Saturday April 30, 2016

The night Toronto city councillor Norm Kelly performed with Drake

Drake and Norm Kelly posed for a photo after the hip hop star's surprise performance at Ryerson University.

Drake and Norm Kelly posed for a photo after the hip hop star's surprise performance at Ryerson University. (Drake/Instagram)

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How did long-time Toronto city councillor Norm Kelly end up on stage, standing back-to-back with Drake in front of thousands of screaming fans? 

The story starts in 2013. Mayor Rob Ford had admitted to substance abuse and was at the centre of an international media storm. To help the city get through, Kelly was asked to take on most of Ford's mayoral duties. 

Norm Kelly and Rob Ford

Norm Kelly (right) assumed many of Mayor Rob Ford's (left) responsibilities in late 2013. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

Stepping into his new role as the de facto mayor, Kelly says he began to reach out to Toronto's biggest movers and shakers on Twitter. He quickly realized that one particular name always got him a lot of online attention. 

"Whenever I wanted to raise an awareness of whatever slice of life I was looking at — through one tweet or another — I would reference Drake." 

Kelly's Twitter account — under the coveted @norm handle — amassed hundreds of thousands of followers. And, in charting Kelly and Drake's relationship, one tweet is particularly noteworthy: 

Meek Mill, a young rapper from Philadelphia, had dissed Drake on Twitter — igniting a fierce debate in the hip hop world and prompting Kelly to defend Drake's honour.

"It's OK for people within the family to tease each other, it's not acceptable for someone outside to do that," said Kelly. 

Kelly's defensive tweet went viral, introducing the 74-year-old to legions of young hip hop fans and putting him on the radar of Drake and his entourage. 

By the fall of 2015, things had calmed down at Toronto City Hall. But despite their ongoing online 'bromance', Drake and Kelly had yet to meet in person. 

That is, until the Ryerson University Student Union invited Kelly to appear at their frosh week festivities. The university had managed to book Drake, and asked Kelly if he'd join the young rapper on stage.

Here's what happened when he did: