Rap music has prized itself on the gangsta image — guns, drugs, and ho’s. But Drake, well, he’s at home in Toronto celebrating both Hanukkah (yep, he’s Jewish) and his grandmother’s birthday. “It’s a pretty momentous occasion up here,” he tells SPIN, chuckling. It’s not exactly what you’d expect from the hottest new voice in hip-hop. But Drake’s life is far from ordinary.
It’s been an astronomical year for 24-year-old former star of the Canadian teen soap opera Degrassi: The Next Generation. His debut album, Thank Me Later, hit No. 1 on the charts, notching one of the best first-week sales of 2010 on the strength of emotionally raw singles like “Over,” “Find Your Love,” and “Miss Me.” His work has now earned four Grammy noms, including Best New Artist and Best Rap Album.
SPIN caught up with Drake to talk about his triumphant year, his mentor Lil Wayne, who supplied Drake with his most exhilarating moment of 2010, and his advice for getting over tough breakups.
Congratulations on the Grammy nominations!
Oh, man. Thank you sooo much. It’s literally a dream come true. Since I was 15 or 16 years old, I’ve had these crazy dreams. I’m in this room and I can only see the back of my head and that I’m wearing a suit. I’m speaking and it’s inaudible, but I can tell that the people in my life are all happy. It’s like I’m finally getting the chance to tell them how much I care about them. So, two years ago my manager got me tickets in the 500 level of the Grammy ceremony. I was way up in the rafters, but I was so excited. Then I realized that that was the room in my dream. I recognized it!
And this year you’ll have much better seats. Who will you take as your date to the ceremony?
My mom. But I hope the Young Money crew can make it. Nicki [Minaj] will be there — she’s nominated — and I’m sure Wayne will come to see his two soldiers go into battle.
You’re up against Justin Bieber for Best New Artist. What do you make of the Bieber phenomenon?
Justin and I are actually very close. That’s my little brother and I try to guide him and steer him in the right direction. We’re both from Canada, too.
And you guys both found massive success after getting discovered online.
We are truly the first of our kind, in that respect. When I think about the rappers before me and the buzz they had, it reminds me of buying a hard copy of their album. Or of buying their mixtape when I visited New York. The Internet wasn’t necessarily the only tool to launch a career then. So, Justin would make videos of himself sitting on his couch with an acoustic guitar. And I was discovered on MySpace and somehow made it to Lil Wayne’s ears. I released my first project on the Internet and then made it all the way to the Grammys. It marks a change in music.
You’ve had an astronomical year. What was the highlight?
Definitely when Wayne came home and surprised me in Las Vegas. I’ve felt a lot of human emotion in my day, but, man, I don’t think I’ve ever felt that much excitement in the room and in me. I was hyped!
How was Wayne’s welcome home party in Miami?
It was cool! Part of it was held at this massive strip club. But, you know, it’s the strip club [laughs]. It was more about just seeing the man. But we had a lot of fun. He’s already back in the studio working on Tha Carter IV.
I have two or three film projects in the works right now that I’m very excited about. Hopefully the details on those come out soon. I’m just getting ready for 2011. I want to make it the best working year of my career. So that means putting out a great album. I’m working on myself, both mentally and physically, to come back stronger than ever. I’m already working on music for the next album [called Take Care]. It’s going great.
Many of your lyrics are inspired by heartbreak and relationships. Any advice for getting through it?
Oh, man. Absolutely. For me, the biggest thing is understanding the art of time. Understanding that time can make everything better. Seriously, man. I remember when I was going through that, I had so many reactive moments because I felt like I had to do something about it right then and there. It was like my world was going to end that night. A relationship can give you a gut wrenching feeling sometimes. It’s a real emotional ride. But now I realize that by giving those emotions time, it always works out in my favor. Even if it’s something simple, like not responding to that person’s text messages or responding a day later. Things will get better in the morning. Patience is key for getting over a breakup. That, and trailing off your interaction after the breakup.
And music helped you get through those hard times.
It was a way to make light of my situation. When I broke up with someone, or when I felt someone did me wrong, I’d write about it. It’s risky. And sometimes it makes for awkward moments because you’re writing about a real person. But I found a somewhat tactful way to talk about my own life without offending that person. It’s cleansing to talk about the women that I’ve been with. Whatever is it — music or whatever — it’s great to have a creative outlet to express yourself. And it’s even greater when your creative outlet is received by the world. Then that person you’re writing about is forced to hear it everyday [laughs]!