Drake is most known in Canada for his role as wheelchair-bound Jimmy Brooks on ‘Degrassi: The Next Generation,’ as well as popular songs like “Take Care,” “One Dance,” and “Hotline Bling.”
Who Is Drake?
Drake rose to notoriety as Jimmy Brooks, a wheelchair-bound character he played for seven years on the teen series Degrassi: The Next Generation. After leaving the program, he went on to become one of the world’s top rappers after landing a deal with Lil Wayne’s company, Young Money Entertainment. He is seldom out of the news, whether he is dating Rihanna or Jennifer Lopez, launching his own record label, OVO Sound, or fronting the NBA’s Toronto Raptors as the team’s worldwide ambassador. It’s no wonder that Jay Z referred to him as the hip-hop equivalent of Kobe Bryant.
Drake, who was born Aubrey Drake Graham on October 24, 1986, in Toronto, Canada, was raised with music in his veins. Dennis Graham, his father, was a drummer for iconic rock ‘n’ roll performer Jerry Lee Lewis. Larry Graham, an uncle, played bass for Sly and the Family Stone. Drake’s mother, Sandi Graham, says she comes from a “very musical” family; his grandmother babysat Aretha Franklin. Drake hails from a diverse and distinctive ethnic and religious heritage. His father is a Catholic African American, while his mother is a white Canadian Jew. “At the end of the day, I consider myself a Black man because I’m more immersed in Black culture than any other,” Drake says of his own identity. Being Jewish adds a unique touch. It distinguishes me.”
Drake’s parents split when he was five years old, and he was raised by his mother in Forest Hill, Toronto’s wealthy and mostly Jewish neighborhood. He went to Jewish day school, had a Bar Mitzvah at the age of 13, and observed Jewish High Holy Days with his mother. “My mom has always made Hanukkah fun,” Drake remembers. “She used to make latkes and give cool gifts when I was younger,” Drake claims that, despite his Jewish heritage, he felt lonely at Forest Hill Collegiate Institute, his all-white high school. “Nobody understood what it was like to be Black and Jewish,” he remarked, adding that “being different from everyone else just made me a lot stronger.”
‘The Next Generation of Degrassi’
Drake got his start in the entertainment world thanks to one of his Forest Hill classmates. “There was a kid in my class whose father was an agent,” Drake later explained, adding, “his father would say, ‘If there’s anyone in the class who makes you laugh, have them audition for me.'” He became my agent after the audition.”
Drake secured a part in the Canadian teen drama series Degrassi: The Next Generation shortly after. The show portrayed the tumultuous lives of a group of students at Degrassi High School, and Drake played Jimmy Brooks, also known as “Wheelchair Jimmy,” a basketball player who gets shot by a classmate and becomes permanently wheelchair-bound.
Drake dropped out of high school to pursue his acting career, graduating in 2012. He appeared in Degrassi for seven years (2001-2009), winning a Young Artist Award for best ensemble in a TV series in 2002, among other accolades. The program immediately gained a fanatical cult following — “there are very few subtle Degrassi fans,” Drake has remarked — pushing him to celebrity status in Canada while remaining relatively unknown in the US.
A Career in Music
Drake began striving to break into the hip-hop industry while still appearing on Degrassi. In 2006, he released his debut mixtape, Room for Improvement, which sold around 6,000 copies. He then released another mixtape, Comeback Season, in 2007 on his own October’s Very Own brand (eventually abbreviated to OVO). Drake’s first breakthrough single and music video, “Replacement Girl,” was featured on BET’s iconic hip-hop TV show 106 & Park as the New Joint of the Day. More importantly, the song included a cover of Brisco and Flo Rida’s “Man of the Year,” featuring Lil Wayne. Drake chose to keep Wayne’s verses and hook while writing the remainder of the songs himself. This piqued the interest of Jas Prince, son of Rap-A-Lot Records founder James Prince, who chose to introduce Drake to Lil Wayne.
Degrassi’s creators changed the cast in 2008, removing Drake’s role. Drake was on the edge of looking for a day job since he didn’t have a consistent source of income and wasn’t generating enough money as a musician. “I was coming to terms with the fact that… I might have to work in a restaurant or something just to keep things going,” he recalls. However, in early 2008, he received a surprise call from Lil Wayne, who requested him to join his Carter III tour by flying to Houston that night.
Drake released his third mixtape, So Far Gone, in February 2009, after touring and recording a handful of songs with Lil Wayne. It included the bouncy track “Best I Ever Had,” which reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart, as well as “Successful,” a duet with Wayne and Trey Songz, which went gold and made Rolling Stone’s “25 Best Songs of 2009” list. Drake’s blitz of melodic, R&B-infused hip-hop songs has dominated the airwaves since then.
Following a bidding battle for Drake’s signature, he signed a record deal with Lil Wayne’s Young Money Entertainment in mid-2009. In July of the same year, he had a crash on stage during America’s Most Wanted Tour, injuring his anterior cruciate ligament and necessitating surgery. However, things would only get better from there.
‘Thank You Later’ and Grammy Nominations
Thank Me Later, Drake’s first complete studio album was released on June 15, 2010, and debuted at No. 1 on both the American and Canadian album charts, earning him platinum certification. His new character as hip-hop’s cocksure prince (“Last name ever, first name greatest,” he brags on “Forever”) appeared to conflict with his middle-class Jewish upbringing and previous career as a teenage soap star.
Nonetheless, Drake strove to combine these seemingly disparate phases of his life into one character. He wore a diamond-crusted Chai on the December 2009 cover of Vibe magazine, a hip-hop-style nod to his Jewish background. “Who’s Drake?” he raps in “The Presentation.” “Where is Wheelchair Jimmy?” With Jay Z and Kanye West both contributing to the album, the response to the question “Who’s Drake?” has to be “rap royalty.”
