THE BLOG

Drake Turns OVO Fest Into a Political Rally And Declares Victory

08/04/2015 08:55 EDT | Updated 08/04/2016 05:59 EDT
George Pimentel via Getty Images
TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 03: Drake perfrrms during 2015 OVO Fest at Molson Canadian Amphitheatre on August 3, 2015 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images)

While federal politicians began campaigning across Canada on Sunday, the following day Drake handily won the re-election as hip-hop's prime minister after a recent scandal threatened to derail his rule.

OVO Fest has always been less a festival than a political rally for its founder Drake, the self-declared 6 God of a city he single-handedly rebranded The 6. The event sells out on the strength of Drake's name alone -- all the headline-making guests are kept under wraps until they hit the stage, or until their soundchecks leak to Twitter -- and the base show their allegiance in insanely overpriced OVO-branded Ts, hoodies and snapbacks. Even the Molson Amphitheatre's Canadian flags were replaced with Owl ones.

But that was never truer than at last night's 6ixth edition of the festival, which arrived on the heels of an internet-melting, headline-making beef with Meek Mill, who recently accused Drake of using a ghostwriter, nominally the biggest crime in hip-hop.

(The actual "crime" that sparked hip-hop's most memorable beef since Nas and Jay-Z was that Drake failed to tweet about Meek's new album, robbing the struggling rapper of an crucial endorsement.)

Even before the show started, backstage photos leaked of Drake trolling his friend-turned-rival wearing a "Free Meek Mill" t-shirt, which he had once worn sincerely, so it was clear that there would be no peace offering made onstage.

Drake emerged, in an absurd Air Jordan flight suit, to the crowd chanting "Fuck Meek Mill" and immediately jumped into his pair of diss tracks from last week, "Charged Up" and "Back to Back," the latter of which was performed to a PowerPoint presentation of the most brutal anti-Meek memes, including an amber alert and participation award, before ending with twitter hero-slash-city councillor Norm Kelly's epic back to back twitpic.

Though mere days old, the sold-out crowd rapped along to every word, just as they did with all of his songs.

After brutally roasting his nemesis at hip-hop's biggest annual event, Drake crowed, "You did it to yourself boy. I'd never let anybody disrespect my city and everything that we stand for."

Then he took the triumphalist route, kicking off with the epic horns and self-aggrandizement of "Trophies" and barely letting up over the next couple hours as he and his special guests declared victory.

OVO has always been Drake's biggest power play. In the festival's early years, the newcomer laid his claim to hip-hop's heights by bringing out the rappers who were already there -- Jay Z and Eminem, Nas and Lil Wayne.

As the years went on, it was not so much about getting co-signs but now giving them (notably bringing out pre-famous folks like The Weeknd, A$AP Rocky and, yep, even Meek Mill) as well as tying himself to icons like Kanye.

By last year, he was the biggest star onstage and it left fans wondering what point the festival still had. Drake was basically Hillary Clinton before Bernie Sanders entered the race.

But thanks to Meek's attack, Drake managed the improbable feat of entering OVO year as a conquering underdog, albeit an underdog powerful enough to bring out Will Smith, even if the former Fresh Prince sadly failed to get jiggy onstage.

Instead, he brought out rising UK grime star Skepta and his recent tourmate Future before inviting the only rapper that currently sits above him in hip-hop's firmament, Kanye West. Makes sense since West is basically hip-hop's president, but unlike Obama and Harper, Kanye and Drake actually act like they share the world's biggest undefended border.

The petition-sparking, mic-tossing Pan Am headliner played early in the night, a surprise considering when he performed at OVO a couple years ago he came out at the end. His 12-song mini-concert ran that gamut from aspirational anthems like "Power" and "Stronger" to harder core hits like "All Day" and "New Slaves" and he even brought out his own protégé, Travi$ Scott.

After a few more Drake tunes, including the first live performance of future classic "Hotline Bling," the next superstar to hit the stage was Pharell, who delivered an uneven set that only really heated up with Daft Punk collab "Get Lucky" followed by a fiery rendition of his new activist anthem "Freedom."

But what will stick the most was Pharrell's effusive praise for Drake before he left: "This guy holds this city and this country down in a way that's unbelievable."

Though one might have expected one final big name, it turned out that Drake has become big enough to be his own closer. Running through a series of old smashes and new cuts like the enemy-baiting "Energy" and "Know Yourself," with its indelible "running through the 6 with my woes" refrain, Drake, now adorned in the Raptor's never-before-seen jersey, sealed the deal.

With his squad filling the stage behind him and pyro filling the air and even spelling out OVO, Drake ended with another rendition of "Back to Back," that included a tease of his apparent third diss track, "3 Peat." ("Look man, I said you don't want that 3 peat / got you acting like a b---- cause you ain't get the retweet.")

It may not have been the best OVO as far as special guests go (rumours of Kendrick Lamar, Missy Elliott or Dr. Dre proved unfounded) but that wasn't the point of it this year, not even with an expansion to three nights featuring comedian Kevin Hart on Saturday and J . Cole and Big Sean headlining a thunderstorm-plagued Sunday. It was all about cementing his status, warding off challengers and firing up his base: "I will never let this city down, it's all I give a fuck about!" "Nobody can ever take what we built, nobody can ever tear it down!"

The goal was re-election and Drake won in a landslide.


ALSO ON HUFFPOST:

Drake