Fake It 'Til You Drake It: A Beginner's Guide To Drake
A crash course in Champagne Papi.
With Canadian rapper Drake making his maiden voyage down under next month for Future Music Festival 2015, where he will also play headline sideshows in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane (supported on all sideshow dates by rapper/collaborator 2 Chainz), Drake fever has wrapped up Australia up in its grip, with everyone jumping on tickets to go and see the multiple Grammy Award-nominated, Billboard chart-smashing, king of Internet memes (and one of the richest stars in hip hop) in the flesh, performing material from his three studio albums - 2010's Thank Me Later, the following year's Take Care and last year's Nothing Was the Same - and no doubt previewing material from forthcoming album Views From The 6). There was also that casual drop of a new album, If You're Reading This It's Too Late.
No doubt plenty of you who've been riding with Drake since the beginning have already snapped up Gold Packages to the shows: but regardless of whether you're a Drizzy devotee or not; the international megastar is the kind of act you get to witness live only once in a generation - he's become a human meme for very good reason, having released some of the most cutting edge, relatable, anthemic, profound, impossible-to-categorise music this side of the millennium. That the Drake live show will be an experience (not in the least because of the overwhelming spectacle / visuals / pyrotechnics that are planned), is a fact no doubt many of you have cottoned onto, and bought tickets. But if you're now feeling like those nights when you drunkenly agree to going back to a guy / chick's house, only to realise as soon as you get there and the booze has worn off that you have no idea what you've gotten yourself into; well, Pilerats are here for you. We've done the Internet equivalent of Facebook stalking Drake and have compiled a complete background check on him, Fake It 'Til You Drake It: A Beginners Guide to Drake, so that when you roll into the arena next month in your best leathers, you'll be going in confidently enough to yell along to even the ad-libs, and you'll be more than able to sound like you know what you're talking about when everyone's discussing what lyrics he shifted at drinks after the show.
Just hold on... we're going in!
HE STARTED WITH THE FUCKIN' BEST TAPE
It was an unofficial mixtape the young Canadian released in 2009 – So Far Gone – that put him on the world’s radar, and that kick-started a career that would eventually witness Drake join the ranks of Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and Kanye as a major player in the hip hop world.
When So Far Gone was first released online by Drake online in 2009, it was downloaded 2,000 times in two hours: a shocking amount for an unsigned, relatively unknown artist. It’s pretty incredible that a mixtape could garner two Grammy nominations and widespread fan acclaim, without Drake even performing a single official show. But it did. So Far Gone blew everyone away – not only was this guy singing beautifully (“When this Drake mixtape came out, I swear every rapper in my city wanted to start singing”), his rhymes were tight, and his rap delivery was clear and confident – he had flow! The tape’s thematics spoke directly in rejection of the generation that came before Drake - 50c and the Gangsta Rap of the 2000s. Instead, Drake focused on growing pains, with lyrics that explored the young rapper’s coming to terms with relationships and dating, in a modern twenty-somethings Twitter and text and Facebook filled world – themes that made millions of young people who couldn’t identify with the luxury, high-ballin’ lifestyle of big rappers like Rick Ross, who were also trending at the time, feel more comfortable with the awkward, still-figuring-shit-out Drake: “I’ve done some bad things, I’ve done my loves wrong, and I’m actually probably gonna do these groupies a little wrong too tomorrow, so let me apologize for now.”
Drake signed to Young Money (Universal) later that same year, who re-released the tape as an EP, that still holds its own today. This Complex article from last year proves that, as Complex’s music staff react to the tape, five years on: “He foretold every awkward party when you're young, dumb, and see your ex talking with your next... Drake is always explicating your deepest inner bullshit and that's what makes it work.”
You can listen / download So Far Gone for free here. Key tracks if you're short on time: Best I Ever Had, Successful, The Calm.
HE WAS ON DEGRASSI
Much like Justin Timerlake's transition from Mickey Mouse Club to popstar, before Drake was Drake, he was a teen actor called Aubrey Graham, with a pretty solid filmography to his name. He starred in an episode of Being Erica, a role in a short film Us And Them, a Hawaiian surfing show Beyond The Break, a show about Canadian immigration entitled Beyond The Border, a high school TV drama series called Soul Food, and an episode of Toronto's version of MTV Cribs. His most well-known role, however, was as Jimmy Brooks, a character in Canadian TV show Degrassi: The Next Generation. Drake starred in seven seasons of the high school melodrama, and was involved in some of Degrassi's hardest hitting story lines (and its most ridiculous).
If you're wondering how a clean-cut teen who cut his teeth on a teen soap opera could beat the odds to become Lil Wayne's protegee, you're not alone. Maybe they saw Jimmy flexin' his rhymes in Season Three of Degrassi and were immediately sold?
His character Jimmy, was also a bit of a pin up teen for the girls of Canada, who fell for Jimmy's romantic traits (traits that Drake would later display as a rapper). His character even inspired young fans to make YouTube montages:
Since Degrassi, Drake’s basically put his acting days behind him (save for video clips). Will Drake ever return to the acting trade, and join the likes of Will Smith, Tupac, LL Cool J, Ice Cube and Eminem, who all went from rapper to actor? Rumours earlier this year suggested that Drake might be making an appearance in the forthcoming Entourage movie - or at least contributing a song to it.
HE HAS INSPIRED A WILDLY FAMOUS MEME
Drake the type of n$%ga who'd dance with a chick at the club then text her... "So what are we?"
Have you seen those 'Drake the type of n$%ga*' tweets and images and GIFs from time to time? Drake's music's heartfelt / dating and relationships-driven lyrical content, and corny public actions (including a bunch of PDAs with various girls, see further below) sort of go against the alpha male stereotype that dominates hip hop. Thus the Internet at large decided sometime back in 2011, to make a mockery of Drake. They're fact-based memes written by fans which involves choosing an extreme of an effeminate / nice guy activity and saying it’s something Drake would do.. There is pretty much an endless stream of these out there. They peaked around 2013, resulting in a Twitter and Instagram account going by the name @DrakeTheTypeOf, as well as a Tumblr. Buzzfeed then posted a compilation of 'Drake The Type Of' tweets, each accompanied by a photoshopped image of the rapper, which spurned a whole bunch of images of Drake's head being photoshopped onto things.
HE IS THE GOAT [GREATEST OF ALL TIME] RAPPER OF SOCIAL MEDIA
How Drake rakes in the riches from the mockery that’s made of him.
Drake's lyrics and persona do lean naturally towards softness, they always have. He's super sensitive and has a hard time letting go, he spends too much time thinking about things and inventing fake hardships (coming from an upper middle class background, it’s arguable Drake ever really experienced anything close to “the bottom”). This makes Drake appear weak when so many other rappers in his industry front with a rough street vibe, and so much of the rap industry is built on toughness, and so many of its lyrics are chauvinistic. But Drake's taken his outsider status, the 'cornball' calls, and the 'type of' memes, and capitalized on them, in a way that only a very intelligent and creative person could - the result being that nobody truly things Drake is lame (the natural reaction that follows making fun of someone) but instead makes him memorable. Drake is also adept at stunts that play into social media’s love for him: as ambassador for the Canadian pro basketball team Toronto Raptors, he’s often at their games, rooting for them. In April last year, Drake was caught, courtside, lint-rolling his pants at halftime. When the world reacted with GIFs and memes galore, Drake himself posted the below picture to his Instagram with the comment ‘Lint Rollers on Deck’.
At a Raptors game late last year, Drake was also the butt of everyone’s jokes when he rocked up in outdated wireframe glasses:
Was Drake genuinely motivated to lint roll his pants (which were probably brand new, and perfectly pressed), or wear outrageously daggy glasses (when he has access to the world’s most trendiest brands?), in these hugely public situations? Hell no. Drake is just making social media moments for himself. Moments that make money. At their next game, the Raptors handed out OVO-branded lint rollers to the audience. That’s 1, 200 pieces of marketing material; Drake products being waved around, and photographed numerous times.
You have to respect Drake because he’s made the public’s genuine love for making fun of him, work for him. He’s played into the mockery and used it as a marketing tool, to the point where the memes and insults that have been generated about Drake are now doing all the work for him: all Drake has to do is let those memes and tweets and Buzzfeed articles play out, while he sits back and rakes in the riches.
HE HAD AN ICONIC ALBUM COVER
A more recent addition to the ‘things you need to know about Drake’ pile: how great the artwork was for his 2013 album Nothing Was The Same. The two-part cover features Drake’s older and younger self facing each other, and is actually an oil painting by LA artist Kadir Nelson, who sketched the concept after listening to the tracks on the album and hearing how reflective and emotional Drake was, said Nelson: “he mentioned something about his childhood, so I thought maybe an image of him as a little kid would be a really good fit." The artwork’s since been parodied a fair bit and inspired heaps of Halloween costumes (that Drake re-grammed, of course) and even a Drake app: Drake Weather (below).
HE'S GOT LOADS OF EX-BOOS
It's not me and you, it's not me it's you...
As rap’s most sensitive man, Drake’s often swooned over: he’s supposedly had flings with Zoe Kravitz, tennis star Serena Williams, Two Broke Girls’ actress Kat Dennings, model Dollicia Bryan, and Tyra Banks (for one day – they went to Disneyland).
Drake's made a couple of songs with Rihanna (What's My Name? and Take Care) and has an on-again-off-again romance with the Barbados beauty (they've done a few great makes headlines all the time, and bottles have been thrown in the club over it: Drake and Rihanna dated twice - first in 2010, and again (maybe) in 2014. Drake said last year that he will “always support and have love for her and yeah,” and the two travelled around Europe together on Drake’s 2014 tour. Drake's 2014 track, Views from the Six, he confesses that he misses RiRi on the track - along with a few other details about the time they spent in Europe together.
“You must remember wakin’ up in Paris with the blunt/You must remember fu**in’ me like anytime you want/What made us wanna act like we were married for two weeks?/ Now we’re back in California, we don’t even speak, that’s a no-no/ Everyone says we look good on paper, you deserve that action/Plus you get more paper than I do, that sh*t attractive.”
