“I'm ready.” –Drake on fame
Seemingly overnight, Drake has joined the ranks of Jay-Z, Kanye West, Eminem and Lil Wayne as one of the major players in hip-hop's landscape. But how exactly did a former child actor from Canada become rap's new big thing?
Drake has cunningly straddled multiple fences — between rapper and singer, underground rapper and pop star — but for all his earnestness, it's primarily his raw talent and gift for catchy vocal rifts that has helped him ascend from "on the come-up" to "next to blow up."
Born Aubrey Drake Graham in Toronto, Drake got his showbiz start playing Jimmy Brooks, the wheelchair-bound former basketball player on the Canadian teen drama "Degrassi: The Next Generation." Just a few mixtapes and an EP later, Drizzy has emerged as the most revered new MC in years; partly for his hybrid sound and partly for his genuine charm.
As hip-hop continues to drift further away from rap's basic elements and seeks to re-energize and expand its fan base with a new sound that blends rap, R&B, dance, even alt-rock - witness the success of B.o.B, Kid Cudi and progenitors Kanye West and OutKast - this half-singing, half-rapping, half-Jewish, half-black former actor and current heartthrob is helping change the face of the genre firsthand.
"Best I Ever Had," off his star-minting 2009 mixtape, "So Far Gone," reached No. 1 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, selling 1.8 million downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Still while Drake's getting co-signs from the likes of Jay-Z, sharing verses with Eminem, it's his wholesome, candid and almost average depiction of life through music that already has him touted as the next big thing. On his opening cut “Fireworks,” intricately weaves in fear of losing his relationship with mentor Lil Wayne, the strain fame has on relationship with mothers, his quest to find a love of his own and even addresses the rumored, short-lived rendezvous with pop star Rihanna, "I could tell it wasn't love, I just thought you'd fuck with me / who could've predicted Lucky Strikes would have you stuck with me?
"What happened between us that night it always seems to trouble me," he continues. "Now all of a sudden these gossip sites wanna cover me / and you making it seem like it happened that way because of me / but I was curious and I never forget it, baby, what an experience / you could've been the one, but it wasn't that serious."
Even before releasing an official album, its that type of transparency that allowed him to garner two Grammy Award nominations and two Juno Awards. Still he remains humble.
"That's the most flattering thing in the world but at the same time, real, legendary status can't be dictated by the people who are still here witnessing it," he says. "Legendary status is when the next generation comes up. …I'm young. I'm 23. This is too soon. I really want to grow and be that guy."
In June the much anticipated Thank Me Later album bowed, as expected, with an eye-popping 447,000 copies at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart according to Nielsen SoundScan. It was the third-best sales week of the year for a single album.
That same week, a near riot erupted in New York City's South Street Seaport area after police cancelled a planned free concert by Drizzy due to over-flowing crowds. According to reports, chairs were thrown, mace was sprayed, bottles were thrown and a table was tossed from a second floor balcony.
The next month, Drake took control of appearances when he announced plans to launch his very own festival -- the first annual OVO Festival, taking place in his hometown of Toronto on Aug. 1 in association with Blackberry. Aside from performing a slew of his own hits, Drake brought out the best of the best in hip-hop, including Jay-Z, Eminem, Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, Bun B and Fabolous for the inaugural event.
In August, Drake and fellow Young Money rapper Nicki Minaj had fun with fans when they led them to believe the two had tied the knot. Minaj tweeted fans, "Yes, its true. Drake and I tied the knot.” Drake then added fuel to the fire by writing, "Please refer to @nickiminaj as Mrs. Aubrey Drake Graham and don’t stare at her too long. She's finally mine." Unfortunately, it seems some publicists may not have agreed that it was funny and quickly urged a correction.
"Dear Barbz," Minaj (aka Harajuku Barbie) addressed her fans on Saturday (Aug. 28). "My husband Drake and I have decided to have our marriage annulled. We'll maintain joint custody. Luv, HB."
However, by that point a full on Drizzy frenzy had erupted. In October, Drake followed Jay-Z – who had a record setting 10 BET Hip-Hop Award nominations -with eight nominations.
Fans, success, respect…all he needed now was the money and according to Forbes he had that too. The publication ranked Drake as the list's biggest newcomer with $9 million earned, good enough for a No. 11 rank.
Not bad for a Canadian.