Birth name: Aubrey Drake Graham
Birthplace: Toronto, Canada
October 24, 1986 – present
Years Active: 2001 – present
One of the most awarded and top-selling musical artists in history, Canadian rapper Drake has made a substantial impact on Hip Hop by expanding its musical and lyrical possibilities.
Drake was born Aubrey Drake Graham, in Toronto, Ontario. Drake’s musician father, originally from Mempis, Tennessee, met his mother, an English teacher, at a performance in Toronto. He grew up moving between Toronto and Memphis after his parents divorced. As a child, his mother enrolled him in dance courses. He later became interested in acting while in high school, performing in various theater productions before dropping out of school after being frequently bullied due to his mixed-race background.
At age 15, Drake auditioned for the TV series Degrassi: The Next Generation, where he played Jimmy Brooks, an athlete who became physically disabled after being shot by a classmate. While continuing to act in the series, he also pursued music, which ran in his family’s history. Drake’s father played drums for Jerry Lee Lewis, while his uncle, Larry Graham, is a legendary musician and pioneering bassist, known for his work with Sly and the Family Stone, Prince, and his namesake group, Graham Central Station.
In 2007, he released the mixtape Comeback Season. A single from the mixtape featuring Trey Songz, “Replacement Girl,” received national attention after being premiered on BET’s 106 & Park program. The mixtape caught the attention of Lil Wayne, who invited Drake on the Carter III tour and collaborated with him on the songs “Ransom,” “Forever,” and a remix of “Brand New.” In 2009, the song “Best I Ever Had” peaked at number 2 on the Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, leading to a contract with Young Money, Cash Money, and Universal Motown and the release of his first EP, So Far Gone.
In 2010, Drake released his debut studio album Thank Me Later, which debuted at number 1 on the US Billboard 200 charts. This was followed by Take Care a year later, which further cemented Drake’s status as a top performer and gave him his first Grammy Award for Best Rap Album. In many ways, Take Care and the singles from the album, including “Marvin’s Room,” “Headlines,” “Make Me Proud,” “The Motto,” and “Take Care,” served as a blueprint for Drake’s future releases, combining singing and rapping and showcasing lyrics with emotional and existential themes.
After touring in 2012, he released Nothing Was the Same in 2013, and following another tour he released If You’re Reading This it’s Too Late, which broke Spotify’s first-week streaming record.
2015 saw the release of four singles: “Back to Back,” “Charged Up,” “Right Hand,” and “Hotline Bling,” the video of which became an internet sensation. He also released a collaboration album with Future titled What a Time to Be Alive, featuring the single “Jumpman,”. A year later, Drake released the album Views and the short film Please Forgive Me. “One Dance,” a single from Views, became Spotify‘s most-streamed song ever, amassing over 882 million plays as of October 2016. After the release of the More Life mixtape and Scary Hours EP (which featured the record-breaking “God’s Plan”), Drake released his fifth album, Scorpion, in 2018. The double album broke both the one-day global records on Spotify and Apple Music, and secured Drake’s status as the record holder for most number one hits by a rapper. In 2020, Drake released the mixtape Dark Lane Demo Tapes, which reached number 2 on the US Billboard 200 charts.
With Toronto-based record producer 40, Drake founded the record label OVO Sound. Later this was expanded int a clothing line and radio station. He serves as the “global ambassador” for the Toronto Raptors, and released the two-song EP The Best in the World Pack to celebrate the NBA Championship win of the Toronto Raptors.
Drake is often credited as innovating, even “rewriting,” the characteristics of hip hop. He helped expand the thematic vocabulary available to rappers by embracing lyrical themes of loneliness and vulnerability –a departure from the bravado and fearlessness that had in some ways come to characterized rap lyrics in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Musically, Drake seamlessly balances singing and rapping in his songs, effectively blurring the lines between Hip Hop and Pop music.
Drake’s emphasis on singing as much as rapping, and on writing more sentimental or “emotional” lyrics opened up new spaces in Hip Hop, which were filled by artists as varied as Frank Ocean, Travis Scott, Miguel, and the Weeknd, Lil Uzi Vert, XXXTentacion, Rae Sremmurd, Post Malone, Juice WRLD, Lil Baby, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, and more.
Drake is also often credited for his innovative approaches to marketing his music through social media. Songs such as “Hotline Bling,” “Tootsie Slide,” and “In My Feelings” achieve viral status and top chart positions in part thanks to the memes and social media challenges that accompany them.
Drake’s music draws from a wide range of genres, including R&B, Hip Hop, Bounce, and Dancehall Music. His influences include Jay-Z, Yo Gotti, Three 6 Mafia, Aaliyah, Beyoncé, Kanye West, Usher, Notorious B.I.G., and André 3000. He has collaborated with artists including Rihanna, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Future, Trey Songz, Rick Ross, French Montana, A$AP Rocky, Kings of Leon, The-Dream, Jay-Z, Kanye West, The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar, Birdman, André 3000, 2 Chainz, Big Sean, Majid Jordan, Jhené Aiko, Sampha, Lupe Fiasco, N.E.R.D., Migos, Bad Bunny, and Chris Brown.