Another high-profile potential romance comes by way of Nicki Minaj, who share the same label (Young Money). Drake has rapped: “I love Nicki Minaj, I told her I’d admit it. I hope one day we get married, just to say we did it,” However outside of his lyrics, Drake has confirmed they’re just friends: “I just love Nicki with all my heart. We haven't really shared like intimate moments.”
Amber Rose was also linked to Drake a few years ago; but she shut it down with this tweet: “Was with my ex for two years and now I have a new love. If that makes me a Slore then so be it. I have NEVER slept with Fabolous, Drake, Chris Brown, Amare, Lebron, Cassidy etc. nor have I been a prostitute.”
Drake’s also name dropped a bunch of randoms – around sixty or so girls names have been checked in his tunes! Here’s a good one: "The one that I needed was Courtney from Hooters on Peachtree/I’ve always been feelin’ like she was the piece to complete me" . “Courtney from Hooters” is now making a tonne of cash and Instagram followers doing party hosting duties, based on being “the chick from the hit song”.
HE'S BEEN SUED BY AN EX-BOO
I’ve been drinking so much / That I’m a call her anyway…
On the track Marvin’s Room (below) off Drake’s second album Take Care (2011), Drake plays audio of a woman on a phone call, as he drunkenly croons 'I'm just sayin'... you could do better’. The woman in the audio is a (supposed) ex-girlfriend of Drake’s, Ericka Lee, who in 2012 sued for compensation for the use of her voice, claiming she deserved co-writing royalties as well as damages, as Drake asked her to record the hook. Drake denied Lee’s claims that the two had a romantic relationship - the case was dismissed last year but nobody knows if Drake ended up coughing up any money or not. Not the best week that Drake’s ever had!
HE HAS A LABEL CALLED OCTOBER'S VERY OWN
Raising the next generation of Drizzys
October’s Very Own, mostly referred to as OVO, is the music label Drake started in 2012 (October is Drake’s birthday month), that’s fast becoming a power label in the hip hop / R & B sphere. OVO has two co-founders: Noah “40” Shebib (a longtime friend of Drake’s from Canada, that’s produced for not only Drake but big names Beyonce, Alicia Keys, and Jamie Foxx) and Oliver El-Khatib, Drake’s manager and the business brain that’s turned OVO into a global brand. Khatib and Shebib met each other in a DJ crew in high school, where Khatib was moving into the fashion industry. Before Khatib started an urbanwear store that became a hangout for cool kids; and where Khatib became friends with Drake, and started working with Drake on developing his brand.
Canadians Majid Jordan and PARTYNEXTDOOR are artists on the roster presently at OVO, and more recently the label signed Atlanta’s ILoveMakonnen, the artist behind the hit Tuesday (that Drake then added an additional verse to). OVO runs a music festival annually called OVO Fest: the first four years of the festival have had Kanye West, Stevie Wonder, P. Diddy, TLC, Lil Wayne, Jay Z, Eminem, and more bill on the line ups. “Drake is an unsung hero. He puts everything that he has into something that doesn’t necessarily make any money at all. It loses money every year,” said Khatib.
HE'S GOT A PROTEGE CALLED ILOVEMAKONNEN
"Ain’t got no motherfuckin time... to party on the weekend"
When Drake lent a verse to the song Atlanta rapper ILoveMakonnen’s Tuesday, it went from being an infectiously catchy song that was already fire, to being maybe one of the best tracks of 2014. Drake even matches ILoveMakonnen’s warbly vocals by lifting his voice up an octave to a falsetto. There’s no bigger proof of this song’s cultural impact than the phrase “club goin’ up on a Tuesday” having entered everyone’s social media vocabulary.
Drake’s really helped boost ILoveMakonnen’s career too. Makonnen recently explained 'the Drake effect’ to NOISEY:
“I’ve gained a lot of followers. Damn near every rapper in the industry has gotten in touch with me through their manager somehow. Every agency wants to book me for shows. All of the fucking record labels are shitting their pants and telling me, “It’s whatever you want! It’s whatever you want! We can do whatever! We’ll fly you out now!”
We could explain why Tuesday is such a perfect song. Or we could let composer Chilly Gonzales dissect it in this amazing masterclass in pop music construction:
And now we're at the bottom.
Drake, Started From The Bottom:
Drake’s 2015 Australian tour begins in Sydney on Wednesday, 25th February, and wraps up in Brisbane on Thursday, 5th March, with Future Music Festival and sideshows. Tour dates below. There's tickets still available to Drake's solo shows in Perth and Brisbane HERE for as little as $79.95.
SIDESHOWS (click the poster to grab tickets):
FUTURE MUSIC FESTIVAL DATES:
Sat 28 Feb – Royal Randwick Racecourse, Sydney (18+)
Sun 1 Mar – Arena Joondalup, Perth (18+)
Sat 7 Mar – RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane (18+)
Sun 8 Mar – Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne (18+)
Mon 9 Mar – Adelaide Showground, Adelaide (15+)
Head to the Future Music Festival WEBSITE for more info/tickets.