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.
Did you used to take him in the studio?
Yeah, I used to take him to the studio. I used to take him to my gigs when he was with me. I'd take him to a Sunday afternoon gig that I was doing in Toronto and let him shake the tambourine on stage.
Do you see qualities of yourself in Drake?
Yes, very much so, and he tells me that himself. “Dad, I am just like you, man, I can’t believe how much I’m just like you.” And he is. Some of the things that I said when I was his age, he says the same thing. I just shake my head. I can’t believe it. His mental thoughts, the way he acts and the way he teases, his laughter, everything. I just look at him and say, "I can’t believe how much he’s like me."
Will you ever shave that mustache?
I've had this mustache since I was 15 years old. 15 I started growing a mustache, and I never shaved it off. It’s been so long. I'll never shave it off.
What’s your favorite song by Drake?
My favorite one right now is “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” because I always tried to get him to do a song that he wrote called “Young And Restless.” He wrote a song a long time ago called “Young And Restless,” and I always tried to get him to record it, but he didn’t like it anymore so he wouldn’t do it. But this one sounds close to it. So it became my favorite.
During the Degrassi days, did you think he was going to stay an actor and not make music?
He auditioned for it and got the part. I knew he was going to become a musician because that’s where his heart is. I knew that was going to happen. I knew he would mix that in with his acting. I knew the music was going to take over eventually. I got a video of him somewhere when he was 9 or 10, and he was rapping the Fugees CD. He memorized the whole CD. He actually made it for me. Drake actually introduced me to rap music. The Fugees was the first thing I remember him rapping. And, of course, Kanye West.
What do you think of today’s music scene?
It’s basically the same, just the difference in generation. It’s always going to stay the same as far as the venues and sound, but they're just doing it electronically now and computerized as far as playing with a full band. Drake has a band. A good band, I should add.
Do you find it uncomfortable when Drake puts his family in his songs?
No, I don’t, because I know what he’s doing. I don’t feel uncomfortable at all because I know the truth. We have talked about that, and I know exactly what he’s doing and why he says some things that he does. But that’s personal; I can’t put it out there.
What do you think of Kendrick Lamar?
Kendrick? Okay, I like him. I don’t know what stuff he was talking about. I don’t know what that was. Everybody wants to say they’re the best rapper in the world, I guess everybody should think that about themselves.
When did you realize Drake was musically gifted?
Drake basically did everything himself. I don’t want to say that I did anything except for be his father, and my musical abilities got set into him. Drake did most of that stuff himself. Along with his mother who backed him financially and his grandparents. The talent is strictly Drake.
Have you talked to Drake about fatherhood?
No we haven’t, [but] when it happens we will. He’s not ready for that right now. He’s having too much fun. He wasn’t born until I was 34. He's got time.