Drake and 50 Cent's Surprise Sets Saved Montreal's Festival Metro Metro

With Lil Pump, Nate Husser, Trippie Redd, Lil Baby and more
Drake and 50 Cent's Surprise Sets Saved Montreal's Festival Metro Metro
Drake & Lil Baby | Photo: Staceytakespictures / Festival Metro Metro
Festival season was back in full swing in Montreal with the kickoff of Festival Metro Metro, the weekend-long outdoor hip-hop festival that took place at the city's Olympic Stadium from May 20 to 22. As one of the first festivals initially canceled by the pandemic in 2020, this year's edition marked the return to outdoor concerts to take place in the city since lockdowns began two years ago, save for last October's scaled-down version of Osheaga.

The two-year delay was just the beginning of lineup turbulence that continued even after the festival finally began on May 20. Young Thug was the only one of the original slate of headliners to remain on the lineup, to be joined by Lil Baby and Playboi Carti (replacing Travis Scott, 50 Cent and Booba), but Thugger and the majority of the artists on his YSL label were arrested on over 50 racketeering charges less than two weeks before the festival, and Carti cancelled two days before his fest-closing slot. Young Thug was replaced by Tory Lanez and Trippie Redd, while the sting of Carti's last-minute cancellation was eased by the announcement that he'd be replaced by original headliner 50 Cent, for his first performance in Montreal since 2005.

The festival's focus on the Beach Day Every Day Main Stage, and the high-profile talent that occupied it, shifted any spotlight away from the smaller Urban Stage, packed with emerging artists including most of the few women booked for the festival. (There were some female artists on the Main Stage schedule, including some who also played the Urban Stage, but they were all relegated to afternoon slots, before many of the attendees arrived.) More troubling programming decisions could be found in the inclusion of DaBaby, whose homophobic rant at last year's Rolling Loud festival in Miami was followed by several rounds of botched apologies, and Tory Lanez, who was charged in 2020 over allegedly shooting Megan Thee Stallion and violated her protective order against him this past April. On top of all this, thundershowers were in the forecast.

And yet, thanks to some positive surprises throughout the event, Festival Metro Metro managed to satisfy the appetite of many eager rap enthusiasts looking to celebrate a return to normalcy with sweaty strangers in the summer's heat. Here's what stood out from our three days in the sun.

May 20

Nate Husser

Photo: Photogperry

As one of the first major local talents to take the stage, Nate Husser did his best to liven up an otherwise lacklustre audience. The Little Burgundy native opened his set with "Iced Out Baby-G," the Jake Paul-approved track that gave Husser traction in the United States when the YouTuber-turned-boxer used it as his victory song following a boxing match against former NBA player Nate Robinson. Husser was decked head to toe in his own Toutlemonde brand, starting in an orange ski mask and grey mechanic's suit, yet the summer's heat soon caught up to the rapper who quickly ditched the ensemble for a tank top. Husser performed several hits from his Adult Supervision EP like "JELLY," "Sleep Like a Baby" and "Water with the Candy," undertaking the tough task of energizing a crowd seemingly focused solely on the headliners. Perhaps the festival's younger crowd did not know of Husser and his long-time efforts to put Montreal on the worldwide rap map, which surely deserved more praise than received.

Lil Pump

Photo: Staceytakespictures

Lil Pump still makes music? Surprisingly, yes, but he's more of a hype man to his own songs than he is the artist performing them. Mumbling atop his sonically redundant hits, Lil Pump rarely got through a whole verse himself, instead opting to ad-lib most of the time. Coming out to "Esskeetit," it wasn't long before Pump demanded a mosh pit from the crowd, one of several throughout his short set. Perhaps most impressive, less than five minutes into his set, over a dozen frazzled fans asked to be removed from the crowd — whether due to its density, the mosh pit or the heat finally taking its toll, we'll never know.

That was just the start of the chaos that followed in the upcoming hours. Frequently, Lil Pump looked confused as to what was happening in the crowd and the reason for security's frenzy. Midway through the set, organizers began asking the crowd to back up and make space between one another. As they demanded that everyone "reculé!" ("step back"), Pump again demanded that everyone form a mosh pit, in complete contradiction to the festival's pleas. Eventually the show went on, but only after several threats of shutting the festival down unless everyone cooperated.

After Pump's set, security opened the gates and forced the attendees at the front to leave their spots to clear up space. Saddened and angry die-hards who had likely been waiting hours for their favorite headliners were sent to the back of the crowd, many with tears in their eyes.

The festival was permitted to continue following over 30 minutes of back-and-forth with Metro Metro founder Olivier Primeau asking the crowd to follow their orders so that the show could continue.

