It all began in 2010 as a one-day festival with a flyer that looked more fit for a club appearance at a Jamaica, Queens nightclub than for an event that would end up hosting Jay Z and Eminem. Since then, Drake’s built his annual OVO Fest into Canada’s very own version of Summer Jam, always managing to bring out surprise guests at the top of their game and dominate the headlines the day after (especially this year).
Although guys like Rick Ross and The Weeknd have shown up for multiple Fests, the lineup is usually markedly different each ensuing year, with ever-curatorial Drizzy shaping his show based on who’s popping at the moment, and what music he himself released most recently. For that reason, we’re pitting each year of the festival against each other in an attempt to rank them based on star power, newsworthiness and/or cultural impact.
Scheduled performers: A$AP Rocky, The Weeknd, 2 Chainz
Special guests: Nicki Minaj, French Montana, Waka Flocka Flame, Rick Ross, Snoop Dogg
Somewhat of a letdown when compared with its two predecessors, 2012 lacked the surprise factor of other Fests. Nicki and Snoop drew considerable cheers, but their appearances didn’t have the same impact on Drake’s career as other co-signs that went down at the Molson Ampitheatre (especially because he was already tight with Nicki). Waka was a nice surprise, especially because it meant seeing “Round Of Applause” performed live for the first time ever (and perhaps the last?).
Scheduled performers: Rick Ross, The Weeknd
Special guests: J. Cole, Lil Wayne, Nas, Stevie Wonder
Definitely the smallest-ever lineup, but 2011 had legends– multiple generations of them. Foreshadowing Stevie Wonder’s appearance on Take Care, the show also gave Drake a boost in hip-hop cred thanks to a Nas appearance. The rest was solid, but did we really need Rick Ross here three years in a row?
Scheduled performers: Jeezy, Francis & The Lights
Special guests: Rick Ross, Bun B, Fabolous, Kardinal Offishall, Eminem, Jay Z
The “surprise” factor is really what catapults the Fest’s first year over its sophomore and junior turns, because how were people to know that a Drake, Jeezy & Francis & The Lights show would be interrupted by the biggest tour of the summer, Jay and Em’s co-heading jaunt. It set the expectation for nothing short of mega-star guests. Thr four other guests performers pale in comparison to the undercards Drizzy would assemble for later years, so that’s its only downside.
Scheduled performers: Frank Ocean (dropped out due to a vocal cord injury), James Blake
Special guests: Wale, The Weeknd, Big Sean, J. Cole, French Montana, Ma$e, A$AP Rocky, TLC, Lil Wayne, Kanye West
While hampered a bit by Ocean’s cancellation, 2013 still had Wayne and Yeezy, so it’s hard to put it below any of the previous years. The number of guests per fest increased here, allowing for more 90s legends (Ma$e, TLC) than usual, as well as a solid undercard of familiar Drake friends.
Scheduled performers: Outkast
Special guests: Lauryn Hill, J. Cole, YG, Trey Songz, 50 Cent, G-Unit, Bun B, Tinashe, PartyNextDoor, OB Brien, Majid Jordan, DJ Khaled, Usher
Outkast, G-Unit and Lauryn Hill?! 2014 definitely had performances that would’ve seemed like beyond long shots five years prior, and that ended being its strength. Cole and YG earned repeat performances the following year due to solid appearances, the then-buzzing Tinashe was a nice surprise, and having Trey SOngz and Usher on the same stage is no small feat either.
Scheduled performers: J. Cole, Big Sean, YG, Jeremih, Bas, Cozz, Omen
Special guests: Krept & Konan, PartyNextDoor, P. Reign, Skepta, Future, Kanye West, Travi$ Scott, Pharrell
The stars really aligned on this one. Here you have J. Cole and Big Sean coming off the best albums of their careers, YG gearing up to release a follow-up to his stunning debut, Skepta blowing up in the U.S., Future ruling 2015, Travi$ Scott claiming that he “escaped from jail” to get there. More importantly, it was timed almost too perfectly to deliver the final K.O. to Meek Mill in the wake of “Charged Up” and “Back To Back.” Couple that all with an entire Kanye set (as opposed to the three-four songs he performed at his prior Fest appearance), and 2015 clearly made up for lack of legendary veterans with a well-curated squad of dudes at the top of their respective games.