When Drake did his New York show @ "Who's Next?" all of Twitter was alight with comments from concertgoers, bloggers, music journalists and industry insiders in relation to the show. It cracked me up to see how Drakemania had ensued seemingly after his successful "So Far Gone" mixtape exploded onto the scene just months ago. It's all the more interesting to me to see the critical acclaim and hate he's recieved simultaneously while labels are rumored to be engaged in a bidding war for his services at the writing of this blog. I laugh because I was telling people about this dude back in 2006 and no one was trying to listen to me. What do I know, right?
The first time I heard that Aubrey Graham was recording music I was like "Jimmy Brooks just got a proper haircut and lineup not too long ago and now he wanna rhyme?". There was a Degrassi special about each of the individual cast members back in 2005 and it showed him in the studio in Toronto laying down some demo tracks. I thought absolutely nothing of it. Damn near half of the Degrassi kids were making albums, I doubted if any of them were actually any good (Jake Epstein and Cassie Steele included). It wasn't until about 6 months later that I heard any Drake tracks via Hip Hop Canada & and Canadian users on Okayplayer. I raised the people's eyebrow...this kid is kinda nice with it!
Individual tracks would leak here are there until his 2006 mixtape "Room For Improvement" finally dropped. The effort was pretty eye opening considering he had essentially no buzz in the States and he was only known as the dude that got shot in the back and put into a wheelchair on some show on Noggin's The N. When I listed him as an emcee to watch out for from Toronto on All Hip Hop I was shot down. I told 'em all that he was a teenager and in a few years time he could be a serious problem. Still about 90% of them doubted even after I provided them links to individual tracks and the "Room For Improvement" mixtape. Ah well.
Fast forward to 2007, out of nowhere I see Drake in a video with Trey Songz just chillin'. Next I hear that they've recorded a gang of collaborations together and he's about to get signed in the States. Shortly afterwards, Drake pops up with a single & a video for "Replacement Girl" featuring Trey Songz. I wanted to go back to AllHipHop.com and gloat but it was down or something or other. Whatever. It turns out that the deal fell through for whatever reason and Drake was back to the mixtape and features circuit. He made a couple changes in order to position himself to make more noise in the industry. Then he dropped "Comeback Season" in November 2007, it gained steady momentum all throughout 2008 and in February of that year I picked him as one of 12 Emcees To Watch In '08. I clearly don't know shit.
The reason Drake was so intriguing to labels and industry folks is because he does it all. He's an actor, he's a ghostwriter, he can spit, he can carry a tune, he can rhyme in several different ways and he can grab the female audience while carrying a male following as well. He'd created quite a buzz and had many of the most influential blogs in his corner before he even got down with Lil' Wayne and his Young Money crew. It's rare to get an artist in Hip Hop that could fit in to so many different niches. Then came Lil' Wayne shouting Drake out and spitting his verses during live TV performances. Then came the "news" that Drake reportedly ghostwrote Dre verses for "Detox". The buzz backlash was eminent. Once Drake dropped his highly anticipated "So Far Gone" mixtape on Valentine's Day the buzz and heat it generated was ridiculous.
Three short months later, numerous thousands of downloads later, thousands of spins on the radio later and a disgusting amount of shows later Drake has become arguably the biggest thing on the Hip Hop landscape present day. Why? Because he can potentially move some units for a change and the industry sees him as a savior of sorts. Asher Roth flopped and every other new artist the industry tried to hype up and push have all underperformed (the established artists have failed for the most part as well). Not only is Drake an emcee, he can do the R&B thing, too. He appeals to both heads and casual fans. Hood dudes can get behind his flow and hipsters can jump on the bandwagon alongside 'em. He's Canadian. He's Southern. He's Jewish. He's Black. His dad was a Soul/R&B drummer that went to jail for drug trafficking and his uncle wrote several R&B hits back in the days. You couldn't write his back story any better!
He appeals equally to Southern, Midwestern, West Coast and East Coast heads. He's mixed like the President of the United States. He also gives you plenty of reasons to hate his fuckin' guts and the constant Drake talk and hype doesn't help with that at all. He has stans, supporters and haters. He does it all. That's why so many people watch his movements so carefully...they all have a reason to follow his career from here on in. Will he actually be able to deliver an album that moves units as well as satisfies the heads? Will he become the first Canadian emcee the really blow up in the States? Will he be the one emcee I picked that XXL didn't put on their cover to succeed? We'll have to wait and see. To think...all of this shit happened from a mixtape and dude has an album coming at the end of the year called "Thank Me Later" and he still doesn't even have a nailed down deal yet!