YOLO at OVO 2012: Drake Comes Home

Riding up the CN tower, ferrying to Toronto island, strolling through the Distillery District, lounging in the Beaches, dinner and drinks on King West. These are all highly necessary tourist activities that I would consider “must-dos” on any Torontonian’s lists.

Seeing Drake with 16,000 of your closest Toronto friends and fellow rap lovers in the very city that raised our own hip-hop megastar? Well, that tops just about any of them.

OVO Fest, standing for “October’s Very Own” (a shout-out to the rapper’s birthday month), is now always something of a spectacle in the city, long before the date even nears. As the one concert that brings Drizzy back to his stomping grounds to wow his Canadian peers each year, OVO manages to cast a buzzing hype over the 416; an excitement that comes not only from Toronto’s obsession with the hometown legend, but also the precedent-setting surprise guest line-up of the world’s most spectacular urban acts who are apparently just chomping at the bit to accompany the young gun back to the Big Smoke. Every year it’s different – Jay-Z, Eminem and Stevie Wonder are a few of the golden guests who’ve touched down at Pearson with him – and every year it gets a little more shocking.

As the third installment of OVO approached – following an astonishing year for the nine-time Grammy nominated rapper after the release of his sophomore album Take Care – I was ready to slap the next person who asked me if I was attending. No, I was not. I had the pleasure of seeing Florence and the Machine, The Walkmen, M83, Austra and Justice this week – all right here in Toronto – and just didn’t feel it was likely that I would be tacking on another concert to my hyper-musical week. With rumours swirling about which big names would be joining Drizzy at Molson Ampitheatre, as well as knowledge that A$AP Rocky and The Weeknd were concrete members of the Sunday night line-up, I was secretly crying inside for days. Sure, I had an incredible concert week – but I am a gigantic rap fan, and seeing the hip-hop face of Toronto (and Canada) bring the show home once a year is the stuff of history books.

On Sunday afternoon, as my fear-of-missing-out symptoms were at a sickening level and I was pathetically reading the OVO rumour mill via Twitter – I happened to eyeball a reasonably priced lawn ticket (where my friend was going to be) before immediately contacting the person for the stub. In the wise words of the Young Money crew as well as those spattered in glitter on the many homemade t-shirts I cringed at on the concert grounds…YOLO, right? YOLO.

Drake at OVO 2012 – image c/o Sarjoun Faour

After securing a prime spot on the lawn, watching the masses flood in and grooving to The Weeknd’s impressive slow jams, a nervous hush fell over the crowd as we waited for the underground king to step out in front of the shadowing skyline. Anyone who didn’t have a fresh beer or empty bladder immediately regretted their life choices, because we all knew the drill – there wouldn’t be a dull moment in the next two hours, nor one that you would  be comfortable missing. And with that, aboard an elevated platform beneath the flashing lights – the head-to-toe white clad knight appeared.

Looking beefy and proud, the rap ambassador hammered his fist towards the ground to the huge opening beat of “Lord Knows,” amidst a deafening roar from his hometown fans. With every rhyme spit, as well as any interjecting commentary, he ignited a match beneath the thousands of people, sending them leaping into the air and screaming for their lives. “Every year, I feel like this is my mother-f**king birthday,” he hollered with conviction. That one really did the trick.

With a wide smile, Drizzy shouted out to his birthplace (St.Michael’s Hospital) and the musical success of so many of “Toronto’s finest,” bringing camera-shy The Weeknd back on stage for “Crew Love” before pulling up his sleeveless top to reveal a fine-looking ribcage and the new home to huge “416” ink. Needless to say, you could cut the Toronto pride with a knife – especially when he made Canuck-boosting statements like, “If you go to Dubai and you hear my sh**, that’s Toronto. If you go to Africa and you hear my sh**, that’s Toronto.” International crew love.

As if the women in the audience needed more cause to faint, at one point the rapper paused to address the haters before playing a few lady-praising tracks. “People say I make too much music for women. You’re f**king right I make too much music for women. I don’t make music for b**ches, I don’t make music for little girls – I make music for women,” he shouted over top a shrill eruption. From there, he went on to play every single one of his pumped-up tracks – ranging from “The Motto” and “Forever” to a gorgeous pyro-caked “Take Care” and “HYFR” (dedicated to his label head Lil’ Wayne, who couldn’t make it).

