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Truthfully, I never knew who Drake was before I heard “Forever”. I know! Slap on the wrist for me. How did this guy get so huge without a record? Internets. THE INTERNETS BABYYYY!!! As I listen to his mixtape So Far Gone, I realise that I do know who he is, with nearly half the songs striking some familiarity with me. Especially the song “Successful” which has a Kanye “Say You Will” 808s and Heartbreaks feel to it. And now that I’m starting to catch up with my blog reading and hearing more and more of his music I realise, this guy IS the next big thing. I came across a great article about him on The Fader:

“On September 7, 2008, Lil Wayne stepped onstage at the MTV Video Music Awards and then stepped decisively away from the words on the lyric sheet circulating in the audience with the following lines…

I’m on my Disney thang, goofy flow/ I’m Captain Hook on the beat and my new car is Rufio/ Damn where my roof just go/ I’m somebody that you should know/ Get to shakin’ somethin’ cause that’s what [deleted] produced it fo’/ I make mistakes that I don’t ever make excuses fo’/ Leavin’ girls that love me and constantly seducing hoes/ I’m losing my mind like, Damn where my roof just go/ Top slipped off like Janet at the Super Bowl

Then, as Leona Lewis launched into the hook of Nina Simone’s “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” he croaked, “Drizzy Drake: I love you, bwoy!” That namecheck was the only clue to most attendees that Wayne had just blatantly violated the unwritten rules of his own freestyle game by spitting another artist’s words. Though almost lost in host Russell Brand’s commentary on promise rings and presidential politics, it was a coronation moment rarely seen in the arena of rap, and with one verse, Wayne introduced the name of his protégé to the mainstream in dramatic fashion. Amongst those already familiar with the various Wayne-affiliated rookies collectively known as Young Money, the lines sparked a fierce debate over whether Drake was in fact ghostwriting for the master (he and Wayne both still claim he never has), but by the time the rap blog drama blew over, one thing seemed clear: Drake was the next big thing, heir apparent to Wayne’s multi-platinum throne and Young Money’s most likely flagship artist…

For the full article and a Drake MP3, after the jump, yo!

…The buzz was confirmed by the radio phenomenon of “Best I Ever Had,” a soft rock-sampling mixtape track that hit #1 on numerous charts without major label support or even a record deal in place. But a second look made this passing of the torch seem like an unlikely proposition. Drake shares with Wayne a certain manchild vocal tone, but their styles are almost antonyms. Where Wayne rides his stream-of-consciousness through drug and gunplay into Freudian—almost hallucinatory—nursery rhymes, Drake hews rigorously close to the guidelines of rap formalism, pumping an incredible volume of two- and three-syllable schemes out of the same subjects: girls, multi-colored whips and his skill in the booth. He seems to depart from this formula only to talk about his emotional state, an introspection that usually happens when he shifts from rap mode into catchy and sometimes haunting R&B. On his own records, he abandons Southern double-time to push genre boundaries more like Kanye, rapping over chopped-and-filtered snatches of Coldplay, Lykke Li and Peter Bjorn & John.

The differences only get starker if you compare Drake’s bio to his project-raised, tattooed and codeine-addicted mentor. Though born in Memphis, Aubrey Drake Graham was raised in Forest Hills, an affluent enclave of Toronto that is about as far in mood and geography from New Orleans as you could get without a land bridge. Before he ever considered being a rapper, Drake was a child actor, portraying athlete Jimmy Brooks on the Canadian teen drama Degrassi: The Next Generation. His father, Dennis Graham, was a drummer for Jerry Lee Lewis, and he is nephew to both legendary bassist Larry Graham and Teenie Hodges—a guitarist best known for co-writing some of Al Green’s ’70s classics who’s played with everyone from Talking Heads to Cat Power.

The more you know about him, in fact, the harder it seems to know exactly who Drake is. There is something almost chameleon-like about his talent. If his appeal can’t be contained to a one-liner like “Wayne protégé,” it’s only because he invites a whole series of comparisons: to Wayne’s inventiveness, Kanye’s art-school eclecticism, Jay-Z’s braggadocio and Lloyd’s post-Kelly singsong. Though he reps Toronto, in interviews Drake has even said that a childhood split between his father’s base in Memphis and his mother’s house in Canada has allowed him to escape the territorial matrix of rap. He’s parlayed this “from everywhere” quality into a burgeoning career as a guest verse specialist, always adjusting his approach to the demands of the host organism, a strategy that makes you wonder which Drake will step out on his own debut LP—slated to drop before the end of the year—a project that’s not recorded yet but already titled Thank Me Later.

In some sense, Drake has already provided one answer in the form of So Far Gone, the mixtape that spawned “Best I Ever Had.” Those who know him primarily as a Young Money soldier may be unaware that it had almost nothing to do with Wayne except for his vocal features, having been produced exclusively by Drake’s Toronto-based crew, and appropriately, it’s on his home court that I finally catch up with the moving target of so many expectations. We’ve both just flown in from New York on different flights and link for an after-midnight dinner on the roof deck of an Italian restaurant in which Drake is a silent partner. He’s wearing a leather jacket and leaning on a cane with a gangsterish list, walking off the same basketball injury that had him propped up on a stool for his closing performance at the 2009 BET Awards. Posing for our camera with glass raised, he has the air of a newly made man trying on the don’s overcoat for size, but in between snaps, he is quick to flash a grin to let you know he doesn’t take himself too serious. In person, he has a face like mercury, sometimes opening wide with disarming vulnerability, then just as impulsively clowning, eyes seeking out everyone’s reaction to see if they get the joke. If you don’t, they move away instantly, flat and bored. Child-star handsome, at 22 he is still growing into his looks, with deep-set eyes that make his face somehow boyish and craggy at the same time, features almost too large for his slim shoulders in a way that heightens the youthful quality…”

The rest of the article can be read here.

Drake’s first album Thank Me Later is due for later next year.

MP3: Drake ft. Trey Songz and Lil’ Wayne – Successful

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