Take Care, his second studio album, was released in November 2011, and includes the songs “Headlines,” “Make Me Proud,” and “The Motto.” The album received widespread recognition, including the 2013 Grammy Award for best rap album, among other accolades. Drake’s unique appeal was perfectly summed up in Greg Kot’s Chicago Tribune review, which pinpointed the difference in subject matter and soul-searching honesty that distinguished Drake from his peers: “Drake, the melancholy hustler with a conscience, is back drunk-dialing former girlfriends and mourning the ones who got away.”
Disagreements with Chris Brown and Meek Mill
Despite his successful career, Drake has some personal difficulties. He and fellow musician Chris Brown became competitors for singer Rihanna’s affection, and their fierce conflict culminated in violence over the summer of 2012 at a New York nightclub, injuring numerous witnesses. Drake and Brown both found themselves in legal trouble as a result of their acts. Tony Parker, a male model, and two ladies who were injured in the incident were among those who filed lawsuits against the performers. Brown subsequently mentioned the incident in a remix of Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like” (“One on one, what you scared, bruh?” he rapped).
Drake settled another legal problem out of court about this time. He came to terms with his ex-girlfriend Ericka Lee on her contributions to the song “Marvin’s Room.” Lee had filed a lawsuit against Drake in 2012, claiming credit for co-writing the song. Rappin 4-Tay and the estate of jazz artist Jimmy Smith also sued him. Squabbles with other artists have also dotted his career, although they have not wrecked it. A verbal battle with Tyga was one thing, but Drake also got into a spat with rapper Meek Mill when the latter claimed Drake used a ghostwriter on a single they cooperated on. Drake released two diss singles directed directly towards Mill in a single week in 2015, “Charged Up” and “Back to Back.” A diss battle with Joe Budden began in 2016, and the online rumors that typically follow an artist of Drake’s caliber claim that he’s had a feud with Kanye West, Jay Z, and others.
The songs “Views” and “Hotline Bling”
Personal challenges never seem to derail Drake for long. His own battle for achievement was represented in the 2013 song “Started From the Bottom,” from his critically praised 2013 album Nothing Was the Same. “I just wanted to make it clear that I worked really hard to get here, and it wasn’t a fluke or easy by any means,” he told MTV News.
Following the release of two mixtapes in 2015, one of which featured a collaboration with Future, Drake released his fourth studio album, Views, in the spring of 2016. The album debuted at No. 1 and spent 13 non-consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard charts. Among its major hits was the seductive “Hotline Bling,” which won the singer Grammy nominations for best rap song and best rap/sung performance in early 2017 (and spawned innumerable memes thanks to its iconic video inspired by artist James Turrell). Following the ceremony, he chastised the Grammys for lumping him under the rap category. “I’m a Black artist, I’m apparently a rapper, even though Hotline Bling is not a rap song,” he claimed in an interview on Apple’s Beats 1 the day after the awards. I received two prizes, but I don’t want them.”
Drake thinks that his unorthodox climb to hip-hop prominence will continue to be a benefit, rather than a burden, to his rap career. “This whole thing is unusual at this point,” he explained, “so we’re just rolling with the fairytale vibe.”
The “fairytale vibe” continued in May 2017, as Drake was named Billboard Music Awards’ biggest winner. He won 13 awards in all, including top artist, top male artist, top Billboard 100 Album, top Billboard 200 Artist, and top hot 100 Artist, surpassing Adele’s record for most victories in a single year.
Drake followed up his two-song EP Scary Hours with two singles, “Nice For What” and “I’m Upset,” ahead of the June release of Scorpion, his fifth studio album. He also released the diss tune “Duppy Freestyle,” in reaction to rapper Pusha-T’s claim that he used a ghostwriter for his songs.
Scorpion, which was released on June 29, did not disappoint, with the artist confirming rumors of a newborn son on “March 14” and explaining why he was dialing back his animosity towards Pusha-T and Meek Mill on “Survival.” The album had contributions from Jay-Z and Future, as well as previously unheard Michael Jackson songs on the tune “Don’t Matter to Me.”
Scorpion broke streaming records in its first 24 hours, according to the Associated Press, with 170 million streams on Apple Music and another 132 million on Spotify. The pace picked up over the next several days, with Drake becoming the first artist to surpass 1 billion streams in a single week with his studio release.
Drake went on to win the 2019 Grammy for Best Rap Song for “God’s Plan,” which appeared on both Scorpion and Scary Hours, yet the victory was overshadowed by the controversy of being cut off during his acceptance speech, in which he dismissed the significance of being honored at the Grammys.
Drake buried the hatchet by collaborating with Chris Brown on the Top 5 song “No Guidance.” He then released the EP The Best in the World Pack, which included the twin singles “Omertà” and “Money in the Grave,” as well as the compilation album Care Package, which included previously unheard tracks from earlier in the decade.
Ahead of the anticipated release of a new album, Drake collaborated with Future for the release of “Life is Good” in January 2020, followed by a video that mixed the tracks “When To Say When” and “Chicago Freestyle” a few weeks later. Brown, Giveon, Young Thug, and Playboi Carti made cameos on the Dark Lane Demo Tapes, which were released on May 1.
Drake announced his entry into the expanding cannabis market in late 2019 by partnering with a famous Canadian producer, Canopy Growth, to create and distribute herbal delicacies in Toronto through a new enterprise named More Life Growth Co. According to a news release, the firm is “centered around wellness, discovery, and overall personal growth with the hope of facilitating connections and shared experiences across the globe.”
Drake and artist Sophie Brussaux have a son named Adonis, who was born in October 2017.