About a weekend back, NXNE which is an annual interactive music festival was held in the 416. Oliver El-Khatib, Drake’s Manager and right hand man was a keynote speaker on that Saturday. Drake’s career took off while developing a brand like October’s Very Own that has been loved globally, putting Toronto & Canada respectively on the map. Oliver is one of the many who keep things in motion. Oliver is the founder of the OVO brand and has played a big role in Drake’s success although managing to stay out of the spotlight as much as possible.


Oliver brought some unique insight to the NXNE festival especially being that he rarely does interviews. He talked about his faith in Drake and how he was not always into going into the music industry.

Our buddies at Word on Road got some exclusive information on the keynote interview. Sarina Hamamgi, of Toronto, was there and provided them with some points and quotes.


“If I could describe Oliver in three words after attending the interview session, it would be authentic, consistent, and strong-willed”, says Sarina. Oliver illustrates a very vivid picture of OVO’s authenticity and truthfulness as demonstrated by all they’ve managed to accomplish overtime. A consistent pattern of growth and openness outlines OVO’s objective as a brand, label, and movement.

Oliver didn’t leave any unanswered questions and provided us with thought provoking information. He finally let us into a mystery that has made many curious about his position in OVO. The energy in the crowd was very positive, and he even gave us a few laughs. It was the best interview session I’ve ever witnessed and I left with a sense of empowerment.

Five Key Points From Oliver’s Interview

1)   Oliver expresses that mentorship played a big role in his life. He suggests that up and comers seek mentorship, especially in a city such as Toronto which is “in its height of its renaissance after previously being known as the screwface capital”.

“K-OS made a song called “Crabbuckit” and it’s about the city [Toronto] and  a certain mentality. I feel like I’ve done my best to try to change that within our city.” – Oliver

2) There was a pattern with Oliver’s growth as a young adult and an industry professional/visionary. Oliver’s focus on consistency, constantly learning, or making the next move is essential part of developing your profile or brand. This reveals the essential force behind Drake’s career, a constant need and willingness to advance, and provide authentic content.

“I didn’t really want to be involved in the music business. It was Drake I believed in.” – Oliver

3) Oliver expresses that the OVO blog, in its start, was treated very precisely with its content, utilizing it as a base for their accomplishments and milestones. Similar to a journal, the blog at the time of its release, publicly embodies a journey that we are now witnessing in our time. Manifesting various emotions, and an organic timeline that they can look back to see how far they’ve come. Oliver took – what at the time was the foundation of the blog – to further solidify his objective as part of OVO or map out his career.

“I would screencap and post the first time that Kanye recognized Drake, or the first time Nah Right posted something of ours.” – Oliver

4) Truthfulness is very important to OVO. Whether it’s brand partnerships or albums, there is always a story behind what OVO undertakes. It must be authentic, or relative to the brand, the crew and the city.

“We haven’t really worked with too many brands here on the OVO side, besides the brands that we all know and love here like Roots Canada.” – Oliver

“It’s about winning and being part of something that will make your own city look good and that’s part of winning.” – Oliver

5) Oliver answered what many of us were questioning, the involvement of OVO with local artists and the lack of contribution to other cities in Canada or North America. A constant underlying factor of realism lies with OVO’s mission which reveals that they seek quality of the same standard they contribute. The connection lies with the credibility of the artist and their relationship with the city.

Oliver, says that “it’s important to break ground in the city and help shine a light, but it’s not the sole [mission].” It seems as if though it is not their main motive, or intention to focus on local talent. However, it does come organically to them because that’s what they “know” and can “relate to”.

“You’ll never catch me flying to another city to sign someone. That’s cool, that’s the business. Fly to another city to sign some guy for what? I don’t know anything about you. I don’t know where you’re from. I don’t even know what your music really means.” – Oliver

Their unconscious motive to represent the city through various outlets was evident in the interview.  There has to be a strong connection and familiarity, not only with the art, but the artist himself.

Photo by: Anil H. 

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