Metro Metro 2022: a retrospective

Festival makes turbulent yet triumphant post-pandemic return

The hip hop festival returned to in person programming this year. Photo Courtesy Metro Metro

After a 2 year hiatus stemming from the pandemic, Montreal's Big O hosted thousands for the latest edition of Metro Metro, the city's biggest hip hop and rap festival. From May 20 to 22, local and international artists came to perform. 

Despite last minute cancellations, a multitude of eager and excited attendees rushed towards the gates. Locals and visitors alike were drawn to the infectious sound of booming 808s blasting through the speakers. The neon lighting of the stage hypnotized the crowd into a frenzy. It seemed as if in a moment of pure ecstasy, everyone was able to make up for the drought of live music caused by the pandemic.

Across social media platforms, a select few had boasted about their accomplishments of breaking into the festival without paying. Footage of those jumping over fences while being chased by security and clips of guards holding back barricades spread like wildfire.

Another challenge presented itself when the original headliners, Playboi Carti, Young Thug and Gunna canceled their performances at the last minute. 

However, Metro Metro managed to have Trippie Redd and Tory Lanez for Friday's final performance and 50 Cent replaced Carti for the Sunday closing performance. What’s more, Toronto's very own Drake came through on Saturday, performing alongside headliner Lil Baby much to everyone's surprise. This was never announced and was the talk of the town throughout the weekend.

Of course, these big names were only a fraction of the talent on display at Metro Metro. Local artists such as Emma Beko and Naya Ali were part of this year’s roster.

For performer and local artist Emma Beko, the pandemic gave her the opportunity to strictly focus on the music she was making. By disregarding all that existed around her surrounding the pandemic, she was able to amass a significant body of work including her two EPs BLUE and Digital Damage. 

Beko was not the only artist who pushed their projects to new heights over the pandemic. Naya Ali, an artist from Montreal who has been performing and making music for the last 3 years, stated that the pandemic gave her time to "[take] a step back and [...] introspect". She said this need to understand oneself resulted in her latest project, Godspeed: Elevated. She described this as a companion piece to her own thoughts during the pandemic. 

Despite her accomplishments, Ali said she felt the Montreal rap scene laid "dormant" because of COVID-19's incessant presence: “Everything sucked [during that time]”. Prior to the pandemic, she had planned to go to Europe but those plans were put on hold until very recently. Now with restrictions lifted, Ali has been able to perform in the UK, and will hold shows in France and Belgium. She looks forward to the day when The Montreal Scene will "rise [even higher] then where it was before[...] the movement is growing".

The local scene was thoroughly represented at Metro Metro this year. The French side of Montreal's rap culture was clearly present throughout the weekend. Described by Naya Ali as "phenomenal", festival organizer Olivier Primeau and his team were able to bring out many artists who have worked hard to deserve such a venue. These included 5Sang14 with special guest Souldia, and performances by Fouki, Koriass, and Loud—all local artists who have made waves over the last few years.  

According to the festival’s website and social media accounts, next year’s edition already has set dates. One can expect even more of a crowd next year. In an interview with Catherine Bisson and Paul Arcand, Primeau admitted that “The festival-goers were bored of not partying. There was an overflow.” The performances throughout the weekend were nothing short of the party many had yearned for over these last few years.