Concert Review: Young Money Reunion at Budweiser Stage in Toronto (2022.08.06)

Young Money

After testing positive for COVID-19, Drake’s October World Weekend had to be cut short with the main event being postponed. We saw him host a historic celebration of classic Canadian Hip-Hop and RnB with the All-Canadian Northstars show last week, and the Chris Brown & Lil Baby performance at Budweiser stage proceeded as planned. The most anticipated event however got pushed to the following Saturday, the Young Money Reunion show, featuring Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Drake himself. The Budweiser Stage had a sold out crowd for one of the most expensive concerts of the summer, eagerly awaiting this reunion show.

Young Money is of course the record label founded by Lil Wayne, after he had released his first five albums through Birdman’s Cash Money Records. It’s the label that saw the continued success in Weezy’s career from Tha Carter III onwards, and the launch of Drake and Nicki Minaj’s careers, although Drake left the label after his 2018 double-album Scorpion. Much of Drake’s success is due in part to this record label and the way its artists have supported each other over the years, so it’s only fitting that the tenth anniversary of his OVO Festival include a special reunion show to celebrate the team’s success.

There were major delays to start the show, as the crowd grew frustrated after waiting for over three hours after the doors had opened at 6pm. The DJ would let a playlist of songs play, and after each song ended without being immediately followed by the start of the show, the crowd would let out growingly aggressive boos. This was easily redeemed though, as eventually around 10pm the jumbo screens showed the message “Unfortunately, Lil Wayne had issues at the border,” which caused some worry for a split second, but was quickly followed by “Luckily, Drake runs the border.” The screens lit up, a booming bass was playing, and Lil Wayne came out spitting!

With the sound mixing being a little off, the bass would often drown out the rest of the beat, and so it was hard to tell which songs were being performed. Still, Weezy powered through and the crowd turned up as he opened with Tha Carter IV track “Blunt Blowin,” and continued with fan favourites like “Goin’ In” (without Drake showing up for this verse on the song), “Uproar,” “No Worries,” and “Rich As Fuck.” Not only does Lil Wayne have over a dozen albums with several chart-topping hits over the years, but he also put out a ton of mixtapes for the underground, and decided to pull out one of those rare mixtape tracks with 2009’s “Swag Surf.” He also performed some of his features on other artists’ songs, including Birdman’s “Pop Bottles,” French Montana’s “Pop That,” and Chris Brown’s “Loyal.”

Lil Wayne would take some time out to acknowledge the problems he had crossing the border into Canada, sarcastically saying “to the people at the border, I love you,” dedicating the next song to them. This would hilariously be the ’09 throwback “Steady Mobbin’,” which starts off with the lyrics “maaaan fuck these n****s.” The crowd was fully on board with the performance, turning up for this song and getting even more energized as Weezy closed out his set with the classic “A Milli.” Seeming to come out one at a time, Lil Wayne would leave the stage and make room for Nicki Minaj to take over. A video would play on the jumbo screens with Nicki dressed in a Catwoman outfit, and the crowd got even more energized when she hit the stage.

Nicki Minaj’s performance would take us through the years, as she touched on all four of her albums with songs like 2010’s “Did It On ‘Em,” 2012’s “Beez In The Trap,” 2018’s “Chun Li,” and the 2014 Beyonce-assisted “Feeling Myself,” with images of Bey showing on the jumbo screen as Nicki performed the song. Just as they appear on her Pinkprint album, Nicki followed up “Feeling Myself” with “Only,” although neither Drake or Lil Wayne joined her on stage to perform their verses on the track. With this concert originally supposed to take place during Caribana weekend, Nicki Minaj brought those vibes back with some dancehall chunes, performing her verse from the remix to Gyptian’s “Hold Yuh,” and bringing out Jamaica’s own Skillibeng himself to perform their song together “Crocodile Teeth.”

Towards the end of her set, Nicki would preview some new, unreleased music, dancing to a snippet of her upcoming single “Super Freaky Girl.” She’d close out her set with one last hit, getting the entire crowd moving to the throwback “Super Bass,” and making way for the hometown legend Drake to hit the stage next. Having been watching Wayne & Nicki’s sets from in the crowd, Drake had a camera crew follow him as he walked through the aisle between the 100 and 200 levels of the amphitheater, the jumbo screen showing him making his way through the crowd on his way to the stage.

Drake

With Toronto not being able to have live concerts for the couple years during the COVID pandemic, Drake wasted no time getting into the newer music he released during those years. He performed “What’s Next” off his 2021 EP Scary Hours 2, and brought out the latest signee to his record label OVO Sound, Smiley. The Toronto rapper performed his song “Over The Top” featuring Drake, after which Drizzy got the crowd to sing happy birthday to him. Being a newly signed artist, this must have been an epic moment in Smiley’s young career. After Smiley got his moment, Drake would keep the energy levels high, performing his feature on Future’s “I’m On One,” followed by the Scorpion standout “Nonstop.”