Of course, there came a point when the surprise guest anticipation was unbearable. How on earth was he going to top himself? Naturally, you bring out Rick Ross and then the Doggfather. As the extra lanky Snoop Dogg Lion sauntered out (he played for a Toronto crowd of 700 a few short days before), drugs and drink in hand and jams like “Beautiful” and “Drop it Like It’s Hot” in tow, the crowd hopped left and right – touching a mediocre volume that would be topped within minutes when a blonde-wigged, busty Nicki Minaj strolled onto stage to see her “hubby, Drizzy.” With the duet “Make Me Proud” as well as her own “Beez in the Trap” effortlessly delivered, Minaj wrapped herself around Drake at center stage while he admitted she was “the most beautiful thing in the world” and took the stage back for himself.  At the end of the night, although Snoopy Dogg-Lion-whatever and Nicki are impressive MCs, it was obvious that this year Drake wouldn’t be exhibiting any hip-hop royalty bigger than the 25 year-old superstar himself – and refreshingly, he certainly doesn’t need to anymore. He’s more than enough.

Dedicating the show to the victims of Scarborough’s recent shooting and dropping news that next year’s OVO will take place at the 50,000 capacity Roger’s Centre – Drake showed as much humanly possible love to his city, visibly demonstrating that the colossal rap event is as momentous to him as it is to all of us. “Toronto, we need to take a moment as a city,” he uttered with a bowed head. And what a moment that was.

 Warning: Explicit Language

*inanutshell doesn’t own any rights to the above video

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Canada Day Playlist: Old and New Kids on The Block

Photo courtesy of CBC.ca

 

Oh Canada, how we love you.To better equip you for your Canada Day festivities and shenanigans, for the second year in a row I thought I’d pay homage to both the red and white decked tunes that have rocked the world for decades, as well as those that will keep us shakin’ for decades to come. Music is an integral part of any of the nuts Ottawa and Toronto celebrations, so stay tuned this weekend to hear what we’re up to and who we’re listening to. Stay safe, have a blast and keep those proud speakers cranked up on this momentous long weekend!

 

THE OLD KIDS

Bobcaygeon – The Tragically Hip: All of the nuts love this song, two of us are going to see the old hand rockers play this weekend, and there are no words to describe how much Kaylee and I’s hearts skip a beat when Downie’s voice rises to howl “That night in Toronto…”

Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World – Neil Young: I’m always shocked at those who don’t like Neil Young. I mean, do you not like smiling or happiness either?  Lyrically, this song is a perfect representation of our wonderful country and all of its freedoms – and instrumentally, it’s just a damn good time with one of Canada’s greatest legends.

These Eyes – The Guess Who: Ooh, baby – now this is music. Pour a cool drink, take a moment on the balcony or deck and groove to that classic sultry riff with Burton Cummings.

Hasn’t Hit Me Yet – Blue Rodeo: I would be shamed from the music journalism sphere if I left out the boys and this song. Wherever they’re playing this on Sunday, a resounding national singalong will unite the country like the national anthem itself.

We’re Here for a Good Time – Trooper: Whether from your speakers or acoustic guitar, this campfire ditty only leads to good things like spoons to the knee or clinking glasses.

 

 THE NEW KIDS

Headlines – Drake: Ah, Drizzy – how could we forget your steamy self, the rhymes you spit and this proud Canadian music vid. Whether or not our homeland hip-hop hero is your cup of tea, there’s no denying his superstardom and the kind of excitedness the flashy beat will to bring to your Canada Day bash. HYFR.

Let It Go – Dragonette: Last year in my Canada Day music ABC’s, I listed this band as one of the coolest musical transformations of the past few years – and clearly their wild ride hasn’t stopped there. Bubbly Sorbara and her crew of electro-pop boys continue to amaze me with their Juno-winning discography and cute danceable singles like this one.

Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) – Arcade Fire: As one of jolliest jams to hit the indie airwaves in probably the last five years, these now international superstars provide the perfect 80s-caked backing to any living room dance party.

