO fans, rumor-mongers and the internet haters all lose their shit in disbelief. Publicly and musically squashing all supposed beef, once again, Drake was reunited with The Weeknd, and Toronto’s two biggest modern success stories were delivering their biggest hit to an orgasmic audience.

One word: epic.

OVO Fest 2013: A New Hope for Toronto

Deciding to keep the guests coming, Drake shocked myself and many others by bringing out supposed frienemy-or-foe, Big Sean, to rock the stage. Since “I’m On One” and the Ludacris/’supa dupa flow’ controversy and conflict, rumors and subliminals were supposedly shot back and forth between Drake and Big Sean for years. Ending all speculation with the days-old release of Drake’s new single “All Me,” which featured Big Sean and 2 Chainz, (who apologized to Toronto on Twitter for getting caught up in an over exaggerated harassment and not being able to make it to the show), it was a complete confirmation when Drake brought out Detroit’s newest to scream his verses on “Clique,” “Mercy,” and “All Me” with Drake, which was more explosive than expected.

After bringing out Wale again for “Bad” to satisfy the ladies, Drake took the wheel and steered the show, reminding people why he’s arguably the #1 MC in the rap game. The vibrant melody for “The Motion” captured heads, before the Destiny’s Child-inspired hook from “Girls Love Beyonce” captured bodies and hearts. He then tore into one of the year’s best hip-hop heat-rocks: “5 AM in Toronto,” and the more rugged gentlemen in attendance went rather berserk.

The song is laced with suggestive headshots, and to see Drake fire them off so emphatically was wild. It’s all for sport though, right? This rap shit don’t gotta hurt nobody physically, even if some truth bullets get turned into rhymes and shot into people’s minds, right? Right. That’s why songs like “I Get Lonely Too” get written, which Drake delivered and then, decided to deliver another surprise guest performer. Or surprise group, to be more precise. None less than the likes of TLC would suffice.

As the crowd went bananas, T-Boz and Chilli came out with a half dozen dancers in dark leathery gear, and poured timeless hit song “Waterfalls” into people’s ears, complete with a domestic abuse choreography drama. So of course, a musical response to that sort of situation is heard in their next choice: “No Scrubs,” which was like dynamite to the mass of Toronto women. Lil Mama came out to do Left-Eye’s verse, but it was just shocking to see TLC as one of the early guests Drake brought to OVO Fest 2013.

The night was young and the hype was far from done.

OVO Fest 2013: A New Hope for Toronto

Now I’m gonna bring out a guy who’s almost my height, and kinda sorta looks like me…” says Drake, before J. Cole steps out on stage. Knowing how much Toronto loves him, he referenced his exclusive show “selling out in like 30 seconds” and how he was coming back here soon, before giving us “Forbidden Fruit” (sans Kendrick Lamar, yet with hook harmony attempted by Cole) and “Nobody’s Perfect,” as well as “Power Trip”… actually featuring Miguel, who sauntered out into the crowd singing his guts out to fanatic shrieks from the ladies. Drake asked him to give “a lil something,” so he did, with “Adorn,” and oozed his way off stage after.

A Drake mini-set of short super-hits was the next level of “watch what the fuck I can do and already did,” as Drizzy let the beats for “Successful” soak in, before spitting some of the lyrics followed by “Uptown,” the scorching summer anthem “Best I Ever Had,” the eternally epic “Forever” and then the O.G. jam “Over.” At this point everyone was asking themselves; what else was to come?

Aubrey Graham, humbly reflecting on how far he has come in his life, said “I remember my first concert that I ever came to here when I was a kid! My uncle took me to a show, and I was sitting right there, where that lady in the black shirt is sitting! And I saw a show that was amazing. So I thought, maybe I can make some phone calls, and see if I could recreate that show…” as he left the stage.

Holy fuck. He didn’t say who the performer was. Who was Drake’s first big rap concert?

Next, all you hear is the beat for “Victory.”

