In Music, every Generation and ERA has a face. This face generally defines a culture, movement, and set a standard for success. I believe it’s more rewarding when this “Face” sneaks into the consciousness of listeners, leaving them taken by storm. At times you see the storm approaching and at times; it’s a slower build up. Every so many years there is an aspiring entertainer that notices an opportunity and decides to run for it with passion, focus and determination. I believe you have to see the finish line before you start. You have to set goals and put the work in to accomplish them. In Music, you can be here today and gone tomorrow. In Music you can be “UNSUNG” for not reaching your full potential or unsung because for whatever reason, you failed to receive the proper appreciation. Drake, the kid from Toronto, Canada went against all odds. I actually find his path to success very fascinating.
Back in 2006 I was scrolling through various Hip Hop websites when I read something about this guy called Drake. Needless to say, I’m always investigating new artist and music. I ran across his self released mixtape Room For Improvement (with DJ Smallz) and gave it a listen. To be honest, I thought it was cool. I wasn’t blown away or anything like that. It wasn’t like when I heard Kendrick Lamar’s Section 80 or anything but I was like, it’s alright and he can rap. Less than 10 months later, it happened. Drake released his second mixtape Comeback Season and I officially became a fan. Drake had a more polished flow, cadence, focus, confidence and aggression towards the beats. During this time Drake became the first unsigned Canadian rapper to have a video on BET. Trey Songz assisted on the song Replacement Girl and Drake started to catch some steam. The young man was on his way.
Being from North Carolina, I appreciated Drake for having NC’s own Little Brother (Phonte’ and Pooh) on the song "Don’t You Have a Man" featuring Dwele off Comeback Season. On this same mixtape 9th Wonder provided the beat for the track "Think Good Thoughts" featuring Phonte’ and Elzhi. Fans in the underground world of Hip Hop started to take a strong liking to Drake. Within a year Drake was on Lil Wayne’s Carter III tour after Lil Wayne personally invited him. You can’t keep a star from shining. Bow Wow was recorded saying “Drake is out of here man. He is going to be a mega star.” Little did we know how large this wave would grow. Around 2009, a friend of mine Tapona came to my crib for some music after work. I had Drake’s SO FAR GONE mixtape. I told Tapona that Drake was the next Superstar in Hip Hop. I said dude has all of the elements and you can market him. I mean, the dude raps and sings. I personally saw the influence from Phonte’ and The Foreign Exchange which was a good thing. With the STAR power featured on So Far Gone and signing with Young Money, Drake was becoming a Star.
“Give these Ni$$as the look, the verse and even the hook. That’s why every song sounds like Drake featuring Drake.” – 5 AM in Toronto
For 3 years Drake released several projects and became a known artist leading up to his debut Thank Me Later (2010). In the years following Drake released his sophomore album Take Care (2011), Nothing Was The Same (2013), If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (2015), What A Time To Be Alive (2015 with Future), Views (2016) and More Life (2017). It’s easy to become complacent with success but Drake has yet to show complacency. This is after 13 Billboard Awards, 6 American Music Awards, several Grammy’s, Millions of Records Sold, his own imprint OVO and endorsements. Everybody wanted Drake on their song or album and I'm talking outside of Rap Music as well. Drake is carrying the weight of an entire Nation on his back. He is the biggest artist in the history of Canada. Several years ago there was a rumor that Drake was getting help with his rhymes. Now, it’s no secret that Drake wrote songs for quite a few R&B singers and assisted other Rappers so if he got help with a line or two here and there, is that a crime? Artist in every genre have writers, co writers, advisors on hooks and choruses and other aspects of song writing. I thought I would add this information in the event readers attempt to minimize the legacy of Drake.
With status comes opposition and to be an MC means to be tested. Drake is no stranger to attacks. Drake will also defend himself in most cases as well. For example, Legendary Rapper Common took shots at Drake and fans didn’t know why. What we found out later was the dispute started over Serena Williams. Drake responded to Common on the Rick Ross song featuring French Montana "STAY SCHEMIN". If you don’t think Drake can rap, please take a listen at your leisure. Years later Drake destroyed Meek Mill with the track Back To Back. This track was a club banger and hit Meek Mill in the same fashion that KRS hit MC Shan with "The Bridge Is Over". When you become the “face” of Hip Hop even the God’s of RAP will attack you. Jay-Z took shots at Drake on the Jay Electronica track "We Made It". If you understand the culture, you are going to be tested. All the greats from LL Cool J, NAS, Biggie, Kool Moe Dee and others were tested in battle.
As we come full circle, Drake has been the “Face” of this generation. Drake was put into the mainstream by Lil Wayne and eventually took the face of Hip Hop from Wayne. Over the past few years Kendrick Lamar, Migos, J. Cole and a few other talented artists have influenced Hip Hop heavily but none like Drake. Last year on Facebook I said Drake was the LL Cool J of this generation and friends my age laughed. We laugh because nostalgia is real. Every person believes nothing compares to the era in which they grew up in and I get it. Writers have to be objective. I view the game through the eyes, lifestyle and experience of young people who are having their moment. It’s their moment and not ours. We had our moment in hip hop. We had our time in Hip Hop. We followed and loved the artist that came out during our era in hip hop. We now have to be big enough to admit that we are old. I embrace the new generation of Hip Hop. I embrace Drake.
Side Note: Respect to his producers 40 who is responsible for most of his biggest hits...