The Bad in Each Other – Feist: Not an old song, but a veteran indie sweetheart crooning it and all of its thumping glory. As undoubtedly one of the best tracks of 2011, this will make for a good arm-over-shoulders evening sway. I highly encourage you all bring out a little bad (behaviour) in each other during Sunday’s festivities.

Never Gonna Let You Go – Esthero: Jenny-Bea Englishman, the jazzy Ontario pop artist who’s made quite a name for herself in the past decade (collaborations with Timbaland, Kanye and spots on both the Grey’s Anatomy and Sex and the City movie soundtracks), has returned with her first single in nearly seven years – and a catchy comeback like this one has won a place high on our party playlists.

Fall Music Preview

Fall is quickly approaching and before we know it, influxes of new autumn albums are going to drop with the leaves. The beginning of summer and beginning of fall are some of my favourite times to discover new music, because whether or not you realize – you immediately associate your overplaying of the fresh tracks with those strongly felt season changes. The first leaf turns a mahogany brown and falls at your toes or a pedal sprouts from a hibernated plant from under the newly warm sun – and those novel tunes are so very present in your head. And every year with the change of the seasons, the entrance of those songs into your life will be something you’ll remember.

So, let the musical ants come marching in. Several of today’s biggest acts are getting ready to sock it to us in the form of exciting new sounds that may re-define or re-affirm their greatness. Or, like some unfortunate releases in the past, we might sit there with the new LP’s in hand, puzzled and waiting for one of the songs to even mildly intrigue us. Continue reading

Canada, Sing One For Me.

A,B,C, it’s as easy as 1,2,3. My allegiance to the lengthy alphabet of Canadian artists is certainly no secret at this point – so join me in a leisurely stroll through only a few of the countless greats you’ll find coast to coast. If you’ve heard these names before but haven’t gone any further in the discovery process, I’ve outlined for you which hits and hidden gems are those worth looking into to get you started. God bless Canada for sounding so great.

AUSTRA: This Toronto space-pop group has hit me like a ton of bricks recently, leaving me stunned as lead Katie Stelmanis’s piercing new wave vocals (wo)man-handle the clang of the catchy industrial instrumentals. Must hear: “Lose It” or “The Choke

BLUE RODEO: Rock daddies, folk brothers and our equivolent of a musical golden retriever – every man and woman’s best friend. Almost three decades later with a slew of tour dates to boot, Blue Rodeo bring it home every show – reminding us what it feels like to be from Ontario. Must Hear: “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet” and “Lost Together

BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE: This longstanding Canadian collective has the hearts and minds of our nation in the bag, and has for quite some time. Whether it’s breathless indie-rock, instrument-heavy hits or atmospheric oddities – this “Scene” has been the breeding ground for some of the most successful Canadian acts to date. Must hear:All to All (Skeet Skeet remix)”, “Almost Crimes” or “Lover’s Spit

DRAGONETTE: Originally a Women&Songs solo favourite of mine back in ‘02, Martina Sorbara’s folk-acoustic career must have not done it for her – because she emerged as the lively lead of Dragonette, a four-piece electric-pop dance group that stirs up craftier melodies than any of Catherine’s Dance Mix ’95 tapes did. Must hear:I Get Around”, “Stupid Grin”, and “Easy” (below)


                                              
DRAKE: Drizzy, Aubrey Drake Graham, Jimmy Brooks, or international superstar; whatever you want to call him, the guy is undeniably colossal. He’s got his hand in every hip-hop royalty cookie jar on the planet, and despite maybe not having lived the hard-knock life his rhyming peers have – the 24 year-old airwave-hog waves his maple leaf proudly. Must Hear: Forever” or “Fancy

FEIST: The sweetest girl in town. Gorgeous flower-child and innovative songstress Leslie Feist actually arose out of Broken Social Scene, taking productions like Grey’s Anatomy and 500 Days of Summer by storm with her distinctive croons, genre-savvy concepts and likable melodies. Must Hear:Sealion”, “I Feel it All” and “Inside and Out

