Grade A Certified


Posted by J. Tinsley on February 20, 2009

“Always said I’d say it all on the right track…”–(c) Drake “Say What’s Real”

(Feb. 20)–It’s often been said whenever a soul leaves Earth, a new one is soon replaced to fill the void. Some tag it as the unwritten rule that is life, while others see it as the planet’s natural way of remaining at its equilibrium. One specific area where a person’s death is celebrated just as much as their accomplishments while living is music. This is partially due to the “larger than life” lifestyle that many musicians take on throughout their duration on Earth. During a time of the year that is often headlined by the passing days of hip-hop greats such as Big Pun (Feb. 7), J. Dilla (Feb. 10), Big L (Feb. 15) and The Notorious B.I.G. (March 9), it’s ironic the music industry seems to be celebrating the birth of potentially its next big superstar.

“Making it” is the dream every artist whose vocals are exhaled into a microphone and recorded for audio documentation. For those that do, the never ending struggle to display his or her work to the masses presents itself as another obstacle all together. In a climate where release dates are as reliable as steroids testing in baseball, it is almost second nature for a label to lose its original focus and vision of an artist.

This period (after “making it”) provides the foundation for the rest of an artist’s career. In most cases, the artists has two choices: creating a buzz on their own or becoming a victim of “record label amnesia.” That’s another thing, “creating a buzz” can formulate a following, but living up to expectations can propel one to the upper echelons of the genre.

Enter Aubrey Graham, known simply to the hip-hop world as Drake. Without disrespecting XXL’s “10 Freshmen”, the 22 year old Toronto actor/singer/rapper/songwriter may very well be the most coveted rookie in hip-hop. For good measure, he even has former rookies of the year in their respective professions, Chris Paul and LeBron James, lending their stamp of approval. With vocals, bars and charisma to match, Drake, who many will recognize as “Jimmy” from the Canadian mega-hit TV show, “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” seems poised to gravitate from underground mainstay to commercial commodity.

Drake’s rise from local Toronto thespian to “the best rapper yet to drop an album” hasn’t come overnight. Graham’s first official compilation, Room For Improvement, was released in February 2006 with DJ Smallz to much underground acclaim. A year later, his second official mixtape, Comeback Season, not only solidified Drake’s lyrical prowess, but an unofficial alliance fellow singer/rapper, Trey Songz. It was around this point rumblings of his debut album, then titled Barely Fitting In, would be hitting stores soon. A video for the album’s official single, “Replacement Girl” featuring the aforementioned Trey Songz, was even shot and released.

Music industry politics would ultimately shelve the album and Drake would remain on the “underground” scene. That was until he caught the eye of hip-hop’s equivalent to Ozzy Osbourne, Lil Wayne. During a radio interview in early 2008, Wayne announced that he would be working with Drake on several upcoming projects. What soon followed would be a plethora of songs to hit the web in the summer of 2008, thus opening Drake to an entire new audience.

The highlight of the package of songs they recorded together was the track, “Ransom,” a five minute lyrical free-for-all between the two artists. The stories of the two in the studio soon became internet folklore. Chase N. Cashe has been in the studio with both artists and notes the two share similar qualities when behind a microphone. Chase and Drake met through MySpace in 2007 and then later formally through mutual friend, Don Cannon. He has produced for artists such as Flo-Rida, Young Steff (“Professional”) and The Pussycat Dolls.

“I’ve been in the studio with both of them, but on separate occasions. Both of their work ethics are insane. Drake is focused in the studio. He’ll only have his engineer, 40, maybe one other person. If he feels you don’t need to be in there, then you won’t,” said Chase, whose group, Surf Club, had the Lil Wayne assisted single “I Can’t Miss” earlier this year.

“Weezy is similar, but he’s a lot more random. He’s never sitting still and he’s always thinking of something to do. Both of them love what they do. Not just on some happy to be in the music business shit…but they dreamed and prayed for it and now they’re harvesting their talent.”

As 2008 drew to a close, the hype for Drake’s next release, So Far Gone, began to reach rare levels of excitement. After several YouTube videos previewing tracks and leaks of individual songs onto the internet, the compilation was finally released on, of all days, Friday, February 13. Within 15 minutes of its liberation, Drake’s third official project had already garnered over 4,000 downloads and by the end of the weekend saw its totals topple well over the 65,000 plateau. Five days after its initial release, the original link the CD was uploaded on had eclipsed the 70,000 downloads mark.

Equating downloads to actual sales isn’t exactly the most accurate science in the world, but it does give a clear indication of how appreciated his music was, is and will eventually become. So Far Gone represented the arrival of an artist which hadn’t been seen since Kanye West in 2004 with his pre-debut album compilations, Get Well Soon and I’m Good.

Never boasting about his life as his hood’s number one street pharmacist or the number of “haters” he’s ended with whatever gun, Drake characterizes the embodiment of the majority of hip-hop listeners…the guy who has never sold drugs or been to prison, but wants to leave his mark in his chosen field before he, willingly or not, bows out. “Successful,” a highlight off S.F.G. and featuring Trey Songz and Lil Wayne, is a testament to this as Drake pleads,“I want it all, that’s why I strive for it/Diss me and you’ll never hear a reply for it/ Any awards show or party, I’ll get fly for it/ I know what’s comin’, I just hope I’m alive for it.”

Very rarely in hip-hop are new artists considered “sure things.” Dre referred to Eminem as one and Def Jam saw Young Jeezy as another, but with co-signs from Lil Wayne, Bun B, Kanye West and Trey Songz, Drake may soon be added to that list.

“I think him understanding the position he’s in and him being able to distinguish between entertainment and real life helps him out a lot. His desire to be the best is apparent from the moment you meet him,” reflects Chase.

Drake’s best aspect may not just be his rapping or singing, it may be the total package he brings to the table. With an already proven cinematic resume and musical credentials to match, the twenty-two year old from Toronto could prove to be an A&R’s dream artist.

“Honestly, I believe he can be successful as he wants to. It’s limitless for him really. As long as he handles his business correctly and markets himself in the right light, he’s going to be fine. His music is going to grow with his life…a la Jay-Z,” said Chase.

The verdict is still unknown how Drake’s career will pan out, but the ingredients for success are in place. The body of work, the charisma and the machine are all working in his favor. Legends become legends because they not only created hype around themselves, they delivered through on those expectations. Sometimes tenfold. Chase, who plans on working with Drake in the near future, is convinced of nothing short of greatness lies in the future.

“The fact that he is so humble in person sets him apart from a lot of acts. It’s nothing he takes for granted,” said Chase. “But on the same accord, he doesn’t short change himself or allow others to dictate the integrity of his music. He knows he’s good at what he does. He’s built for it.”


Just in case you needed to get caught up on everything, I present to you Drake 101:

Room For Improvement

Comeback Season

So Far Gone

So Far Gone (Chopped & Screwed)

Also check out Complex’s in-depth interview with Drake, here.


No Responses Yet to ““I WANT THIS FOREVER…””

  1. D Dotta said

    Straight Piff Tins. I mean I feel inspired as a writer and as a music enthusiast to continue the grind. Enough Said

  2. Appreciate that my dude. Let’s get it!!!

  3. Byron06 said

    Good write-up LB, or should I say Wolf Blizter!

  4. CjubgobyU said

    Mr.Blaze! man this article is by far the best I’ve read on any artist…now that I got that out the way let me throw my 2cents in about Drake… I got the Come Back Season in November of last year from my boy at HU threw it in just to see what was on the cd and I was completely blown away! Everybody I let listen too was like who is this dude and why is’nt he signed…i’m like I have no clue but he’s nice… he has that same buzz about a mixtape like Em, 50, and Weezy did… Thats my 2cents about Drizzy lol but great article man!

  5. Dame1906 said

    What up frat?

    I’m sayin man. You killin these features…

    hit me up on the email.

  6. CJ…I definitely appreciate the feedback fam. Comeback Season was a raw tape, I have to agree.

    Dame, what’s good homie. What’s your email?

  7. Great read homie…you’re a great writer.

    Any luck with a non .zip file version of that So Far Gone Chopped and Screwed?

  8. Appreciate the feed back man. Every link I find is a .zip file. I’m still searching though.

  9. […] College Radio Music » Drake: “I Want This Forever…” […]

  10. TiMiD said

    I finally got on my Drizzy a few weeks ago, and as a producer/engineer/arranger ….and a music enthusiast…i am inspired to continue my grind and focus on making music.

  11. Keep grindin homie…that’s the name of the game.

  12. Ashley Richardson said

    excellent article…good to see somebody like Drake (ps I’m a huge Degrassi fan shh!)getting press…because I’m tired of hearing about the likes of Souljah Boy..

  13. Great Read!

    Thanks for sharing.


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