Drake FAQ Published
Who is Drake?: Aubrey "Drake" Graham is a rapper from Toronto, Canada, signed to Young Money Entertainment, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group founded by Lil Wayne. He began releasing music in 2006 with the mixtape Room For Improvement, but he catapulted to widespread recognition in the wake of his third mixtape, So Far Gone, in 2009. He has since released two albums, Thank Me Later and Take Care. His third album, Nothing Was The Same, comes out on today.
Unique in that he is equal parts singer and rapper, often blurring the boundaries between hip-hop and R&B, Drake is best known for songs that include "Best I Ever Had," "Headlines," "Take Care" and "The Motto." This last song is credited with introducing the phrase "YOLO," short for "you only live once," into the popular lexicon. His current singles are "Started From The Bottom" and "Hold On, We're Going Home."
So this Drake, he's pretty successful? Is that why every song on the radio sounds like Drake featuring Drake?: Absolutely. According to Billboard, Drake's sold 4.5 million copies of his albums, and he's had twelve singles on which he was the lead or featured artist crack the top 10 of the publication's Hot 100. Additionally, he's second only to his boss Lil Wayne in top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, with 33 lead or featured performances achieving that mark, and he holds the record for most No. 1s on that chart, with 10.
Just in the past year, he's had hit-making performances on Wayne's song "Love Me," A$AP Rocky's "F***in' Problems" and Kendrick Lamar's "Poetic Justice." So yes, when he brags that every song sounds like "Drake featuring Drake"—a line from the standalone single "5 A.M. In Toronto," released earlier this year—he has some numbers to back it up. And that's just in terms of sales. As far as influence goes, Drake's helped launch the career of fellow Toronto artist The Weeknd, and he's helped make washed-out R&B and tired, post-party confessional jams into genre tropes. He has a unique ability to coin phrases that sound perfect as Instagram captions or Facebook statuses or T-shirt slogans. All of his actions feel so quintessentially Drake that anything he does publicly or releases musically becomes the center of conversation in hip-hop.
How come he has a song called "Started From The Bottom"? Wasn't he the guy on Canadian teen drama Degrassi? That doesn't sound like starting from the bottom at all.: Yes, Drake was on Degrassi. He played Jimmy Brooks, a promising basketball prospect who became confined to a wheelchair in later seasons after getting shot in the back and paralyzed. Drake used the money he earned from Degrassi to fund his early recording career, so he did have an edge over many other rappers, both financially and in terms of pre-established fame. But looking at Drake in terms of the archetypal rags-to-riches artist's rise story is missing the point. Drake is successful because he invented his own version of what a famous rapper could be. Instead of puffed-chest machismo, Drake's songs express vulnerability and wrestle with feelings like jealousy and regret. They talk about how hard it is to be famous. They spend a lot of time speculating on the emotions of the women who appear in them and speculating even more on Drake's feelings about how he's treating them. Drake songs are brutally honest and often really lame, and they had to fight their way into the rap mainstream by being so undeniably catchy that they couldn't be ignored. So even if Drake started out with a few advantages, his rise was certainly not preordained. When he brags that he's "kept it real from the jump," he has—it's just not the idea of "real" that you may have had in mind.
So is Drake real hip-hop?: What's realer than being honest about how you want to be famous but you're scared of it, about how you miss your exes and want to keep checking up on them, about how you used to argue with your mom about her medical needs? There's a certain type of hip-hop fan who thinks that hip-hop has to sound pretty much the same as it did in 1995 and limit itself to topics that do not include serenading girls about their rituals for getting ready to go out. This type of "real hip-hop" fan hates Drake and sees his blend of singing and rapping as soft. Drake's spent most of the last two years trying to prove the opposite, and his latest music definitely takes a meaner turn. But he's also always operated on the premise that realness is mostly made up and that masculinity can also be vulnerable, with the confidence that, as he bragged on So Far Gone, his male fans will buy his album and say it's for their sisters. A lot more here.
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