TORONTO, Ontario — Hip-hop conspiracy theorists, it’s time to rethink everything you thought you knew. With just about every new track that Drake has dropped over the past couple of years there was talk of subliminal shots
and fractured relationships — but not only was the Weeknd on stage two songs into OVO Fest on Monday night, but Yeezus himself materialized to sing the praises of the YMCMB rapper.
Kanye toasted Drake, crediting his talent and success for pushing The Throne to work harder. “Me and Hov would’ve never made Watch the Throne if [Drake] wasn’t putting pressure on us like that, so I just wanna pay my respects,” ’Ye told a packed house in Toronto.
It was a surreal moment for everyone who witnessed it, and especially for the rapper born Aubrey Graham. “That was probably the most important moment in my career to date,” Drake told MTV News after the show, which took place the same day Kanye was announced as a VMA performer. “I think me and Kanye have wanted to express our respect for each other for a long time and sometimes rap, the business, the competitiveness and just the heart behind it forces you to not talk to the people you quietly admire.”
Day one of the fourth-annual event was canceled when Frank Ocean pulled out due to damaged vocal chords, but that was just a slight hiccup for the festival, which earned a chapter in the history books last night, with appearances from TLC, Ma$e, Diddy, Lil Wayne, and plenty more. James Blake and Wale opened the show at Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre before Drake hit the stage clad in white to perform “Headlines,” and despite the recent rumors of a feud with his fellow Toronto native, The Weeknd emerged onstage early to thunderous applause for “Crew Love.”
After they hugged it out, Drake slyly told the crowd, “I dunno if ya’ll can tell by the look on my face, but I got some sh– for ya’ll tonight.” Sure, there were murmurs that TLC, Ma$e, and hell, even Kanye, might make appearances but even seeing it was still hard to believe. There wasn’t a dull moment during the show, with Big Sean dropping in for “Clique,” “Mercy” and an assist on Drake’s latest single “All Me,” while French Montana brought his usual dazed energy for “Ain’t Worried About Nothin” and “Pop That.”
He brought Wale back to the stage for “Bad” — affectionately reflecting on their first GQ spread with Kid Cudi in days long gone — but fans likely weren’t prepared for what was going to happen next. The ’90s flashback began with TLC and a crew of backup dancers sweeping the stage to perform “Fan Mail” and “Waterfalls.” “Thanks to Drake. This next song is for the ladies,” Chilli told the crowd, after stopping to catch her breath. And without a doubt it was “No Scrubs” that they performed next, with Lil Mama joining them to deliver Left Eye’s verse.
What better way to follow a TLC set than with a cameo from Mr. “Crooked Smile,” himself, J. Cole? Drake introduced the North Carolina rapper as his brother, letting him rock the crowd with “Nobody’s Perfect,” “Forbidden Fruit,” and of course “Power Trip,” which commanded an appearance from Miguel and a performance of his hit “Adorn.”
Eventually the YMCMB rapper reclaimed the mic for a few moments to perform early hits like “Successful,” “Best I Ever Had” and “Over,” then he paused to reminisce about his first concert ever. That show just happened to be in the very same venue, with his uncle, and without specifying exactly who he saw at the show, he added, “I made a couple phone calls for those who don’t remember.”
The lights went dim, and unbelievably enough, 1997’s “Victory” came blaring through the speakers, with Diddy emerging from the shadows to spit his opening verse on the track. Ma$e — who has admitted that Drake is only one of two artists he’d ever consider signing with again — wasn’t far behind Puff, and the golden era flashback sent shock waves across the amphitheater. Diddy and Ma$e shimmed their way around the stage like it was 1999, performing “Feel So Good” and “Mo Money Mo Problems.” The crowd clung to their every lyric, screaming and rapping along to re-live a moment that might never happen again.
“This is history. Thanks, Drake for bringing us together,” an elated Diddy told the audience. To our dismay, Mason Betha didn’t stick around for too long, but Diddy was just getting warmed up, hitting “I Get Money (Forbes remix)” and even “It’s All About the Benjamins.” A$AP Rocky emerged next, for “F—-in Problems,” later instructing the crowd to mosh and surf for “Wild for the Night,” so what could possibly be left after this?
“You think we done? We far from done,” Drake told the crowd when Rocky departed, launching into a portion of Kanye’s verse from “Diamonds From Sierra Leone.” He tweaked the lyrics slightly, rapping, “What up with you and ’Ye man, are ya’ll OK, man?” Then came the most unbelievable moment of the night: Mr. West emerged for “New Slaves” and “All of the Lights,” making the crowd go completely berserk.
The fact that Kanye West had actually showed up to OVO Fest (with all the talk that he’d been the target of Drake’s “subliminal disses”) was momentous enough, but how about when he began to perform “Can’t Tell Me Nothin” then stopped the track to say words we couldn’t believe? “As I stand in this city right now, I just want ya’ll to understand that it’s been a lot of rappers that came in the game that wasn’t able to do something like this for their city,” he said, adding. “Me and Hov would’ve never made Watch the Throne if this n—- wasn’t putting pressure on us like that. So I just wanna pay my respects before we play this last joint.”
When the initial shock wore off, fans had to digest the fan that Kanye West had just spoken on behalf of himself and Jay-Z, just short of passing the crown along to Drake. “Make some noise for the god that is Kanye West,” Drake told the crowd, noting, “Despite what anybody says, this guy here is the reason I’m rapping.”
If there was any other rumor left to dispel at this point, it was the rumblings of tensions within the Young Money camp, but of course that one was easy to shoot down. Though 2 Chainz was unable to make it through customs quickly enough to perform, Lil Wayne made it just in time, bringing YMCMB president Mack Maine with him to the stage for “HYFR” and “Love Me.”
Weezy was beaming with pride, telling Toronto, “I’m glad to be a piece of this puzzle,” and Drake made it clear, once and for all, that the family is still very much in tact. “If there was paperwork…if I could write that sh– in blood, I would.” he said. “Young Money is forever. Wayne is forever. This man here is the reason you can feel proud as a city. This man right here is the reason for Drake. Make some noise for the best rapper alive.”
On that note, there wasn’t much left to do but to close the show with the monster Drake hits that everyone was still waiting for. He spit his verse on Migos’ “Versace (remix),” then conducted a sing-a-long with “No New Friends,” and the infectious anthem “Started From the Bottom.”
It was, simply, unforgettable.