Anybody who lives in Toronto and loves hip-hop knows that Drake is a centrifugal force on everything that happens in the scene. Many up-and-coming artists thirst for an OVO cosign, while a smaller subset rebel against the idea of conforming to the mainstream, finely-produced sound of the 6 God and his roster of R&B crooners. With the help of artists like Tory Lanez, Jazz Cartier, and the Weeknd, the division between "the 6ix" and Toronto's new wave of Toronto has muddied the waters of what it means to be a rapper from TDot.
This weekend, however, was different, as Ryerson University—which previously hosted two massive, Drake-headlining shows in the past year—put on what could be argued as the city's first independent hip-hop festival outside of OVO's own offering. #6Fest (we know it is corny) provided two full-stocked days of both local and international talent, featuring everyone from Pusha T to French Montana, OVO's own Roy Woods to local Halal Gang rapper Smoke Dawg.
The assumption that Drake would pull through and surprise everyone, like he had the past two times, felt like a guarantee to the nearly 10,000 people who attended. (An hour before the concert even started, the crowd was already yelling his name like a fraternity chanting "CHUG"). It seemed like, for all intents and purposes, Drake actually made the show happen—the date, which was previously scheduled a week earlier, was shifted after concern was raised that Drake still would have been on his Summer Sixteen tour, and thus not able to attend. After all, what's a Toronto hip-hop festival without the Boy?
By 11:00 P.M., it became clear (for one reason or another) that the 6 God wasn't going to be making an appearance. From that realization came cries of disappointment from the crowd. "WHERE THE FUCK IS DRAKE," someone yelled, which restarted the crowd hymning the rapper's name. Yet, within a few minutes, after the smoke had cleared and the engineers began to pack up the stage, most people I spoke to felt strangely relieved: Toronto had a great fucking hip-hop show, and it did it all without its biggest star. Thankfully, we have photos to prove it.
Jake Kivanc is a writer and photographer in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter.