A few days ago, the XXL staff was discussing the history of New Orleans-based Cash Money Records, its unlikely ascent to cultural relevance, and its truly impressive ability to stay important and interesting over the span of twenty years in this industry. Twenty. The only boutique label that compares is Bad Boy Records, and I think we can all agree that they’ve had a few misfires since the Craig Mack days. The reason Cash Money is still relevant is actually pretty simple – they’ve stayed current. They’ve reinvented themselves in the face of a changing industry (in the ways that music is digested as well as purchased) and continued to re-establish themselves as a hub for great music with not only a wildly consistent output of music, but more importantly an always-evolving and diverse roster of artists.
Its unlikeliest current star (and truly, its biggest) is Drake, a.k.a. Aubrey Graham, a Canadian-born former child actor who appeared on the seminal young adult melodrama Degrassi before pursuing music full time. As the legend goes, Young Money founder and original Cash Money artist Lil Wayne was played some of Drake’s music at some point in 2007, and immediately flew the young rapper down to Houston to record music and tour together. A little more than a year later, Drake released So Far Gone, an astronomically successful mixtape that sparked his career as a crossover superstar, inspired a Kanye-directed music video for its lead single, and eventually got him a Grammy nomination. All of this, from a mixtape. And in the four short years since his public debut, the guy really hasn’t slowed down – he’s scored sixteen platinum singles (including songs he was featured on) and two multi-platinum solo albums.
What’s most incredible about his short career (again, only two albums) is that not only has he not released a bad single —not one brick in a litany of potential flops—but looking through his discography, he’s never even put out a bad song. He’s a good-music machine. So, to celebrate the now-26-year-old’s career, and in anticipation of his upcoming Nothing Was the Same album, we put together a conclusive (in our opinions) list of Drake’s 30 Best Songs to Date. Again, these are our favorites, so if you disagree, think “Started from the Bottom” should be No. 1, or “Fear” shouldn’t be on the list at all, let us know in the comments section. Started… — Compiled by Dan Buyanovsky, Ralph Bristout, Eric Diep, and Emmanuel CM.