I didn’t think it was possible, but Drake’s buzz seems to keep getting bigger. Last week, Drizzy got possibly his biggest look to date when “Forever,” a track featuring Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Eminem, leaked onto the internet. Not only does the song feature three of the game’s best artists, but the rookie arguably got the best verse on the song. With two other significant leaks, “Killer” featuring Nipsey Hussle and Jay-Z’s “We Off That,” the focus is once again back on Drake’s music and not his recent fumbles.
The day “Forever” dropped, my cubicle neighbor Jesse Gissen said, “Drake has the biggest buzz ever.” Well, I don’t think his buzz matches the one his mentor Lil Wayne had prior to dropping last year’s Tha Carter III, but at this point, he could possibly have the biggest pre-solo debut buzz ever. Times have changed, though.
Back in the early ’90s, artists like Snoop and Nas managed to create huge anticipation by releasing only a small fraction of what today’s artists put out. It’s hard to compare, but I listed other highly anticipated rookies to see where Drizzy stands historically.
Snoop Dogg: First noticed on the title track off the Deep Cover soundtrack alongside Dr. Dre, Snoop used the good doctor’s The Chronic as his launching pad—leading up to his quadruple platinum solo debut, Doggystyle. At the time, Snoop registered the biggest first week for a debut LP— selling over 800, 000 units moved in its first week, until 50 Cent broke the record 10 years later.
Nas: The Queens lyricist teased rap heads with only five verses in three years before Illmatic finally hit stores on April 15, 1994, but his appearance on Main Source’s “Live at the Barbecue,” (1991) Mc Serch’s “Back to the Grill” (1992) and his first single, “Halftime,”(1992) which originally appeared on the Zebrahead soundtrack, were more than enough to have fans craving for more.
The Notorious B.I.G.: In the summer of 94, I clearly remember my cousin Tone telling everybody and their momma, “You know who’s about to blow up? Biggie Smalls.” I guess key guest appearances on the Who’s The Man? soundtrack (“Party and Bullshit”) and Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love” Remix, among many others, made him and the 4 million people who bought Big’s debut, Ready to Die (me included), believers.
DMX: Setting the stage for two multiplatinum albums in one year, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot and Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, Dark Man X made key guest appearances on records with Mase (“Take What’s Yours” & “24 Hours to Live”), The Lox (“Money, Power Respect”) and LL Cool J (“4, 3, 2, 1″).
Canibus: It doesn’t get much more lyrical than Canibus circa 97, 98. Dominating the mixtape scene with sharp freestyles, the MC outshined then soon-to-be-legends like Common (“Making a Name for Ourselves”) Method Man and Redman (twice) on “4, 3, 2, 1″ and had the balls to go toe-to-toe with LL Cool J. Bis was so nasty that Jay-Z introduced him to Clef, but never dared collaborating with him and Nas didn’t appear on The Firm’s “Desparados” which featured the lyrical monster. Unfortunately, the buzz fizzled when word spread that Can-I-Bus, Bis’s debut LP, SUCKED!
50 Cent: Never one to make too many guest appearances, 50 Cent cultivated his buzz by dominating the mixtape scene with releases like 50 Cent Is the Future, No Mercy, No Fear and Guess Who’s Back? back in 2002. Dre and Eminem’s cosigns helped create 50 Cent mania—resulting in the Queens rapper shattering Snoop’s previous record by selling 872, 000 copies in four days, 1. 22 million in one week.
Drake: “Best I Ever Had” peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles charts before Drake even signed on the dotted line, he nearly closed the BET Awards off a mixtape and is currently featured on records with Jamie Foxx and Kanye West (“Digital Girl” Remix), Jay-Z (“We Off That”), Fabolous (“Throw It In The Bag” Remix) and Mary J. Blige (“The One”) with more to come. Let’s not forget that he signed his deal for $2 million, an unprecedented amount for a new artist.
While the odds are against him, I doubt Drake, with his current buzz, could have cleared the million mark no matter the climate. I wouldn’t call what Drake has been able to generate, “hype,” but getting cosigns from today’s biggest artists (Lil Wayne & Kanye West) and working with legends like Mary J. Blige, Eminem and Jay-Z prior to your album dropping could possibly make his buzz seem bigger than it really is. Truthfully, I still think some people aren’t familiar with Drake. Meanwhile, pretty much everybody knew who Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent back in 92 and 2002, respectively. Well, Thank Me Later is likely to be a first quarter release next year, so Drake still has a few months to catch up.—Jackpot