Drake bought 21 Savage a Ferrari for his 24th birthday. That's one hell of a flex, being able to hand a Ferrari to someone you just met. I think the last gift I got one of my friends was a bottle of whiskey that we ended up splitting.
For Drake, giving away a car probably requires little effort. He hits OB O'Brien on the walkie, "Yo, buy 21 a Ferrari," and that's it. But it still seems like an excessive gesture. It took years for Tyga to get Kylie Jenner a car, and he didn't even spend money on it. If someone buys you a Ferrari, you kind of owe that person. You have to be nice to that person. You can't really blow off or diss someone that just bought you a Ferrari. You should probably give that person at least three features.
All it took was one act of kindness for Drake to put himself in an excellent position with one of the hottest young rappers out. If you think that's too much praise for 21 Savage, listen to the kids. Metro Boomin performed at ComplexCon, and as he ran through his hits, nothing set the crowd off more than when 21 came on. The crowd went wild. Drake has always had his ear to the streets, and he knows exactly when to paddle out.
DRAKE HAS ALWAYS HAD HIS EAR TO THE STREETS, AND HE KNOWS EXACTLY WHEN TO PADDLE OUT.
In 2011 Take Care won a Grammy for Best Rap Album and Drake put to bed any notion that he would never be as big as Trey Songz. "Headlines," "Take Care," "The Motto," and "HYFR" ruled the charts while "Marvin's Room" became a drunk dial anthem that still deserves to be played every other Saturday at 3 A.M. "Lord Knows" is somehow one of the hardest tracks on the album despite including a bar about going through a girls phone while she goes to the bathroom. Drake and producer Noah "40" Shebib are Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp on that album. The two solidified their sound, put Toronto on the map, and catapulted Wheelchair Jimmy to pop stardom.
Two years later Drake released Nothing Was The Same, and like the prophecy foretold, after that point everything was different. Drake got his first real taste of making a crossover hit with "Hold On We're Going Home." On previous records Drake would would walk a high-wire between singing and rapping. For every soft melody there were 16 bars of heat as if to say, "Yea I like to dance, so what? Have you seen Step Up? Channing Tatum is a badass. Ballet can be for tough guys too." But on "Hold On We're Going Home" Drake sticks to singing and the result is fantastic. Even though he paired the beautiful song with a video featuring gunfights and Fredo Santana, Drake had proved that his lane was here to stay. Sweet Drake and street Drake could both coexist, and both could flourish.
But as Drake probably said at some point on those albums, nothing lasts forever. By 2014 Drake had positioned himself comfortably at the top of rap. But now his role was different. Instead of fighting to prove that his sound deserved to be heard, Drake now had to find a way to maintain his position. After three albums Kanye found Kid Cudi, and his music was never the same. What would Drake's next move be?
iLoveMakonnen's 2014 song "Club Going Up on a Tuesday" was destined to be a hit with or without a Drake verse. It's odd, catchy, and was going to be in rotation at any Tuesday function no matter what. After hearing the song, it reportedly took Drake two days to track down Sonny Digital, remix the song, and release it as "Tuesday." Drake didn't really add much. He mimicked the flow, added a verse, gave it some OVO packaging, and it went on to get nominated for a Grammy.
Makonnen was thrilled, and why wouldn't he be? A relatively unknown rapper from Atlanta just got Drake on a song. Makonnen joined Drake on a few massive stages and soon signed to OVO, but they parted ways just over a year later for no clear reason. Since then, Makonnen has lashed out—but Drake had discovered a blueprint for relevancy and had already moved on.
Since "Tuesday," Drake has hopped on wave after wave, few being of his own creation. He's had a love affair with grime and he's dabbled in dancehall. He released a collaborative effort with Future right as Future completed a legendary run of releases. Gucci Mane's release from prison was one of the biggest moments of the year, and Drake was one of the first people at Guwop's house. The two dropped "Back On Road," and plans of a project together were revealed. When the "Gucci Home" hype died down, talk of 6ers disappeared. Kodak Black is one of the few to escape Drake's net after a co-sign: after "Skrt" was played on OVO Sound Radio, Drake posted a video of himself dancing to the song. Kodak's response was blunt: "If you’re trying to show me that you fuck with me, call me. Throw me on your album so I can get me some royalties.” Zaytoven has gone on to say, “When you work with Drake you don’t really work with Drake. You send him the song, he rap on it then y’all done worked together."
Now Drake is in the studio with Kanye West one day and Taylor Swift the next. An artist's ability to change their sound is vital for longevity in the game, but when Drake released Views in 2016, it felt like he got his signals crossed: it was the most predictable Drake album yet, an amalgamation of pop hits and twice-filtered dancehall that was missing features from any of Drake's alleged champions, most notably Popcaan and Skepta. The creative energy was seemingly spent perusing the forums, looking for the next local hit to mount in his trophy room. The latest: British rapper Dave's "Wanna Know."
AN ARTIST'S ABILITY TO CHANGE THEIR SOUND IS VITAL FOR LONGEVITY IN THE GAME, BUT WHEN DRAKE RELEASED 'VIEWS' IN 2016, IT FELT LIKE HE GOT HIS SIGNALS CROSSED: IT WAS THE MOST PREDICTABLE DRAKE ALBUM YET.
Dave is overjoyed, too. And we'd be wrong to expect him to feel otherwise—the exposure alone is a huge look, but if Drake wants to act like a record label, he should back it up with contracts. That's what Kodak wants, and that's what we expected to happen when Drake flipped D.R.A.M.'s "Cha Cha" into "Hotline Bling." By making a co-sign official with signatures, Drake won't be able to slip away when things cool off. It's telling that his last track before "Tuesday" was "Draft Day," a song about the Browns' supposed savior and current rehab attendee Johnny Manziel. Just two years later Manziel is no longer the man still, but let's not even get into all of Drake's sports allegiances.
At one point, Drake was the poster boy for brutal honesty. For any moment in life, good or bad, an Instagram caption-worthy Drake lyric exists. His career was built on being vulnerable and transparent, and he and 40 built a soundscape tailored around those qualities. From 2010 to 2013, there were countless artists trying to copy that style and sound like Drake. Now the tables have turned, and it seems like Drake is just trying to keep up with everyone else. He's currently one of the biggest, most successful pop stars in the world, but he's attempting to maintain his trendsetter credibility at the same time. It's starting to feel like he's trying to be too many things at once and in the process, he's lost his own identity.