It was 2010, the year of the first OVO Fest where Drake, a still not yet cemented superstar, was putting it all together in real time. Fresh off his studio debut So Far Gone, the rapper performed a medley of hits while inviting an A-level list of friends and surprise guests like Eminem, Rick Ross, Kardinal Offishall, Bun B, and Fabolous(???)—a feat unheard of for a Toronto artist at the time. Understandably, being his first arena-sized show there were kinks; awkward gaps between artists as well as an overall lack of real structure of who was supposed to be performing. But it was all well and good as Drake knocked through singles and mixtape cuts. During one point in the show, Drake promised the audience, and us, that he would deliver a festival of this magnitude every year. And he did—until this year.
Well, technically, the Summer Sixteen tour featuring Drake was a weird mishmash of an additional tour stop under the OVO Fest umbrella. Nevertheless, here we are in 2018, with seemingly no annual OVO Fest before the end of the summer. (As of publishing time, OVO has yet to respond for comment). No last minute PR press release about the Fest's arrival like last year when its absence felt like a real possibility. And nothing to follow up after the fetes and bacchanal of Caribana this year. By all accounts, there is most certainly not going to be an OVO Fest 2018. But lest we forget, Drake’s eight-year run has provided so many great memories for the city. Remember OVO Fest 2013 when Kanye West and Drake after a long-gestating cold war, (to be resumed several years later) reunited and Ye? Or 2015 when Drake christened memes as an invaluable tool for rap battles, defeating Meek Mill in the process? OR our Caribbean empress Rihanna lovingly, inadvertently exposing Aubrey’s stiff whine? And then there’s last year, where PND performed, seemingly behind schedule, and completely killed the mood of the audience for an entire seven minutes. I remember these times vividly because I wasn’t actually there. Like many Toronto citizens, I experienced the fests through cellphone footage, IG videos, and live streams. Not for lack of trying, however.
Some years I was broke, other times friends only committed to the idea of going AFTER tickets were already sold out, meaning I’d have to sit on a lawn chair like a waste yute. In all reality, I probably gave up the moment Stevie Wonder appeared in 2011 because how do you top Stevie Wonder as a surprise guest?
When I finally did go it was for the aforementioned Summer Sixteen tour where an acquaintance asked me to help his friend try to get a ticket. I didn’t and he subsequently got into an argument with several people behind me in the line after he called one woman a ‘cyattie’ when she denied his advances. I broke into a cold sweat and proceeded to pretend not to know nobody till' I got inside the arena. Needless to say, these festivals pulled together different facets of Toronto.
The fest also provided the city of Toronto with integral programs like community basketball championship OVO Bounce, showcasing the talent of our athletes as well as seminar OVO Summit that held talks to educate young creatives in the city and navigate things such as branding and music publishing. As well as inadvertently gave acts like legendary Soca artist Machel Montano a deservedly bigger platform that they hadn’t been given before in Toronto. The concerts themselves gathered all types from families who just wanted to see "Hotline Bling" live and were completely unaware what Future’s “Wicked“ does to human beings, the odd mandem who wore fur coats in the middle of the summer, and condo bros who only knew the song “Jumpman”
Still, there was a very distant connection that brought us all there through good and sometimes bad. Some of which will still be there under the moniker of Aubrey & The Three Migos Tour. However, it just isn’t OVO Fest. Until next year. Probably.
Jabbari Weekes just wants to see Spragga Benz as an OVO surprise guest. He's on Twitter.