When Drake met with XXL last month in his hometown of Toronto, he had a lot on his mind, more than what was fit for print. In a XXLMag.com exclusive, here are portions of the conversation that did not make the cover story.

Interview by Thomas Golianopoulos (@golianopoulos)
Images by Jonathan Mannion

XXL: How far along are you with the album?
I’m usually scrambling around this time. My confidence is usually all over the place because you are about to surrender a body of work and I think for the first time I'm ready. I don’t know what that means. I don’t know if that means it s really good of it means something else. I feel extremely confidant right now.

It’s a surprise to hear you struggle with confidence.
The confidence in the records, I mean, it takes me a year, a year and a half to make an album, so those are emotions spanning over [that time]. There might have been nights that I was supremely confident due to events that occurred that day or that week, and those emotions come across and then there’ll be emotions not so much. But as far as the actual act of completing an album and handing it over and saying, "Okay, 40 go to New York, master this and give this in for production.’ With So Far Gone, there wasn’t really any mastering involved. I remember being like, "Did we just make the biggest mistake in life?" I’m doing Peter, Bjorn And John songs over. I did a Lykke Li song over. It was like, "What did we just do? Did we shift the needle on the culture, or did we just sort of potentially bomb any hope of being respected as a real rapper?" And it ended up working out really well. I think I carry that with me. I think it’s a reflection of the amount of risks we do take musically. It’s a bit nerve wracking. This is the first time I was like, "You know what, I’m just ready. I’m ready for people to hear it." That’s all I’m saying. I’m trying to be very careful.

How is this album different from Take Care?
Take Care was about connecting with my city and connecting with my past and sort of still feeling guilty that I’m not in love with one of these girls that cared about me from back in the day. Now, I’m 26, I’m with my friends, I’m making jobs for people, I’m making memories for people that will last a lifetime. I don’t need to be in love right now. I don’t need these things that I maybe once thought that I needed to feel normal and feel righteous about myself. I think for the first time in an album I’m content—not satisfied—but proud of where I’m at as a person. My thing was after going to these places I wanted to go to—Houstonlantavegas, I call it—there was a part of me that was like, "Man, I got to reconnect with one of these girls from Toronto that actually loved me for me before all of this happened or else I’m gonna end up like in some weird, miserable, divorced, three-times married guy." That was a way I was thinking at one point, like, "I got to find one of my exes and make that work because a girl from Toronto is the only girl that will ever understand me, a girl that knew me before this happened is the only girl that will ever understand me." Now I look back at those girls like, "Ahhh, not so much." They might be more twisted than some of the new girls that I meet.

What are some things you did on this album that you couldn’t do beforehand?
I found a way to get all my thoughts across within 15 songs, which I’m very proud of. Take Care was, look, here is everything I have. I don’t think I had the time towards the end to be like, "Let me get rid of this but add this piece to this so you can still get a piece of this. I didn’t have enough time to sort of shave it down and make it concise, which some of the best rap albums and albums period are those albums with 12-13 songs—Tha Carter III, the Graduations, the Black Albums, there are those records with 14 songs long that are straight and to the point and once you hit the end of the record, you have to bring it back. It’s that weird sensation where you feel gratification from the music, but it’s almost over before you know it, and it forces you to listen again. Or even House Of Balloons from The Weekend, which is nine songs. I remember playing it over and over again. What could I do differently?

I think for me, from So Far Gone to Thank Me Later to Take Care, I’m 26 years old. I’m just getting my bearings in this industry, in this business, in this position I’m in, and I what I noticed was, okay, I’m starting to develop, maybe like a Drake formula for songs. Maybe [people] can predict what they are going to hear as far as a Drake single. I feel like with this project I’ve created a new artist. I’ve played it for people and people have been like, "Who’s rapping?" When I played "Started From The Bottom" for people, people were like, "Whose voice is that? That’s not you. Who is it?" I’ve taken that risk as far as trying to break out of my own formula, which, by the way, works extremely well. I could definitely go and do what people expected and probably win per se. But that’s not the long-term vision. I remember these moments. I remember waiting all summer to hear an album from an artist I was excited about. I think me being the age that I am and being in touch with those emotions is, that’s why I’m in there every night like Christmas Eve, I’m in the studio working if need be, if I have an album coming out. Nothing matters more to me than this right now, and I’ve surrendered pretty much my entire summer—any joy and fun and partying, I’ve sort of let that go out the window three or four months ago. I really want to just want to deliver something that is shocking, is refreshing and takes a little bit of time to digest. I don’t want you to be able to put it in and understand it right away.