Here is the URB interview from October's finest...enjoy
A lot has happened to Drake since URB interviewed the Lil Wayne protégé this past spring for our Next 100 issue. His track, "Best I Ever Had," hit number one on BIllboards Hot Rap chart last week (and number 18 on the Hot 100 chart) making him the biggest new rapper so far this year. URB went back at grabbed the full transcript of our original interview with Drake, taken just a few months before he blew up:
URB: You said your family was from Memphis originally. Have you still got family over there? Do you spend time with them?
Drake: Yeah, I did spend time there when I was younger. My parents were divorced when I was very young so my father went back to Memphis. I was there at a very great time, a very influential time. Around the ages of like 12, 13, 14, 15 even, like right before I started doing DeGrassi, I was there sort of just soaking it all in. It was around the time when Memphis actually had a dope movement, before Kia Shine had that "Krispy" song, they were actually hailing Yo Gotti, Kink, and Skinny Pimp. The artists were just making real hard shit. You know, Ball and G, Three 6 was doing their thing. It was great. It was that real Houston feel where everybody was just riding around to Memphis shit. That's the one thing about the South that I love that I incorporate a lot into my music. It's just that feeling, that excitement when something new drops, just to support an artist. I really drew a lot of influence from being there when I was younger. I like the culture a lot. I mean it was hood, it was hood as fuck, being around Orange Mile and Peppertree apartments. My family's all over Memphis so I've seen a lot of it, but it was a great time to soak that all in. And having contracts in Toronto, Canada, which is very multi-cultural and very safe, it was cool, it gave me two perspectives.
If one thing 2008 proved is that it's OK for pop music to be weird. Santogold and M.I.A. hopping on Jay-Z tracks, and nevermind that Kanye just released a rap album without rapping. Wayne is obviously on his own planet. How do you feel about that transition?
I think it's amazing. I think it's great to see rap fans finally start to appreciate music. Rap is great. Rap is a great form of music. But it is just that, it's a form of music. There are other amazing genres to explore. So for Santogold and M.I.A. to crossover into that world is amazing because, a year ago, we might have listened to M.I.A. and Santogold in the privacy of our own space because people might have thought you were weird if you said, "Yo this is what I listen to in my free time." So now, just to see hip hop fans start to appreciate it is a wonderful thing. It's funny 'cause even being in the studio the other night, I think Killer Mike summed it up best. He was just like, "Rap, at this point, without melody and without something more, [without] a musical composition to it--it's just becoming unimpressive." To rap and rap and rap is only great if you're saying something potent. You have to be a Kanye, you have to be an Andre 3000, you have to be a Jay-Z, because at this point, I think without music behind it, just to rap is getting repetitive. They are those guys that will just be able to rhyme for the rest of their lives because their minds are just so vivid. That's not to say that rap is dead or rap is dying, I don't think so. I don't think hip-hop is going anywhere. I just think that the bar is getting set a little higher and I think that's a great thing. I think it's gonna turn out a lot of great product. Everybody's gonna have their market, like the Soulja Boys and the Gucci Mane's, they'll always have their market because, in the South, Santogold and M.I.A. may not really apply. They can't relate to that stuff. They hear that and they may not appreciate that just yet, maybe they will one day, or maybe they won't at all. Maybe they'll ride with their artists and that's their thing. But on a world level, it's amazing to see hip-hop fans appreciating hip-hop with real music.
As a new artist trying to put yourself out there and establish yourself, how does this changing world inform the decisions you make as an artist?
