The 8 most memorable OVO Fest moments ever
From Stevie Wonder to Meek Mill memes, Drake's sort-of annual event has given fans lots of surprises
Last summer, Drake fans watched as the days came and went with no sign of an OVO Fest announcement. The event, which was an annual weekend of music and festivities that kicked off in 2010, never happened in 2018. Instead, Drake went on tour with Atlanta rap group Migos, which made a stop at Toronto's Scotiabank Arena. It was there that he told fans, "I'll see you next year at OVO Fest."
Earlier this month, Drake made good on that promise and announced the lineup for his ninth OVO Fest. This upcoming August long weekend, the festival will kick off with a pair of events (OVO Summit and OVO Bounce) followed by a concert on Aug. 4 featuring a throwback list of performers including early 2000s stars B2K, Mario, Ying Yang Twins and Chingy, plus Drake's headlining set on Aug. 5.
Ahead of this year's OVO Fest, we wanted to look back at the biggest, most shocking surprises from previous years. Known for bringing a slew of high-profile guests and creating viral moments, Drake's sort-of annual festival has become a hip-hop hotspot not only for Toronto fans, but fans around the world who are willing to flock to the 6 for a weekend of all things Drake.
Below is a list of eight moments that absolutely blew fans away.
2010: Eminem and Jay Z set a high bar for guests in OVO Fest's 1st year
The inaugural OVO Fest in part celebrated Drake's first studio album, Thank Me Later, which came out earlier that summer, but it was also the rapper's opportunity to showcase his international stardom. The setlist that night was packed with covers of songs that likely inspired Drake over the years — Birdman's "Money to Blow," Alicia Keys' "Un-Thinkable (I'm Ready)," Timbaland's "Say Something" — but there were also some notable guest appearances from Rick Ross, Kardinal Offishall and Fabolous. That said, he saved the best for last.
Drake's last two guests were the ultimate flex for an up-and-comer who was very much still on the rise at the time: Eminem and Jay Z. The former performed "Forever" while the latter played "Run This Town," a song that Drake told fans was "the anthem that they deserve tonight."
2011: The Weeknd makes his big debut
While the Weeknd technically made his triumphant live debut at a sold-out Mod Club show a week prior, OVO Fest provided a much bigger platform for the then mysterious Scarborough artist. Riding on the buzz of his House of Balloons mixtape, the Weeknd secured an early co-sign from Drake, who then invited the rising star to open for him at his annual fest. The Weeknd later joined Drake during his headlining set to perform "Trust Issues." Later that year, he appeared on Drake's sophomore album, Take Care, on the track "Crew Love." Over the years, Drake and the Weeknd's friendship has had its ups and downs, but the Weeknd has returned to OVO Fest performing "Crew Love" with Drake in 2013 and 2017.
2011: Stevie Wonder takes over
When soul legend Stevie Wonder showed up at the 2011 OVO Fest to perform a full half-hour set (almost completely solo) in the middle of Drake's headlining slot, few people knew that Wonder would be on the Toronto rapper's album Take Care later that year. So the shock, and perhaps confusion, that attendees felt was real. While rap giants like Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar and Future have all made cameos at OVO Fest, Wonder's temporary takeover is indisputably one of the biggest highlights of OVO Fest's eight-year run.
2014: Drake tries to recruit NBA star Kevin Durant
Years before Drake and basketball star Kevin Durant sparked an NBA final feud, the Toronto rapper tried to recruit the then Oklahoma City Thunder all-star. During his 2014 OVO Fest performance, Drake told fans, according to the Toronto Star, "My brother Kevin Durant was kind enough to come to the show tonight and watch us. I just want him to see what would happen if he were to come play in Toronto." The public gesture resulted in the Toronto Raptors, for which Drake is the global ambassador, getting fined $25,000 for violating the NBA's anti-tampering rules. Nowadays, Drake makes his pleas to players in a much more private manner.
2015: Trolling Meek Mill
Capitalizing on his beef with Philly rapper Meek Mill at the time, Drake opened his 2015 OVO Fest performance by performing his recently released diss tracks "Charged Up" and "Back to Back." As if that wasn't already enough of a flex for Drake, he launched into the latter song while memes making fun of Mill flashed on the screen behind him. While many had already crowned Drake the victor in this battle already, the 6 God couldn't help but use his biggest annual platform to continue poking fun at his foe. This led to some backlash, with critics calling him a "bully" for the move while others lauded him for "destroying" Mill with this final blow. It's a stunt so big, it overshadowed Kanye West's surprise appearance. But fast-forward to today and Drake and Meek Mill are not only friends, but also collaborators.
2016: Rihanna makes her first OVO Fest appearance
Pop star Rihanna has been a longtime collaborator (and romantic interest) of Drake's, and 2016 marked her first — and so far only — appearance at OVO Fest. (She noted the reason why she's never attended OVO Fest is because it's always at the same time as Carnival festivities in her home country of Barbados.) She delighted fans with a medley of songs including Anti singles "Needed Me" and "Work," as well as Views duet "Too Good."
2017: Drake brings the CN Tower to the OVO Fest stage
Drake has always been a big advocate for his hometown of Toronto, and he made that abundantly clear with the cover of his 2016 album, Views, where he's sitting atop the city's landmark CN Tower. And while Drake's stage setup has never been a big production, at least compared to other artists like Kanye West, the rapper stepped it up at the 2017 OVO Fest. When the curtains dropped, fans were greeted with a giant model of the CN Tower. It was ambitious, wondrous and probably the most Torontonian thing he's ever done.
2017: Cardi B brings 'Bodak Yellow' to OVO Fest
Bronx rapper Cardi B's breakout hit "Bodak Yellow" didn't reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts until September 2017, three months after its release. But as the track began rising up the charts that summer, Drake extended an invitation for Cardi B to perform her hit at OVO Fest. Other guests that year included Rae Sremmurd, Playboi Carti, Migos, the Weeknd, Nelly and former foe Tory Lanez, making Cardi B the sole female presence onstage that night.