Drake ended his fourth annual OVO Fest strutting across a hometown Toronto stage, balanced between 16,000 fans and exploding fireworks, while rapping "Started From the Bottom," which he dubbed our "new national anthem."
It was a hardly humble claim, but it was hardly a humble night. Drake did, in fact, start from the bottom -- hip-hop has no lower rung than the one reserved for a half-white, Jewish-Canadian middle-class child star -- and holy hell is he ever here.
And at OVO Fest, everyone else was too -- quite literally. While theoretically Drake sells OVO on the strength of only his name, the subtext is his power. The first year, Drake surprised the crowd with Jay-Z and Eminem, the two biggest names in hip-hop whose mere appearances provided a cred-establishing co-sign.
This year, his cred already established, Drake delivered the rap show equivalent of making it rain.
Standing front and centre at the sold-out Molson Amphitheatre, CN Tower standing tall in the distance, Drake recalled how Toronto was often overlooked by rap tours when he was growing up. Then, inviting us to "live this together," he slowly brought out one of the greatest line-ups in hip-hop history.
Kanye West. Lil Wayne. Diddy and Ma$e. J Cole. A$AP Rocky. Big Sean. Wale. French Montana. Miguel and The Weeknd, who came out on Drake's second song to sing "Crew Love" and quash those beef rumours. Oh, and then there was TLC's first reunion appearance performing "Fan Mail," "No Scrubs" and "Waterfalls," the latter with LIl' Mama stepping in for the late Left Eye.
It was, to say the least, rather mind-blowing. The Kanye rumour was well-trafficked by the time the show started, but it didn't make his three-song set any less impressive as he proved, again, that he's as great as he thinks he is with triumphant renditions of "New Slaves," "All of the Lights" and "Can't Tell Me Nothing."
'Ye also made news by informing the crowd that it was Drake who pressured him and Jay-Z into making the Watch The Throne album. Drake, meanwhile, said "I wouldn't be rapping if it wasn't for this guy" (no surprise to anyone who's heard 808s & Heartbreaks) and praised Kanye for being an early supporter.
Drake is not as good a rapper as Kanye, collaborator/mentor Lil Wayne or 2013 breakout J. Cole. He's not as good a singer as Miguel or The Weeknd. He's not even as charismatic as Diddy or A$AP Rocky. But Drake's performances throughout the night -- ranging from pre-fame "Successful" and YOLO-enshrining "Motto" to the sweetly sung "Girls Love Beyonce" and the viciously spat "Over" and "No New Friends" -- proved he has more than enough great songs to make that moot.
Still, that's not where Drake's genius lies. It's in his positioning.
By singing and rapping, he already stands astride the worlds of hip-hop and R&B like nobody before, but his annual festival also allows him to connect old and new schools, mainstream and underground, superstars and upstarts.
Bringing out, and paying tribute to, legends positions Drake as someone who will one day join them. But while dancing onstage, drink in hand, beside his heroes -- getting a leaping hug from TLC's Chili or recreating his first concert experience at the same venue with Diddy and Ma$e -- he's also making it clear he's now the one shining the spotlight on them.
Kanye sends a similarly strong message about Drake's pull simply by flying to Toronto to play three songs while Wayne seems more like a peer nowadays than his boss.
And by tying himself to the best up-and-comers -- last year he brought A$AP and 2 Chainz, this year he booked J. Cole, Miguel and would've had Frank Ocean, too, if he hadn't torn a vocal chord -- Drake helps them ascend, puts them in his debt and benefits as their benefactor when they blow up.
Drake's new single from his upcoming new album "Nothing Was The Same" is called "All Me" and features Big Sean and 2 Chainz. Some have said that makes the title kinda silly, but it actually fits perfect with his M.O. Drake's never tried to do this alone -- from sticking with his OVO house producer 40 to signing to Lil' Wayne's Young Money to joining forces with folks like The Weekend and touring with only the hottest opening acts.
Drake doesn't even care if he gets outshined because he knows you don't have to be the brightest star to become a sun -- you just have to get the rest of the stars to revolve around you.
Drake's album art is reminiscent of previous kid-pic covers by LIl Wayne and Biggie Smalls, but as he told MTV: "It's a child version of myself staring at myself now. Sometimes when I try and think back on this journey, it's so hard to pinpoint all of these moments and it gets foggy."
Drake revealed the album’s title way back in March in a Grammy red carpet interview with Ryan Seacrest. More recently, he posted the promotional video below, in which Drizzy and his pals sip alcohol out of his freshly delivered Grammy award. More more recently, he announced the record would come out a week later on Sept 24.
With its memorable hook, its Shoppers Drug Mart-themed video, and its billboard that sits above a Toronto highway, the first single from "Nothing Was the Same" can only be described as a genuine smash.
As the first single, “Started From the Bottom” set the tone that "Nothing Was the Same" will once again be a confessional piece focused on the intimate details of the star’s life story. Drake gave the first interview of the new album cycle to GQ for a cover story dubbed "How To Drake It In America." Elaborating on the album’s themes, he said, "This is my fucking moment to say if I wanted to rap all the time, really rap, I would, but I also love to make music. I'll do this for you right now. But it's for me, too. It's my story...I'm trying to get back to that kid in the basement. To say what he has to say. And I'm trying to make it last."
In that GQ interview, Drake revealed the album’s first track. The song contains a Whitney Houston sample, and the title is lifted from "a Tom Ford fragrance that some say smells like a brick of cocaine.”
A few months back, Aubrey was pictured in the studio with Mr. Carter in this photo from the Instagram account of Roc Nation A&R man Lenny Santiago @kodaklens. More recently, Las Vegas’ DJ Franzen claimed that the latest collaboration from the hip-hop megastars is called “Cake,” and it will appear on NWTS.
In the past, Drake has taken much inspiration from Marvin Gaye, going so far as to name one of his most famous songs after the studio where the R&B legend crafted much of his late-‘70s material, including famed 1978 album "Here, My Dear." A few recent Instagram photos suggested that Drake was back behind the boards in Marvin’s Room.
Drake is known for his close relationship with producer Noah “40” Shebib, but way back in March 2012, he said he was eager to collaborate with Jamie XX. “I really want him to have a big presence on this next album,” Drake said, of the UK-based producer, beatsmith, and sonic guru behind The XX.
Sometimes, all it takes is a simple Drake tweet to keep churning out the news. He confirmed the addition of this up and coming singer to the 'NWTS' lineup in June.
The hip-hop world was buzzing back in May when it appeared Drake’s dad had accidentally revealed the track list for "Nothing Was the Same." But with the details that have trickled out in the months since, the widely discredited track list looks increasingly bogus.
Drake contributed a verse to his remix of “Versace,” the smash hit by Atlanta-based trap trio Migos. In this interview with DJ Self, Migos claimed they’ll feature on a track from "Nothing Was the Same."
Drake also revealed to GQ that the album contains a line from Curtis Mayfield at a 1987 concert in Montreux, in which the legendary musician says, “Having the same fears, shedding similar tears, and of course dying in so many years, it don't mean that we can't have a good life.”
Drizzy took to Twitter in late May to say that he was in the studio with “one of my true heroes,” Grammy-award winning soul star Anthony Hamilton. Whether or not this means Hamilton will feature on the new album, we’ll have to wait and see.
Drake tweeted the title of this jam recently, which features guest spots from 2 Chainz and Big Sean, and an opening sample of Aziz Ansari. When the song appeared this week on his October’s Very Own blog, the world learned that Drake slept with his former babysitter. Huh.
Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye quashed persistent rumours of a growing feud with Drake in a recent interview with Complex. And after a recent Justin Bieber concert in Toronto, Drake posted an Instagram photo taken in the studio with his mysterious collaborator. Could they have patched up their differences in the name of music? OVOXO
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