GREAT LAKE SWIMMERS: Lead singer Tony Dekker’s haunting howls and folk balladry are just one of a kind – in Canada and internationally. The combination of acrobatic yodels and earthy grassroots strums has tagged these guys as some of the most magical songwriters in the country, snatching the breath out of my chest every time I click play. Must hear:Still” and “Your Rocky Spine

JOEL PLASKETT: …tells it like it is. This honest alt-rocker, who has toured with and without The Emergency, writes what we want to know other people experience as well. His observations are bang-on, his messages are annunciated and crisp, and his rock equipment chars the stage beneath him. Like many of the others on this list, Plaskett is a classic, a favourite, and a fixture in our hearts. Must Hear: “Nowhere with You”, “Face of the Earth” and “Nothing More To Say” (below)

MATT MAYS: Strolling unexpectedly onto the music scene as part of the Halifax jangly-rock group The Guthries, Mays branched out on his own to pick up the pace a little as Matt Mays and El Torpedo. A killer set of pipes  that topple over laid-back ripping guitar have drawn huge comparisons to the likes of Tom Petty, especially after having worked with Don Smith before – who helped launch Petty and Keith Richards in their own scorching rock careers. Must hear: “Tall Trees” and “On The Hood

METRIC: Everyone likes a little Metric. Tough girl Emily Haines got her start in BSS before dragging female-fronted alt-rock up from underground and into the mainstream with her band Metric. Sparkling dresses, a blonde coif and her cheeky rasp certainly haven’t held this broad back from spitting hits, sassing strangers and helping put Canada’s leading ladies on the map. Must hear:Monster Hospital (Mstrkrft remix),Police and The Private” and “Sick Muse

NEIL YOUNG: The man who’s laid the foundation for all rootsy-rockers, the king of the squealing harmonica, the visionary, and the godfather of all country-rock – enough said. Must hear:Harvest Moon” and “Heart of Gold

PATRICK WATSON: (Sigh) Oh, Patrick. This former Polaris Prize winner, in the words of Janis Joplin, always manages to take another little piece of my heart. Watson has the country’s most calming voice, which has landed him countless gigs on television show soundtracks, sold out shows on the global stage and creative projects with acts like the Cinematic Orchestra. Penning many of the most moving songs I’ve ever heard, his progressive pop will command my attention for years to come. Must hear:The Great Escape”, “Sit Down Beside Me“, “Luscious Life” and “To Build A Home” (below)


 STARS:  This group deserves a nod most definitely because they nursed me into my appreciation of Canadian songs; guiding me through the scene with whimsical indie-rock albums like Set Yourself On Fire and In Our Bedroom After The War. Lyrics like, “live through this and you won’t look back” still walk me through the motions of life – and bring me back to nights spent swaying to their booming concert encores. Must hear: One More Night”, “Tonight” or “Your Ex-lover is Dead

TEGAN AND SARA: Born only minutes apart, these West Coast twins have equal amounts of kick. Both hard-hitting and exposed at times, they’re another act that’s also cannon-balled to make an international girl-rock splash. Something similar to what we heard during our recess antics applies to this T&S – they’re not just good for two girls. They’re good for anybody. Must hear: You Wouldn’t Like Me” or “Fix You Up

THE TRAGICALLY HIP: Kingston, represent! I can’t help but be biased in describing my hometown favourites. Despite adoring them because they always wave back when sitting next to you at a tiny coffee shop in the Limestone City, it’s more of the fact that I can’t get enough of their original and timeless Canuck rock. To this day they know how to deliver, and it’s got to be a good sign the number of times I’ve heard of concert attendees making the trip yet again – “just because it’s The Hip.” Must hear: Bobcaygeon”, “Blow at High Dough” and “Long Time Running”. Want to see one of the best performances of all time? See below.

 
THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS: 15 years after their inception, this AC Newman-lead Canadian power-group has become one of the most renowned music conglomerates in the country. A microphone-commanding combination of singer-songwriter Neko Case and Newman, this band’s soaring instruments and hearty vocals landed their album Mass Romantic at spot 24 on Blender Magazines’s best indie albums of all-time. Must hear: The Bleeding Heart Show”, “Use It” or “Challengers

Spark the BBQ, sport your red and white with pride, and make a playlist of these tunes – you’ll feel closer to your nation after the first tune. Happy listening!