The glorious horns from the Rocky theme song are playing loud as fuck, and people are losing their goddamn minds. Someone starts walking up from the middle of the dazzling array of lights, swagger on a hundred thousand million (…wait for it). And then it dawned on me:


OVO Fest 2013: A New Hope for Toronto

And then it happens: “The sun don’t shine forever/ but as long as it’s here, then we might as well shine together…” and everyone who loves 90’s rap music is shitting bricks. Drake brought Puffy to Toronto!

P. Diddy starts rocking the stage full force like he just got fired by Andre Harrell, and even powers his way through a lyrical stumble, audible only to those keenly paying attention. The energy was too insane for everyone to notice Puffy fuck up some of the lyrics, it was amazing chaos.

Rocking some of his own hits, including the invincible “All About The Benjamins,” he then made unreal history, and brought out rarely-seen former Bad Boy co-defendant Mason Betha aka Ma$e, which downright floored Toronto.

Clad in trademark all-leather outfit and backwards leather cap, Ma$e and Diddy took it back to 1997, tearing through “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems” and letting Ma$e feel welcome back to rap again by allowing him to please the ladies with “Feel So Good.”

They even did the infamous Double-Diddy-Dance together without missing a beat.

OVO Fest 2013: A New Hope for Toronto

Personally, the night’s single strange misstep was the next surprise guest. A$AP Rocky came out after Puff Daddy, and delivered a decent trifecta of tracks, “Fuckin Problem” (with Drake, which was the most impressive), plus “Goldie” and “Wild For The Night.”

It wasn’t atrocious, but after the unprecedented level of shock Drake took Toronto to by bringing out Puff Daddy (reunited with Ma$e, which hasn’t happened in years, not even in America), it was somewhat underwhelming, especially considering A$AP was here last year. So how does Drake get it right from here?

By doing the absolutely totally completely fucking unbelievable.

Drake stands on stage, and spits some lyrics by somebody… that’s not named Drake. “Niggas keep saying I should give the chain back/ that’ll be the same day I give the game back/ you know the next question, dog, ‘yo, where Wayne at?’/ nigga, we both busy, I ain’t gotta explain that…/ What up with you and ‘Ye Man? Are y’all okay, man?!

Then he walks off the stage. A red spotlight appears. Then, so does… Kanye to the West! In the mother. Fucking. Flesh.

Now it’s really, like really, wow!

Kanye West is here? Now? After the rumors and subliminal shots, from “Otis” to “I’m On One” to “5 AM In Toronto” to “Dreams Money Can Buy,” “Amen,” “Versace” to “All Me,” there’s been lots of Drake lyrics that could possibly/arguably be interpreted to be shots fired at his Thank Me Later collaborator and one-time Drake video director and Drake song producer, Kanye West. Their semi-secret fallout has been one of the most unfortunate instances of lost potential out of any unnecessary beef that has occurred in rap in many years.

But this here single moment of mutual peace gloriously seems to have squashed all the drama discussed and debated by rap.

OVO Fest 2013: A New Hope for Toronto

Everyone in the building was making psychotic noises of all kinds, shaking the foundation insanely. Then the primal beat for “New Slaves” throbs through the speakers, and oh, did it get primal. Kanye West violently screamed out the scathing lyrics to his Yeezus single while bathed in crimson. Then he took it back to “All Of The Lights,” which lit up the entire arena accordingly. Then he sparked “Can’t Tell Me Nothing.” After this he stopped to talk to the people for a second. Jaw-droppingly humble and shocking, Kanye said thank you to Drake for having him there, and continued on to say “Not a lot of rappers get to do this for their city,” which was remarkably prescient. He then revealed it was Drake that “Put the pressure on him and Jay-Z to make Watch the Throne,” which was the confirmation of a rumored revelation that nobody could have anticipated. This shit just keeps getting better and better!

Kanye killed his last song, stood on stage like a world-class champion ass-kicker with three Olympic egos, then shook hands and hugged Drake, before he disappeared into the midst.

