Festival season is upon us. For Canadians, it’s been a long two-year stretch where attempts to “flatten the curve” became contentious, leading to big rig convoys and protests against masks, vaccines, and other COVID-related mandates. Lockdowns were still present in the lives of Canadians as recently as January. In fact, it’s only been a few months since Quebec lifted a provincial curfew that prevented people from leaving their homes after 10 pm throughout the winter. But as of May 19th, 2022, Montreal’s Mayor Valérie Plante declared that the city was officially lifting the state of emergency.
There really wasn’t a better time for such an announcement with the pending long weekend ahead and the return of Montreal’s Metro Metro, Canada’s first hip-hop festival of its kind. Young Thug, Lil Baby, and Playboi Carti were initially scheduled as the headliners for the 3-day event.
As news unfolded over the past few weeks, there were serious concerns about the outcome of the festival. For one, the Canadian border is notorious for denying rappers entry into the country, even if their paperwork is flawless. Naturally, there’s a cloud of anxiety that lingers over the heads of festival promoters and concertgoers alike until scheduled talent makes it into the country. Secondly, the entire roster of headliners were from Atlanta – a city that’s currently plagued by a mass crackdown on rap acts. Each one of the headliners ( Young Thug, Lil Baby, and Playboi Carti) has been rumored to be associated with alleged gangs that are under investigation. Thug and Gunna are the only ones who’ve faced charges due to allegations of violating the RICO Act. In the end, only one of the original festival headliners actually pulled through for their performance with Playboi Carti being replaced by 50 Cent just days before the show took place.
It was widely accepted that Thug and Gunna wouldn’t be making their way to the festival after the news of their arrest, though that placed the burden on the organizers back to find worthy replacements. And while some hoped that it would be Future, who headlined the festival alongside Cardi B in 2019, the alternatives turned out to be Trippie Redd and Tory Lanez. It was a slightly underwhelming replacement compared to Thug and Gunna who’ve had a strong grip on 2022.
Still, Friday night set the tone for a weekend filled with high-energy performances. Artists like Toronto’s 3MFrench and Pengz set things off earlier in the day before Montreal’s hometown hero, Nate Husser, graced the stage. However, the moment Lil Pump hit the stage, it was time for the main attractions to thrive. After he elevated the crowd’s spirit with bangers like “Eskettit” and “Gucci Gang,” A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie provided an excellent set that proved how influential he is. Even when he played deep cuts, like his hook on 6ix9ine’s “KEKE,” the crowd sang back each word back to him without losing momentum.
Photos by CB (@cb43media)/HNHH
Tory Lanez and Trippie Redd weren’t supposed to be performing in Montreal on Friday night but it was quite clear that even without Thug and Gunna, the city was ready to turn all the way up. Trippie closed out the night with a slew of fan favorites, including “Dark Knight Dummo” and “Miss The Rage.” However, it was Tory Lanez’s set that felt the most significant. The rapper charged the stage for his first festival set in two-and-a-half years. Within the span of an hour, Tory delivered an impeccable set filled with bangers throughout his career, including deep cuts like “Diego,” which the crowd ate up. He walked on the crowd, stage dived, and made sure that his presence was felt, literally . Whatever narrative that’s chased Tory Lanez down on Twitter since he was accused of shooting Megan Thee Stallion clearly did not stand in Montreal on Friday night.
Photos by CB (@cb43media)/HNHH
Photos by CB (@cb43media)/HNHH
By the time Tory Lanez left the stage, there were rumblings that Drake had touched down in the city. Though no one confirmed that he would be Lil Baby’s special guest, it seemed like an inevitable outcome. However, day two seemed a bit shakier than the day prior, even with an anticipated surprise appearance from The Boy. There was significant congestion at every entry point. The VIP section, for example, was packed as a result of overselling VIP packages, according to security on-site, making wait times to enter the festival site unbearable for some. What’s worse is that between sets from Polo G and Don Toliver, Eminem was forced on the crowd. Not even bangers by Eminem but songs like “Walk On Water” and an acapella version of “Guilty Conscience.” It really makes you wonder who is responsible for this event. Despite the shift in energy, Lil Baby made up for whatever missteps that happened prior. The bass rattled the festival grounds as he ripped through bangers, like “My Dawg,” “We Paid,” “Sum 2 Prove ,” “Woah,” and even recent cuts like “In A Minute.”
At this point, Lil Baby has a collection of Drake collaborations to rely on. Songs like “Yes Indeed” continue to slap, even if it’s just to hear Baby rap, “Wah, Wah, Wah/ Bitch, I’m Lil Baby. ” Drake didn’t appear for that but he did come out for “Wants & Needs” and “Girls Like Girls.” Drake didn’t leave after a handful of collabs with Baby. He practically delivered a mini-set that included records like “Headlines,” “God’s Plan,” and “Knife Talk” ft. 21 Savage. His “surprise appearances” seem to be a pattern that he’s relied on post CLB since he isn’t actually touring. Still, Drake closed out his portion of the evening with high praise for Lil Baby in front of the Montreal audience who certainly received their money’s worth.
Sunday night’s line-up was a little bit less cohesive than the night prior. While Lil Tecca and DaBaby touched the stage one after another, it seemed like the crowd was worn out halfway through the North Carolina rapper’s set at 7 pm Similar to Tory Lanez , DaBaby leaped into the crowd, got close to the fans, and delivered quintessential records in his catalog. Unfortunately, his decision to play “Rockstar” and “Suge” at the top of his set led to a disappointing encore when he played both of those songs, again.
50 Cent closed out the final evening of Metro Metro as Playboi Carti’s last-minute replacement. In some ways, his presence felt off at a festival that largely centered around catering to Gen. Z but 50 really has a timeless catalog with hits upon hits. He was over a half-hour late but that clearly didn’t matter by the time he touched the stage. 50 Cent still has a gargantuan presence as a performer, even if it isn’t his rapping full-time.
It’s taken years for hip-hop to accept Canada as a valuable asset to the culture. Contributions from artists like Michie Mee and Maestro Fresh Wes in the 80s certainly opened the gates for Canadians while Kardinal Offishhall, Drake, and Tory Lanez have carried the torch with pride. Festivals like Metro Metro prove that hip-hop isn’t a niche market in Canada, or elsewhere. The post-pandemic return of the Montreal-based concert hopefully sets the tone for other Canadian cities to fully embrace hip-hop as the festival season approaches.
Check out more photos from Festival Metro Metro below (Photos by CB[@CB43media)[@CB43media)