Drake’s Dad On Raising Drake In The Hood In Memphis
Drake’s video for “Worst Behaviour,” a cut from his latest album, Nothing Was The Same, did more than just provide a cool video showcasing his Memphis roots. It was most fans’ first formal introduction to his father. Fans heard Drake’s father’s voice on some of his records (such as “Successful”) and have seen him on TMZ, but have never really been formally introduced. The man who’s been a major influence on Drizzy’s music, both as a positive and sometimes negative figure, has been somewhat of a mystery.
Dennis Graham is a drummer from Memphis, who back in 1962 learned how to play drums by “playing the tin round tubs that people used to take a bath in,” he tells XXL on the phone before he heads back to the studio in Memphis. “I used it as a bass drum. I had a broken mop handle that was used up, I used that as a mallet. But that’s how I got started. Then I finally got my first set of drums. James Brown made his drummer give me his drums.”
He would drive his son from Toronto to Memphis every summer, exposing him to Southern culture. Memphis, a musically rich city, has served as home base for the likes of B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison, to name a few. Now two weeks after modeling his impressive all-white suit with the mustache of the century in the “Worst Behaviour” video, fans finally get to meet Mr. Graham. In a interview with XXL, he spoke about Drake growing up, his son’s music, the “Worst Behaviour” video and his iconic mustache. —Emmanuel C.M. (@ECM_LP)
How did you end up in the “Worst Behaviour” video?
Well, Drake wrote that song pertaining to our family. He set it up, and he wanted me to do it, so I did it. He just let me know he was going to shoot it here, and he wanted me in it. He told me to learn the song.
The suit was nuts. Where’d you buy them?
Drake brought those in from New York. He knew what kind of look he wanted. And what he was trying to make the video look like. So he dressed us up, brought a huge wardrobe for us. We used to wear that kind of stuff a long time ago, but everything comes back together.
Were you nervous? Did he tell you his plan for the video?
Yeah, he told me what he wanted and what he was trying to achieve. He just wanted to show where he spent his summers. People was saying on the streets that he didn’t have any street credit and that type of shit. He just wanted to show where he actually really came from. He grew up there. I brought him down every year. We used to drive from Toronto to Memphis every summer. From the time he was a baby in the car seat to the time he was 17. We lived in a section of Memphis called White Haven, and that’s where he spent his summers. And it is the hood.
How do you feel about the resurgence in the Memphis scene?
It’s a music city; a lot of people came out of Memphis. Drake used to hang out with Yo Gotti when he turned 18. I used to bring him to Memphis, and he’d go out with Yo Gotti, and they’d hang together. Juicy J, I know all of them, Drake knows them. Even Al Green wants to do a collaboration with him. I don’t know what’s going to happen between Drake and Al Green. B.B. King, everybody loves him.
How was Drake growing up? Did you see him becoming a rapper?
Yeah, ’cause he wrote all the time. He wrote on paper all the time, ever since he was a young man. Putting his thoughts down on paper. I think he still has that notebook he used to use to write in. I knew he was going to be a star from the time he was a kid at 5 years old. I told him, “You’re are going to be a star,” and sure enough.
How could you tell?
Because he had it in him. I could see it in him. He told me when he was a kid, “Dad, I want to do music.” When he was a little boy he told me that. And I bet him $5 that he wouldn’t do as much music as I’d done, and he wouldn’t do as many movies as I’d done. Because I was an actor in Hollywood and Toronto also. He told me back then, “Dad, I’m going to do more music than you ever did and more movies than you ever did.” And he did.