Drake & OVO at Fader Fort
Halfway through the final day at the Jack Daniel's-fuelled Fader Fort, the word was out -- Drake, who'd done a rare cover story for the magazine a few months prior, was set to be the show's special guest. By the time Yo Gotti (the last scheduled performer on the bill) blasted through his SXSW-appropriate anthem, "Down In The DM" and left the stage, fans inched closer instead of scattering. The lively audience, who had evidently taken advantage of the open bar, joyously sang along to a well-curated selection of classic Texas rap, including a word-for-word rendition of Mike Jones' "Still Tippin," as they awaited what they were told would be the 6 God's arrival.
When the lights finally dimmed, it was Ginuwine's record that first rang out, and not the "So Anxious" sample that once signified Drake's Jungle tour-opening "Legend," but rather the singer's mega-hit, "Pony". After playing the iconic Timbaland groove over the speakers, the 90s staple transformed into a soulful a capella sung by 3 women who set up at stage left. At this point, a neon-lit symbol appeared through a quickly emanating fog, which anyone who'd been paying attention recognized as the mathematic imagery of OVO's very recent signee, dvsn -- who, up until now, had never performed publicly.
Still operating under a considerable level of mystique, the act's frontman emerged from the shadows, but remained a silhouette as he began his intoxicating single, "Too Deep," with the soulful trio of vocalists remaining for support. The decidedly anonymous singer experienced some unfortunate issues with feedback in the show's first moments, but quickly recovered from the technical difficulties, winning over the less OVO-savvy members of the crowd in the process. Things faded out into a DJ set, which kept up the feel of the opening act, stringing the whole thing together like a live episode of OVO Radio. When the giant LCD screen lit up bright with the name Roy Wood$, it was clear this was exactly the intent of the performances. Wood$ brought the energy up with his set, making his way out into what would remain a supremely foggy stage to "Get You Good". Once again, The rapper was visible only in shape as he moved about the stage, backlit by the crisp white screen bearing his name throughout. As was expected by this point, Majid Jordan was the next up, with singer Majid Al Maskati displaying a confident stage presence, coming into his own as a frontman.
From there, the next guest seemed a bit up in the air, as Makonnen has been less visible within the roster more recently, and PartyNextDoor is known to be somewhat reclusive, especially when he's working on new music. While the former was nowhere to be found, PND took the stage to what was easily the biggest crowd reaction of the night thus far. Backed by an understated but highly complimentary guitarist, PARTY prepared fans for his imminent next step "P3 on the way!" he announced to immense cheers after performing a range of records including "Welcome To The Party," "Break From Toronto," and "Don't Worry". The singer closed his set with his biggest hit, "Recognize," which seemed like it could be Drake's cue. There was a slight feeling of disappointment from the audience when the rapper did not emerge to perform his guest verse, but all was forgiven when PARTY confirmed his collaborator was up next, exclaiming, "shout out to my OG... Drizzy fuckin' Drake," before disappearing backstage.
Needless to say, that was all the crowd needed to collectively lose their shit, and when the unmistakable patois that begins "Energy" rang through the Fader Fort grounds moments later, they were ready to rap every word along with the 6 God, just as they did the range of Houston rap just an hour earlier. "Fader asked me to do one song," Drake said with a showman's grin. "I got nowhere else to be right now." From there, the OVO leader proceeded to run through a slew of hits from the past year, including If You're Reading This It's Too Late centrepiece "Know Yourself," which while a Toronto anthem, inspired just as much chaos through it's climactic drop as it would in the rapper's hometown.
And one last 6️⃣ God highlight from the Snap 👀 (hnhhsnaps) pic.twitter.com/ylvcGI3V6Q— HotNewHipHop (@HotNewHipHop) March 20, 2016
While Future was speculated to make an appearance (he'd been spotted at Kehlani's showcase earlier in the week), his "Jumpman" verse was rapped instead by the crowd (well, at least they nailed Nobu, Nobu, Nobu), and Future's #1 collaborator Metro Boomin came out to throw down some impressive dance moves. After making what surely wasn't the first "if this guy doesn't trust you" joke Metro had heard over his Austin trip, Drake added, "that guys got too many joints... more than me!"
As he wrapped up his set, Drake hinted at an upcoming tour, insisting that not only would he be back in Austin, but Houston and Dallas as well. He thanked his OVO roster again and again, asking the crowd to give it up for all the acts who performed throughout the night. "Views From The 6 coming in I don't know how many weeks, so I hope y'all enjoy that shit," he said, closing things off with project's first release, "Summer Sixteen." Judging by the glee in which the audience yelled back "looking for reve-e-e-e-nge," they most certainly will.
All photography by Elijah Dominique.