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Drake, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj join forces for Young Money Reunion at OVO Fest | The Star

“When you’re at the top, and you always remember your motherf–ing family — that’s character,” Nicki Minaj declared after a brief but exhilarating reunion with Drake, Lil Wayne and other members of Young Money Entertainment at the 2022 edition of OVO Fest on Saturday.

Taking place at the Budweiser Stage less than a week after it was abruptly postponed due to COVID-19 — Drake clearly has a superhuman immune system, or perhaps a ready supply of Paxlovid — the first OVO Fest in two years was a nostalgic trip through the late 2000s and early 2010s, an era when the Young Money – a legendary record label founded by Lil Wayne in 2005 – ruled the world of hip hop.

As the sun set on a scorching, humid summer day, thousands of eager fans — mostly millennials — jammed into the sold out venue on the edge of Lake Ontario. The show was set to start at 8 p.m., but was unsurprisingly delayed.

Around 9:30 p.m., agitated by the heat and forced to listen to “pushin P” at least three times, the crowd started hurling boos at the empty stage.

Twenty minutes later, a message appeared on the venue’s massive screens, sending a shock of horror through the audience: “Unfortunately, Lil Wayne had issues at the border.”

Moments later, another line appeared: “Luckily, Drake runs the border.”

Was this a joke or was it true? It didn’t matter, because seconds later, there was Lil Wayne, one of the greatest and influential rappers of all-time, delivering a hyped-up version of the 2011 hit “Blunt Blowing,” backdropped by a massive visual of a – you guessed it – blunt.

Wearing a long sleeveless jean jacket, a black t-shirt and a gold OVO chain, the ageless 39-year-old cycled through a series of career-spanning hits, including “Mrs. Officer,” “Rich as F–” and “Loyal.”

“People at the border, I love you,” Wayne said near the end of his 30-minute set, before launching into a furious version of the 2009 Young Money track “Steady Mobbin.”

To the delight of an enraptured audience, Wayne closed his set with “Tha Carter III” classic “A Milli,” pointing the mic to the audience to deliver one of the great lines of all-time: “You pop ‘em cause we pop ‘em like Orville Redenbacher.”

What Weezy offered in effortless charisma, Nicki Minaj served up in raw star power.

Decked out in a green checkered top and sporting long, neon pink hair, the 39-year-old “Queen of Hip Hop” arrived shortly after Wayne’s set to a deafening roar from her loyal fans — who remained wrapped around her finger for the entire 20 minutes of her far-too-short set.

Minaj also stuck to the hits, her voice sometimes drowned out by fans screaming the lyrics to songs like “Beez In The Trap,” “Chun-Li” and “Hold Yuh (Remix).” She also brought out Jamaican dancehall artist Skillibeng to perform 2021’s “Crocodile Teeth,” before closing her set with the smash hit “Superbass.”

Drake, sporting a white T-shirt and fashionable bulletproof vest, made sure his fans knew who the night’s real headliner was. The 35-year-old walked dramatically down the venue’s aisle around 10:45 p.m. for a 45-minute set which featured a guest appearance by Toronto rapper Smiley and shout-outs to Young Thug and Gunna, who are currently jailed on RICO charges.

Drizzy’s set, which relied mostly on his – in the humble opinion of this reviewer — lacklustre recent output, felt a little flat; especially coming on the heels of Nicki and Wayne. At one point, he acknowledged criticism his most recent album, “Honestly, Nevermind,” sounds a bit like “Zara music,” before performing an awkward, slowed down medley of “Calling My Name” and “Marvin’s Room.”

The New Drake is not the Old Drake.

Alas, at this point in his career, the 6 God is too big to fail — especially in the a city he’s spent 15 years propping up: “Toronto, every single thing I do is for you,” he told the audience, before launching into a closing trio of “Sticky,” “Too Sexy” and “Knife Song.”

The main event got underway around 11:30 p.m., following a (very) underappreciated mini-set from Big Tymer$; the classic southern hip hop duo consisting of Birdman and Mannie Fresh.

And then, suddenly, there they were. Drake, Nicki and Lil Wayne — the three larger-than-life titans of modern hip hop (along with a few others from the Young Money crew) — graced the stage for an ebullient 30-minute reunion set consisting of game-changing music from a bygone era when Weezy was the biggest rapper on earth, and Drake and Nicki were up-and-comers on the brink of global domination.

“We’re going way back,” Drake said. “Like I don’t even remember these songs.”

It was a blast. The trio opened with the wonderfully silly hashtag posse cut “Bedrock,” before moving on to a series of hits that helped define the millennial era: “Up All Night,” “The Motto,” “Moment For Life” and “HYFR.”

The mood was loose – plenty of hugging and plenty of laughter. At one point, Drake tried to hold Nicki’s hand. She backed off, quipping into the mic: “Do you still have COVID?”

Things got briefly sentimental around midnight as Drake paid tribute to his mentor, Wayne, recalling the time at the start of his career when Wayne gifted him and his mother $30,000.

“That’s the most important amount of money I’ve made in my life to date,” he told Wayne. “You’re the most important man to each and every one of us. You are truly the most selfless man on planet earth.”

“I’m your son! Look at this sh–! You did this!” Drake cried out, before launching into the closing track “EveryGirl in the World.”

Drake is clearly in his mythmaking era. Last week, at an intimate show at History, he pulled together a long list of Canadian rap royalty – including Nelly Furtado – for what he called, “A celebration of the music that paved the way for all of us.”

If the All Canadian North Stars event was a commemoration of Drake’s origin story, then the Young Money Reunion paid ode to the first chapter on his journey towards superstardom.

But in the end, it was Wayne with the last word: “Tha Carter VI is coming soon,” he said, before dropping the mic.

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