For me, my writing and my music has always been about self-expression. I had a very interesting process in discovering that it was OK to start doing this hybrid and start exploring my talent a little more. My decisions had nothing to do with 808s and Heartbreak or the fact that people were starting to appreciate M.I.A. My decisions had to do with the fact that I realized I could sing. I realized that i have writing talents outside of 16 bar verses or 80 bar verses or whatever I choose to do. It was really just sort of a discovery for me as far as my creative capabilities, as opposed to moving with the times. I still feel like I'm not doing the type of music that Santogold or any of those artists really do. I think I'm doing a hybrid that's more in my own lane. It's dark, it's evil, it's sexy. Really it's more for women. It's sort of R&Bish more so than abstract, out-the-box type crazy stuff that might take you a minute to sit on it and really comprehend. I think my brand of singing and rapping and the combination that I'm doing is easier to grasp. What I like about it most is that I can only write music with melody when I really draw from life experience. So it always means a lot to me. The songs always mean a lot to me because they're honest. They're what I'm going through at the time. That's when i get inspired to write R&B. The other thing is, from the perspective of the two together, it's just different because I'm still talking that shit that people want to hear. I'm not saying weird things, I'm still being a rapper. I'm still saying ill things that make girls chuckle and make guys go, "Damn, I think that way sometimes." The hardest thing to do is to translate thoughts and have them move from your mind and come out of your mouth and still have the color that they have when you're thinking them in your head. There's a few people in the game that can do that. That's why I've always respected names I just dropped like Andre 3000, a guy like Phonte, a guy like Kanye, or Jay. Jay has tales from his life and from the streets that he can say in a million different ways and it always captures you. My mind just works a certain way and I think people appreciate that. I'm honest. So to get it from here to there and let it flow out to the people, I think that's what they appreciate. It's witty, it's clever, it's enjoyable to listen to. It's not some fake story that you have to be in a dream world to appreciate. You can actually be living your life and say, "Oh shit, that relates to me. I felt that way on Tuesday."
How did the remix to Lykke Li's "Little Bit" come about? Where was the real life inspiration?
[My manager] Oliver sent [the song] to me and said that I should remix it. At first I was thinking about rapping over it, but then as i started to listen to the song I pulled up the words. The writing in that song is phenomenal. I tip my hat to whoever wrote it. The thoughts in that song are exactly what I'm talking about. They're real, human emotions when it comes to love. And me, I'm scared of love. I'm scared to commit to somebody. Especially at this point in my life. So my lyrics and my side of things just really came from that, from having somebody in my life that could be the right person, but I'm not ready to do anything about it right now. So it's like, I love you a little bit, but not enough to make it official, enough to write a song about you and at least let you know that that's how I feel. It was perfect. It worked out perfect for me and I became a huge fan of hers. I listen to the album all the time when I need to just clear my head. I can't wait to actually meet her. We were just talking about her and Peter Bjorn, the gentlemen that produced the record. I'm looking forward to getting a chance to meet everybody. That record was great for me because it's just a little foreshadowing of maybe the direction that I'll choose to go maybe two or three albums down the line. I'm not gonna really go there yet. I still wanna make a classic hip-hop record, a couple classic hip-hop albums, sort of get people accustomed to the fact that I can sing and rap and do all these different genres because if you hit them with that right away they might be taken aback. That's the whole purpose of doing the mixtape, to do it on a level where it's like you can see that I'm clearly experimenting, so don't take it too serious. I'm curious...I'm looking forward to everybody's feedback on the whole thing because I'm rapping and singing and it's not generic songs, it's a map of my life in the last 10 months. So with that being said I'm definitely paying attention to the feedback. I know people say never to do that but I'm paying attention to it. It hasn't been bad up until now so I'm not too worried.
Speaking of feedback, what did your muse think about the "Little Bit" remix?She's scarce with compliments, she's a tough critic. She gave me some kind words, which to me [showed] that it meant something special. For her to recognize it, and I didn't even tell her, was perfect. I delivered my message. That's what life should be about as a musician. That's what it's all about to me anyway. I had influential people in my life, women and people that are around me that are supportive. This whole journey, if you're truly committed to it, is something to document. Some people choose to document it on camera and fill you in on their actual life and tell you what's going on, but I'd rather just let you know through music, metaphorically what's going on in my mind. Because I'm growing, ever since i was on the T.V. show I've been growing, my fans have grown with me. So I'm just hoping that through this project they'll continue to grow with me. Because I've come along way from the type of music i was making, like with Trey Songs' "Replacement Girl," and shooting a video that maybe to a lot of people thought had no substance behind it. I was disappointed because I'm a driven, creative person and it didn't represent me the right way. So through my mistakes and through my triumphs, it's amazing to have people with me.
