Drake’s on top, he’s been there for a while, and he doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Haters can hate, but it won’t matter.
Interview: Thomas Golianopoulos
Images: Jonathan Mannion
One of the biggest rappers in the world lives on a busy street in Yorkville, an upscale neighborhood in Toronto fi lled with designer boutiques, European tourists and gelato shops. Aubrey Drake Graham, 26, is the half-Jewish, half- African-American former child acting star from T Dot, who has dominated hip-hop culture since his landmark mixtape So Far Gone heralded his arrival in early 2009. Since then, Drake, who signed to Cash Money/Universal that same year after being scooped up by Lil Wayne, has released two albums (Thank Me Later in 2010 and Take Care in 2011), collected an impressive 10 No. 1 records on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, coined a generational slogan (YOLO: You Only Live Once from his record “The Motto”) and maintained a ubiquitous presence through his guest appearances; four of the six nominees—“Fuckin’ Problems,” “Poetic Justice,” “No Lie” and “Pop That”—for Best Collaboration at this June’s BET Awards featured Drake.
It’s an exciting time for Drake, who releases his third solo album, Nothing Was The Same, on September 17. This summer was hyped as a showdown of sorts between himself, Kanye West and Jay Z, but after Yeezus polarized listeners and Magna Carta… Holy Grail revealed itself as more marketing coup than artistic statement, it’s clear the throne is there for the taking.
On a steamy July evening, the newly health-conscience Drake sits in his living room drinking a vodka, seltzer and grapefruit cocktail and picks at a veggies and hummus spread. There’s an obscenely large flat-screen above his fireplace; his recent GQ cover and a book on the 100 best-selling albums of all time decorate his coffee tables; one of Andy Warhol’s famous Marilyn Monroe prints hangs in the hallway. Taller and sturdier than he appears on TV, Drake wears a black OVO T-shirt (October’s Very Own is the name of his crew, and OVO Sound is his new label on Warner Bros. Records), black gym shorts and Oregon University Jordan IIIs. Over the next two hours, he’ll address his competition with Kanye West, his battle with Common (the two have thrown disses at one another since Com fi rst dissed the emo rap specialist last November on “Sweet”), how Drizzy deals with hate from other rappers, hot mess Amanda Bynes’ love tweets to him, the drama over recklessly alluding to Kobe Bryant’s wife in a flagrant lyric and his acting comeback. Drake frequently takes control of the interview, hurtling into subjects most rappers avoid. But more often than not, the conversation returns to his status in the industry as one of the greats.