It all started to become clear as I was driving into Toronto.
The CN Tower was staring at me in the distance, while the Molson Canadian Amphitheater, home to Drake‘s annual OVO Fest hugged my car on the right side as I entered the city. It was a beautiful day and there were many Toronto natives walking along the harbor side, enjoying the sunshine.
Then there was me, a suburban white kid from Central New York visiting the city as a tourist. Cruising on Lakeshore Boulevard, I began snapping pictures while blasting If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late out my window. It was amazing.
It was early March and the city was hopping. After hosting the NBA All-Star Game a few weeks back, and with the anticipation of Views From the 6 dropping in April, it couldn’t have been a better time to be there (what a timeeeee).
I was greeted by a slew of Drake’s billboards as I entered, most containing his iconic “6” from his Summer Sixteen single, and I began to get hype. But more than that, I became intrigued.
We all know how much Drake puts on for his city, but have you ever wondered what it’s like to really be one of Toronto’s own? Instead of enjoying a weekend in the city, I quickly turned into a spectator.
There’s no doubt that Drake single-handedly put Toronto on the map. Not only did he open avenues for other artists like The Weeknd, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Tory Lanez and Jazz Cartier, but he boosted the image of one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world.
And while most can only look at Drake’s contributions from the outside (literally), I took advantage of my time in the 6 to check out how special this guy really is to his city.
Toronto has one of the nicest shopping districts on Yonge Street, even though the 6 God’s OVO flagship is down a few blocks in Chinatown. The far trek to the store was of no matter however because when I was walking around I saw more OVO merch on passersby then I could ever imagine. It became obvious that his clothing line has given the people of Toronto a form of fashion expression, because it seemed like every 4th person walking by me had some form of OVO written across their chest or had the now-famous praying hands stitched into a ball cap.
Not only is Drake contributing the music, but he is blurring lines between fashion and art, creating clothing for the city.
I even got to stop by the OVO flagship myself and it was PACKED. This was when I realized, the boy is puttin’ on. You almost couldn’t move in the already-small store because there were so many kids trying on the different pieces of apparel. It was so fascinating to see how this one artist is affecting the city with not only his music, but clothing too.
It seems the youth has been quite literally charged up, and that Drake has given these city kids a platform to express themselves. Plus, who else you know can sell $40 t-shirts like pancakes?
I think his biggest impact he has had is his relationship with the Toronto Raptors. Drizzy became the Global Ambassador back in 2013 and when it happened, I didn’t know how it would result.
In all honesty, I expected a failed attempt at bonding rap music with a basketball team, but Drake has seamed the relationship together beautifully. With the incorporation of ‘Drake Night’ and even collaborations between the Raptors, OVO, and Mitchell & Ness, Drake has turned the Toronto Raptors from a novelty team to an NBA squad with one of the most dedicated fanbases.
Now, most can’t even think of the Raptors without thinking of Drake. That’s power.
I even saw it when I was physically at the Raptors game. Besides the selling out of the OVO merch at the team store, the team rocked their black and gold jersey in honor of the 6 God. Along with that, all the fans around me were talking about Drizzy when he entered the building. Let me remind you that I was in the 300 section and he looked like an ant sitting courtside, but that didn’t stop everyone around me from talking about him.
I remember a bunch of 30-year-olds chugging beers, talking about what they would do to spend a day with Drake. I even remember a 50-year-old woman (yes, a 50-year old woman!!) zooming in to the maximum level to take a snapchat of Drake sitting courtside.
Seeing this guy appeal to these different kinds of people makes me give even more respect to what Drake is doing for Toronto. He truly has put his city on his back and is taking his people for a ride.
As a fan looking in from the outside, it’s fun to ask, what kind of impact does Drake actually have on his city? Like, yeah, he throws the city a party every August (OVO Fest), and yeah, he’s shows up to a bunch of basketball games, but is he actually reaching the people?
Although I was only in the 6 for a short time, I got to experience this culture for the first time, and it was both refreshing and exciting. To see what one guy is doing for an entire city is beyond crazy. And to be able to physically witness how one musician is affecting the entire culture of one place was one of the most humbling experiences of my entire life.
Now we wait for Views From the 6.
Besides the fact that it is an obvious nod to his city, we can only wonder what kind of immediate impact and also legacy it will leave on the city. It’s great to see someone this high in pop culture do something as influential as this. Toronto is one of the greatest cities in the world, and Drizzy Drake is finally helping everyone realize that.