Every year, Drake’s October’s Very Own (OVO) Festival serves both as an annual morale booster for Toronto and as a conduit for the rapper to bring out a coterie of famous friends to his hometown. Even with Frank Ocean’s highly-publicized absence due to vocal injury, the fourth installment of the fest last night at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre topped its predecessors in star power with cameos by Big Sean, Wale, J. Cole, A$AP Rocky, French Montana and Miguel, not to mention, Kanye West in one of his first appearances following the birth of daughter.
After a vehement rendition of “New Slaves” and “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” West turned the stage into a pulpit, not for another notorious, tangential rant, but for an outpouring of affection for Drake. The G.O.O.D. Music honcho gushed that he and Jay Z teamed up in 2011 as a way of keeping up with the youngster. “Me and Hov would have never made Watch the Throne if this nigga wouldn’t have been pushing on us like that,” West said, grinning as the crowd cheered.
Lil Wayne kept the feel-good vibes flowing when he joined his Young Money protégé for “The Motto,” “HYFR” and “Love Me.” Rumors have circulated that the two have been on the outs, especially as Drake has released isolationist tracks like “All Me” and “No New Friends,” but there was not the least sign of friction. Drake called Wayne the “best rapper alive” and reaffirmed his allegiance by proclaiming, “I’mma be riding with this man until the end of time!” The rapper also put to rest rumors of ill will toward the Weeknd (the singer was markedly absent from the festival line-up and said in a recent interview that he’s been forging a separate trajectory from Drake) with a joint performance of “Crew Love.”
Drake had no shortage of solo material to perform, from “Girls Love Beyoncé” and “The Motion” to his buzzy new verse on Migos’ “Versace” and deep mixtape cuts like “Uptown.” Still, he often took a backseat to his guests, alternating between headliner and fan.
Nowhere was that more apparent than when Diddy and Ma$e reunited for a nostalgia-laden set which included hip-hop staples “Mo Money Mo Problems” and “It’s All About the Benjamins.” The consummate showman, Diddy’s stage presence was as keen as ever and the crowd rejoiced in the blast from the past during parts one and two of “I Need a Girl.” Even Drake, wearing what appeared to be a modern take on Bad Boy’s signature Nineties shiny suit, couldn’t help himself from bopping along.
The retro theme of the night continued with a surprise performance by TLC. Remaining members T-Boz and Chili took over the stage, complete with backup dancers and outfits reminiscent of the Fan Mail era, for the girl power ballad “No Scrubs” and “Waterfalls.” Chili shared that the latter was the favorite song of the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and at one point, a silent Lil Mama came onstage in what was apparently a symbolic gesture – she plays the role of Left Eye in the upcoming biopic about the group.
Even amid the plethora of cameos, Drake made sure OVO Fest was still very much his show. He closed the night by himself with the dark, anthemic “Started From the Bottom” and “No New Friends” as his backdrop. Drake plugged his forthcoming album Nothing Was the Same (due out on September 17th) and reminded his hometown, in the unlikely event that they needed it, exactly why they loved him: “Every time you hear my voice you’re hearing a piece of this city.”