Freep asked Drake a few questions. See what Drake answered about his music, Aaliyah, and more. Enjoy!
Want to make Drake gush? Ask him about Aaliyah. The 23-year-old, Toronto-born emcee is 2010?s hip-hop wunderkind.
Sure, he’s a nice suburban Jewish kid who once costarred on the long-running Canadian teen soap opera, “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” But in hip-hop circles, he’s known as the truth, and his music is everywhere — nine of his songs have hit the Billboard Hot 100 since July of last year.
In advance of his performance at the Fox Theatre on Tuesday, we chatted with the entertainer about his music, his life and Detroit R&B singer Aaliyah, who died tragically in 2001.
QUESTION: I know you’re always asked how such a nice a guy ended up being a rapper. But really, where did you get your hip-hop swag from? Was it spending summers with your dad’s family in Memphis, Tenn.?
ANSWER: Well, Memphis was my obsession with everything hood. As proper as I may appear, my music always had that appeal. Like the lights in the hood, the women in the hood — just in the black community period. Memphis sparked my obsession with all my cousins and their cars and their music and the strip clubs and the restaurants and the food. It was Memphis and it was Atlanta, two places that really influenced the sound of my music. People are gonna be like “your music’s not hood,” but it’s like I only see in sounds, if that makes any sense.
Q: What do you mean you see in sound?
A: When I land in a city at night, and I look out the window, I see a sound. Like, I see a song when I’m in a strip club or when I’m in a situation where there are guns or whatever. I don’t see, necessarily, the details of that situation. I’m not gonna rap to you about the guns I just saw, because I just see in sounds. It’s a feeling. The way it hits me here, it’s like something I want to re-create musically. I want you to feel the same way from hearing this song. It’s hard to explain because it’s very much like the unspoken creativity, so I may sound like I’m rambling or I’m crazy, but that’s it.
Q: You’ve said you were an outcast growing up in Toronto. How so?
A: I just never really had any, like, super-close friends until I got a role on “Degrassi.” So here I am, I’ve come up in this Jewish school and they send me to the only school I could go to that had an optional attendance program, and it ends up being the school that they had to integrate with another school when it shut down because they had too many shootings and too many fights. … So now it’s culture shock, and I’m this kid on “Degrassi,” but I’m clearly not intimidating anybody. So you know people used to mess with me a little bit.
Q: So how does that background help you in hip-hop?
A: All I sell to people is being myself. I don’t have an elaborate series of events; I just really make the most of my life on every single song I do. I think what people fail to realize is that it’s not how elaborate the story is or how violent the story is. It’s just how relatable and how genuine it is.
Q: You also sing your own songs. Who influenced you in R&B?
A: I fell in love with Aaliyah at a very early age. I didn’t know her, but … OK, there’s two things that I love about Aaliyah. I love the person that she was, the person that I’ve witnessed in interviews and videos, I just loved everything about Aaliyah. But aside from that, it was the melodies. The wording. You know what it was? It was never uncomfortable for me to listen to as a man. And that’s inspiration that I take into my music because I never want to eliminate a listener. I don’t want to make songs and be like “girl you’re this” and “girl you’re that,” so that girls can’t sing it back. Aaliyah always found lyrics that were specific enough, but in a generic way that anybody could listen to it: white, black, male, female. And the melodies were so haunting. And it has nothing to do with her passing, it was just, even when she was alive, there’s no artist that I loved more than Aaliyah.