Lil Wayne's protégé on Degrassi, family, Kanye West, and of course, Weezy
Between Thursday, February 12 and Friday, February 13, 2,541 comments were added to Aubrey "Drake" Graham's blog, octobersveryown.blogspot.com. Remarks that were asking, nay relentlessly demanding what many had spent months waiting on-his new mixtape.
For an independent release, the 22-year-old's third effort, So Far Gone, gained a level of anticipation that would make some label-hugging rappers blush. But even with a co-sign from Lil Wayne, an established television fan-base, and an online presence intense enough to freeze a PC, Drake isn't daunted. The ex-Degrassi star won't give you flashing lights or fragile facades, he'd rather just gift the truth. And with eighteen tracks bulging with sincerity and depth, Drake is indeed one of hip hop's best wrapped presents. Currently in the process of sealing an un-disclosed label deal-noting that it will be finalized in the next two weeks-the Toronto native shares with VIBE.com his struggles, triumphs, and why honesty is his best policy.
DRAMA WITH DEGRASSI:
VIBE.com: You were on Degrassi for eight years. It must have taken a lot to leave that comfort zone. When did you know it was time to go?
Drake: I can't really say I left that show. One day we came in and all the names were just changed on the dressing rooms. Everyone got cut. We go upstairs and it's like, "Who are all these people auditioning in the front?" They owe us a lot of money. The amount of loyalty, the years we put in with these people…they did us foul. As far as the producers go, I don't talk to anybody over there.
Were people skeptical about your talent when they saw that the kid from Degrassi was trying to be a rapper?
Before people had heard my music they were like, "So you're really going to be a rapper? That's really going to be your thing?" Especially around that time, that dope boy rap was really popping. People were wondering what the hell I was going to do. And it took me a while to find my sound.
ACTOR TERNT RAPPER:
There's a shift in character from your first mixtape, Room for Improvement to your third, So Far Gone.
The first songs I made were all like "Replacement Girl" with Trey Songz. It was pretty straight forward, radio-friendly, not much content to it. And I thought that was the direction I'd go in. And then as life progressed, I grew and decided that to follow suit would truly be a waste of time. I started to see my situation as more of an opportunity as opposed to a curse. Coming from Canada, coming from a TV show, it's like "Wow. If I can really do something different, I may be regarded as the one of the first crossover film to music people to really be looked at as an artist." Once I saw it like that, I started becoming more confident as a person. I started seeing my thoughts and feelings as something the world may want to hear, as opposed to some @*%@ I just make up in my head. I think I did it a little bit on Room for Improvement. And Comeback Season was more of me proving that I had bars. Then So Far Gone was really my chance to open up and give people a true piece of myself because I had a lot going on in my life. Good things and bad.
Starting off unsure about pursuing a music career, what really solidified that this was the route to take?
I was friends with this kid that would put you on the spot all the time. I guess he read my rhyme books at my house and one day he just put me on blast at school. He told this kid I wanted to battle him and it became this big thing. So I went home and wrote all these rhymes for him-yeah, I cheated-came to school the next day and killed the guy. From there I just started getting into rapping and becoming comfortable with myself.
…GONE WITH THE WIND:
So Far Gone was such an anticipated mixtape. What was the creative experience like?
It was just cleansing. That's been the key to me making music lately. It has to feel good. For every record I do, it takes something to truly spark that. On the album I plan to give people my all. I want it to be something enjoyable, I don't know if I want it to be so personal. Which is another reason why I made So Far Gone, to just get that out of my system. Some people are like, "Why'd you do that for free?" If I released that as a retail album, I would've probably been criticized and scrutinized. It wouldn't have gone over as well as the way I did it. Which is, "Go and download this for free because I truly want to give this to you. Before we embark on this journey together, this is something that you need to know."
Yet you have Kanye whose entire career is based on being left-field. Wouldn't that make you feel comfortable know that there is room to do that and be successful?
I don't want to tell people, "Oh I'm just so weird and you all have to love it." It's not like that. I'm a simple guy and I just have a vivid mind that I want to share. I don't even want it to feel like left-field or right-field. It's about how I feel in the moment and So Far Gone was when I was at a very unsure, confused state. It's not to say that the album won't have those components. I have a sound that I'm known for now. The mixtape is very slow and very dark. My album is going to be maybe a little happier [laughs]. Then the second go around if something crazy happens in my life, I might feel a totally different way. But right now I feel great. And I want to make an album that reflects that.
Your lyrics touch on plenty of personal issues with your family and ex-girlfriend. Has that ever made them upset or do they get it?
My ex asked me for a public apology the other day. She really genuinely asked me straight up to come on YouTube and tape an apology. As far as my family goes, it may not be the best thing in the world to hear, but at the same time they respect me for it. They know it's my outlet.
Because this mixtape is so personal and has been compared to 808s and Heartbreak some have categorized it emo-rap. Do you agree?
There are people who rap about life and then there's people who rap about a life. If that's the case, then maybe Tip should be called emo-rap too because with all the @*%@ he's been through-that's just as, if not more emotional than all the @*%@ we talk about. Just 'cause his whole story is more G, I don't feel like it's any less emotional. That's a weird term.
Do you embrace your mixtape being referenced to 808s?
I think it's just about a rapper singing. One of the strongest things about 808s is the writing and one of the strongest things about my R&B is the writing, too. It's about being genuine and really striking a chord with women. To be honest I don't think there's many songs on 808s and Heartbreak that really do that.
So when you made So Far Gone did you mostly envision women listening to it?
No, not really. I know that there are also purposes for men to use that mixtape to their advantage [laughs].
Many people think that the problem with R&B now is dudes feeling like they must have a rapper swagger. As someone who sings and raps, what's your stance on that?
I think that's a valid point. Trey is one of my best friends and I told him to do a mixtape and just have it be on some sexy @*%@. Not to say that the music or drops that he does aren't ill. You just gotta remember you're an R&B artist, like I have to remember that I'm also a rapper. But at the same time, there's definitely been a shift in the last three years. This generation is all about partying and living life. The soundtrack to that lifestyle is not a Case or Joe record. Dudes will tell me they're not even into R&B like that, but they appreciate my swag on it.
IN IT TO WIN IT:
Having worked so much with Weezy, do you see him as a mentor or a peer?
I definitely look at Wayne as a mentor just because I have such respect for what he does and am a big fan of his music. I didn't let being around him change me and I think he respects me for that. I think the illest thing is that I see him as a mentor and he sees me as a peer.
Having already established a name for yourself and being so multi-talented, what's the ultimate end goal?
I'm a realist so it's not like I'm thinking my debut is going sell a million copies in a week. It's my first album, I just want people to appreciate it. One of my goals is to win a Best New Artist Grammy and I'd also love to finish high school. I'm starting to live out my third goal now, which is to get into scripts and go back to shooting these movies. My grandmother tells me that at the end of the day all we have are memories. I'm trying to make great ones.
OVO SOUND RADIO: EPISODE 68 (EXPLICIT)
3 months ago