A look at Drake’s rise to fame ahead of his Dubai concert
The 28-year-old Aubrey Graham, known to his millions of fans as the superstar rapper Drake, is the hip-hop star of the moment.
He hardly has a credible hip-hop background: considering his middle-class Canadian upbringing and a stint starring on a rather lame teenage television show, also produced in Canada.
Yet Drake has managed to give the increasingly tired genre a welcome shot in the arm by combining raw talent, a distinctive sound and an unerring ability to keep his finger on the pulse. With the surprise release of last month’s mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late topping the charts and a headlining slot at the mammoth Coachella festival in California in April, he arrives in Dubai this week at the peak of his powers. Here’s how he got here.
He started from the bottom
Even with the medium-level attention Drake garnered from his lengthy stint on the much-loved series Degrassi: The Next Generation (2001 to 2009), he could have easily cashed in on his fame and landed a record deal. Instead, particularly in the later years, he kept it low-key and almost lived an artistic double life: during the day he would shoot episodes of the series, while at night he would make unannounced visits to quiet Toronto music spots and perform spoken-word poetry over instrumentals. The methodical approach extended to his work in the studio. Even before putting out his successful debut album Thank Me Later in 2010, he trailed his release with three mixtapes, including the breakout 2009 collection So Far Gone.
He is weak, sensitive and proud
Not every artist has the fortune of creating a word that has been added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Such was the case with Drake’s 2011 anthem The Motto, which included the hashtag-tactic mantra YOLO (You Only Live Once). It was a rare moment of levity, as Drake’s lyrics are mostly solemn and can be unflinchingly personal. An anathema to most major rappers, Drake often points the finger of blame at himself and admits to his weaknesses. Where his record label boss – and fellow rapper – Lil Wayne enjoys asking listeners how many zeroes they have in their bank account, Drake enquires – in the 2010 track Fireworks – “how many of your parents’ marriages lasted?” In the song Company he declares he deserves to be dumped: “I don’t deserve her at all/No, not at all, I only text her, man/ I never call, I’m still a canine at heart, I’m a dog.”
He rolls with his crew
It’s not just about remaining loyal to his friends. Drake’s decision to roll with his Canada-based mates and music collective OVO (October’s Very Own) has largely contributed to maintaining a distinctive identity. Where his peers are content to work with leading beatmakers – who often supply beats to the highest bidder — Drake works with a tight circle of producers. The Canadian producers Noah “40” Shebib and Boi-1da are the sonic architects responsible for creating Drake’s signature brooding and noirish sounds.
The live shows
Thankfully, unlike the albums, Drake’s concerts are not pity-parties. An established arena act, his latest Would You Like A Tour series of dates features a live band that is able to conjure up big sounds. Drake is also known to provide a well-balanced set. In addition to the newer hit-laden material, he also tips his hat to long-term fans by playing selections from his early mixtapes.
• Drake performs at the Dubai International Stadium on Saturday, March 14. Tickets from Dh320 at www.timeouttickets.com. Doors open at 3pm
Updated: March 7, 2015 04:00 AM