For the next few songs, Drake would slow it down for the ladies. He’d acknowledge the criticism he’s received on his latest album, Honestly, Nevermind, saying something along the lines of combining the new Drake with the old Drake for this next bit. This would turn into a medley of songs he’d slow down significantly from the original tempos, singing new joints like “A Keeper” and “Calling My Name” but in a slow-jam format without the energetic house-influenced beats behind him. I personally would have preferred to turn up to the original beats from the album, but the ladies in the crowd were into Drake’s slow crooning for these alternate versions. He’d keep up the ladies segment of the show, performing his feature on Gunna’s “P Power,” his Certified Lover Boy track “Girls Want Girls,” and his feature on Future’s “WAIT FOR U.”

Knowing the fans wanted to see more than just the three artists perform separately, Drake told the crowd he had three more songs before he’d bring the Young Money family back on stage. All three would be new joints off his last two albums, performing Honestly, Nevermind‘s “Sticky,” followed by Certified Lover Boy‘s “Way 2 Sexy” and “Knife Talk.” With Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Drake each performing solo sets, everything from here on out would be unpredictable surprises. There would in fact be a big surprise for the crowd before the three headliners returned to the stage together.

With no announcement and no introduction, Mannie Fresh came out on stage performing the Big Tymers’ 2002 single “Stay Fly.” After performing his verse, Birdman came out to join him for the second verse, and it was officially a surprise Big Tymers reunion! Big Tymers of course being the duo of Mannie Fresh & Birdman, who were a major part of Cash Money Records, which had Lil Wayne signed to them for Weezy’s first five albums, this should have been a much more epic celebration than what took place. Much of the crowd seemed to be college-aged kids who weren’t familiar with Cash Money Records, or the connection between Mannie Fresh, Birdman and Lil Wayne.

Big Tymers would rush through a couple more songs, performing “#1 Stunna” and “Get Ya Roll On” off their 2000 album I Got That Work, abruptly leaving the stage after these bangers. I felt like this should have been a much bigger moment, as Big Tymers had several more hits from the early/mid 2000s like “This Is How We Do,” Mannie Fresh’s “Real Big,” and the countless collaborations between Birdman and Lil Wayne that could have been performed. Instead, they just scratched the surface before leaving. They didn’t even stay for when the rest of Young Money returned to the stage, as that would be a separate set by itself.

Young Money would next return to the stage, with Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Drake, and a handful of other artists signed to the label being reunited. They’d open their set together with animated images of Wilma from The Flintstones being sexualized on the jumbo screen as they performed “Bedrock,” with Gudda Gudda joining in for his verse. The rest of the set would mostly revolve around the hometown hero Drake, with either his own songs or songs featuring him being performed. The crowd sang along as he performed “Under Ground Kings” off his now decade-old Take Care album, and joined Nicki Minaj for her throwback “Moment 4 Life.” Drizzy and Weezy would have a dope moment as a duo, as they performed a couple more Take Care tracks they have together, getting the crowd hyped for “The Motto” and “HYFR (Hell Ya Fucking Right).” With Budweiser Stage’s usual curfew being around 11pm and it now being almost midnight, the Young Money crew had just one more song to unload before they’d end the show. This would be the 2009 Young Money posse cut “Every Girl,” with Drake and Lil Wayne being highlights on the track.

To end the concert, Drake would get into a speech thanking the crowd and acknowledging the entire Young Money family that helped build the foundations for his career. He talked about how the first $30K Lil Wayne ever gave him and his mom was the most important money he’s made in his career, and how important Lil Wayne is to all the artists on stage and Hip-Hop in general. Lil Wayne humbly accepted all the love, but he’d get the last words on the mic, telling the crowd “I ain’t shit without y’all,” and subtly announcing “Tha Carter VI coming soon” before dropping the mic to huge applause.

Overall, this was a fun concert, but with the extremely high ticket prices and the short set lists we got, it was overhyped. Considering the majority of fans paid between $300 – $3,000 to be there, the sound mixing should have been on point; Wayne and Nicki were often drowned out by the bass and it seemed like sound check was only done for Drake’s performance. Also for those fans seeing these artists for the first time, there were so many songs that didn’t get performed that we wanted to see, me personally wishing to see songs like Lil Wayne’s “Fireman” and “Glory,” Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda,” and Drake’s “The Language” and “Free Smoke.” Nicki Minaj in particular got shortchanged with the amount of songs she got to perform, and there were so many missed opportunities where all three artists appear on the same song together. Not to mention taking advantage of Big Tymers being in the building, and all the collabs Birdman, Mannie Fresh and Lil Wayne have together.

Regardless of the shortcomings, this was a great celebration of Young Money’s legacy in Hip-Hop and Pop music. Despite the late start and set lists being cut short, they still gave us a decent representation of the entire decade Young Money had dominance over, plus a glimpse into the future with Nicki previewing unreleased music, Drake bringing out his newest artist signed to his own label, and Wayne only needing to say the words “Carter 6.” Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Wayne are each superstars in their own right and can move as bosses on their own, and so this was a rare opportunity to see them reunite, bringing back the days when they were all up-and-comers and performing some of those throwbacks. For Drake, this was just October World Weekend: The Road to OVO Fest Tour; expect a major tour announcement coming in 2023.

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