Holy Ether Takeover, Batman! That was some Jay-Z/Nas beef-squashing timeless history that just happened, live and direct in Toronto, and it truly had a continuous reverberation of unspeakable awe radiating through the audience. Who else could possibly show up?

It seemed like Drake could get Barack Obama to come spit a few bars at the OVO Fest at this point… but no.

OVO Fest 2013: A New Hope for Toronto

He just made up for last year’s mistake.

Drake laced the first verse of “HYFR” breathlessly, and then introduced Lil Wayne to the stage to perform his verse. Absolute audience madness as Wayne strutted around the stage, shirtless and smiling like a fool. “What up, Canada?” he queried before the next obvious moment had to happen: “The Motto,” last summer’s smash, and “B!tches Love Me.” The whole place was going bonkers as Drake and Lil Wayne performed the song together in Toronto for the first time, and Wayne just dropped the mic and stood there grinning when the lyric about “Oh my god Becky/ look at her butt” came, because everyone screamed that shit at the same damn time. It was enormous to witness it all culminate in such an electric grand finale. And Drake and Wayne said some extra words to emphasize the depth of everything: Drake said “If I could write it in blood, if there was paperwork that could say ‘for life’, I’ma let you know, I’ma be riding for this guy right here until the end of time. Young Money for life!” And Lil Wayne just calmed everything down for a moment and said: “Truly, I’m happy to simply be a piece of the success of that there individual, Drake.

Wayne then walked off stage… after holding up his Young Money chain. Tunechi!

OVO Fest 2013: A New Hope for Toronto

Drake, after showing unprecedented love, appreciation and magic to the city of Toronto, knew he had to take it all home on a night that was both his, and the entire hip-hop world’s, to share. He started with an amped-up performance of the trap-inspired, hood fabulous anthem “Versace,” which had Drake getting silly and playful and clearly enjoying himself in the process, as he should. The crowd loved every minute of it. “No New Friends” was next, as Drake covered his bases and performed virtually every single one of his new songs and internet singles released in 2013 (except the “Jodeci Freestyle,” which would have been almost greedy to ask for at this point, considering how magnanimous Aubrey had been to Toronto thus far…)

But one song was missing, and you know what it is. Started. Started. “Started From The Bottom,” now we here. At the top of the rap game in 2013, it appears. Nuclear explosion time. Everyone losing their minds. Something like 30,000 people it seemed like, and damn near every single one of them was going crazy to one of 2013’s biggest hits.

When Drake started doing the head-bobbing hot-stepper dance from the video at the end of the song, more people lost their shit. It was hilarious, and a perfect way to put the icing on the cake of greatness that was served to all Toronto music lovers and haters faces.

The show was more than unreal. It looked amazing, and had repeated moments of explosive pyrotechnics and fireworks, bursts of light, smoke and lazers, interspersed with the music, live drumming, guitar solos and DJ work from Future the Prince, as well as being a virtually seamless concert experience from start to finish, all things considered.

With OVO Fest 2013, Aubrey Graham arguably made the most unbelievable history since the first year of OVO Fest when he brought out Jay-Z and Eminem (I still can’t fucking believe that shit happened. And Nas and Stevie Wonder. And Nicki Minaj and Snoop Dogg. Now this?!).

Like I said, it’s truly difficult to put it all in words.

OVO Fest 2013: A New Hope for Toronto

Yet, if Drake did one thing this year, he permanently showed and proved that, for the people in Toronto who got to see the OVO Fest: Nothing Was The Same, in their lives, ever again.

The fifth year OVO Fest anniversary is going to be something beyond everyone’s wildest dreams.

I cannot thank you enough for making this eternally memorable event happen, Drake. The City of Toronto thanks you, King Aubrey Graham.

A special thank you goes out to Live Nation for allowing HipHopCanada to be apart of this show.

Written by Addi Stewart for HipHopCanada
Photography courtesy of HustleGRL

OVO Fest 2013: A New Hope for Toronto

Addi "Mindbender" Stewart is a veteran member of the HipHopCanada team and Canadian hip-hop scene, and is currently located in Toronto.

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