Trippie Redd

Photo: Photogperry

While many may have been upset about Young Thug's circumstances, Trippie Redd proved himself undoubtedly to be a worthy headliner and closer to a beautiful Friday evening. In true Montreal fashion, minutes after the crowd began their never-ending chants of "olé, olé, olé," Trippie Redd took the stage to an eruption of cheers and applause atop his hit single "Dark Knight Dummo." Not long after, the Ohio native took a celebratory puff of his blunt and proceeded to begin an a cappella version of "Holy Smokes" with the crowd. 

Trippie Redd was welcomed with open arms after a hectic start to the festival. His laidback demeanor, on-stage smirks and anecdotes in-between songs (he told us about the "damn delicious" ice cream he had before coming) made him feel more like an old friend than an artist to be idolized. His occasional complete cuts from the music in favor of singalongs were always reciprocated with the same delightful energy that he gave to the audience. While his set may have been shorter than planned due to the setbacks earlier in the day, it would be hard to imagine an artist closing the first day of festivities on such a positive note — a much-welcomed closing act by a promising up-and-comer with much more to accomplish.

May 21

Don Toliver

Photo: Staceytakespictures

Don Toliver brought the energy to a newly optimistic Saturday crowd who only had to endure 10 minutes of drizzling rain instead of the predicted daylong thunderstorm. Having only gained traction in the rap scene over the last couple of years, Toliver's star-making collabs with several big-name artists have already given him a rather recognizable repertoire of songs to craft a set list from. Travis Scott-assisted tracks like "Flocky Flocky" and "CAN'T SAY" were fan favorites, as was Toliver's feature on Donda track "Moon." Labelmate Sheck Wes, another one of Saturday's performers, also came out to perform "GANG GANG" alongside Toliver. The most-anticipated track was undoubtedly Internet Money's hit "Lemonade," which nearly everyone in attendance sang along to. The setlist was a fitting appetizer for the main dish that was to follow.

Lil Baby & Drake

Photo: Staceytakespictures

While everyone may have bought tickets to Saturday's sold-out lineup to see Lil Baby perform his first-ever show in Canada, most didn't know the real treat that was in store for them. Kicking the night off with "Drip Too Hard" and "Close Friends," Lil Baby put on a stellar show, performing in front of an "Oakland Food Mart" set design, an homage to a corner store from Baby's Atlanta hometown. As his many chains dangled atop his topless torso, Lil Baby was soon ready to introduce a highly-welcomed surprise guest: Drake. Unbeknownst to the crowd, Canada's very own came out to support his friend and perform several songs together. Coming out to "Wants and Needs," the duo followed it up with "Girls Want Girls" off Drake's most recent album, Certified Lover Boy

At that point, it was clear that it had gone from being Lil Baby's show to Drake's show. The performer took over for most of the remainder of the set, setting the crowd on fire with newer songs like "Way 2 Sexy" and "Laugh Now Cry Later." The crowd was ecstatic when Drake played "Headlines," one of his signature songs, in full for the first time in allegedly seven years; Drake seemed just as ecstatic to be there, saying "I couldn't miss the opportunity to see Montreal face to fucking face." He finished the evening with 21 Savage collab "Knife Talk" before handing the mic back to Baby who closed the show with "Freestyle." 

May 22

Loud

Kudos to Metro Metro for giving the coveted slot immediately before such a massive headliner to a francophone artist deserving of the spotlight. Although one would think that is to be expected in Quebec, it is rare to see festivals with bilingual lineups. If one listened closely enough throughout any of Loud's set, you could hear a nearby anglophone asking their friend, "Who is this guy? He's good!" And that's because he is good. Loud's several sold-out shows at the Bell Centre arena are more than enough proof that he is no stranger to rocking big crowds. Simon Loud aptly came out to his new single "#10" from his new album Aucune promesse, which boasts the chorus "That's why they call me 'hometown hero.'" Other hits that resonated with the audience included "Hell, What a View" and "I Said What I Said." Dressed in a vintage Montreal Expos jacket, Loud came off as a hometown hero to many in attendance, whether or not they knew him before his set.

50 Cent

I don't think anyone in attendance knew how badly they needed to see 50 Cent live. Deprived of such an opportunity for the last 17 years, some fans at the show may not have even been alive the last time he was in town. Having witnessed his Metro Metro performance, one can't help but wonder why the New York mogul took so long to come back to a city filled with such diehard fans. 

While the show got off to a rocky start with a nearly hour-long wait between acts punctuated by multiple boos from the crowd, 50 Cent's entrance to "What Up Gangsta" garnered immediate forgiveness from the once-annoyed crowd. Once 50 started, there was no stopping him. The music flowed from song after song, hit after hit, with no room for banter. "Hate It or Love It," "Many Men (Wish Death)," "P.I.M.P." and "I Get Money" were all blended in effortlessly one after another. Despite being on a time crunch, 50's set extended past the 11 p.m. curfew.

The highlight of the evening was, as expected, "In da Club." As confetti filled the sky surrounding the Olympic Stadium, it felt like a true celebration — a party being put on by old friends making up for lost time.