How do you deal with that when you feel like you've been misrepresented? Especially if it's your first splash on this 106 and Park scale and you feel like they missed your essence.
I'll tell you, I always feel like that was a great song. And at the time, i can't say that it didn't represent me. I've become the person that I am now, the music lover that I am now, the individual that dresses the way I do now, after meeting people like Oliver, and my engineer, 40, and my DJ, Future. After forming these relationships, I've become this person. So I can't ever regret being that person prior to influence from certain individuals. It was me at that time. I won't ever say I regret it. I can look back and say, "Well damn, now that I'm in this position and know this much more, I probably would have done it different." But you can always do that, and if you ever beat yourself up over that you'll drive yourself crazy. I wouldn't say it misrepresented me. It was just a point in my life and I hope nobody ever faults me for it because I'm proud of it. I'm proud of my work. It just shows growth and that's what an artist should do, is grow. If I had another song that sounded exactly like that and shot another video that looked exactly like that, then there would be a problem. Then you could throw the caution flags up like, "OK, this is not somebody to love." But I'm growing, that's what we do. I'm 22 years old.
How did you meet Wayne?
I met Wayne through a friend of mine, J Prince's son, who I met on MySpace actually and we just talked back and forth. He was interested in my music for about about a year and a half, ever since the Trey Songs joint, he reached out. He always pressed Wayne to listen to the music and one day I guess when they had time when they were in Houston he played him about two songs, I think they got through about two-and-a-half songs. I think Wayne called me when I was in the barbershop getting my hair cut. He called me from Jazz's phone so I thought it was Jazz. I picked up and I heard a completely different voice, I knew the voice right away but I didn't wanna believe it so I'm like, "Whatever, man." And he's like, "Yo, this is Weezy," and I'm [sarcastically] like, "Yeah, aight." He's like, "Yo, this is Weezy, can you get on a plane by tomorrow at 8:00am?" And I ended up spending a week out on the road with him.
And with "Ransom," you must've been thrilled to hear him go in like that?Just to see that Wayne was truly excited. And as things kept happening, like at the VMAs, the looks he kept giving me were on some "Yo Drizzy I got us!" That's a powerful statement to start your verse with. When we heard that I remember we were in Atlanta, it was me and my engineer, and we just stopped the verse right after we heard that. I mean whatever he says after that, I know he's gonna kill it, but the fact that he started the verse with my name and said, "I got us," he formed a union with one sentence. I'm sure in five years I'll realize how powerful that verse was. But now, I definitely see it, but we'll realize what it really meant and him spitting his "Money to Blow" verse at the VMAs, he did something great for me which was, just let people know that he sees me as a peer and not as a project or something that he has to really make. He doesn't have to make me. He kinda let people know that I'm already there, he just brought me to the light.
The song sounds like a battle...
I think you can tell from the amount of bars that we spit, it's always sort of this undiscussed competition. But it's a great competition. We're not actually competing. We're just two guys who like to rap and we have a lot of thoughts running through our heads. I usually do my verse first and send it to Wayne, and that excites Wayne and he does his verse. So, he does have the upper hand on me by hearing my verse, but that's why he ends up jumping on a song and being aggressive as he does. I don't send him 16 bar verses that are mediocre. I let him know like "Look, Tune"--I call him Tune--"I'm going in! Like you say all the time, I'm about to go in! I hope you hear what I'm doing." It's always fun to hear what Wayne does afterwards, it's always fun to get that email back. Basically his verse let's me know what he thought of my verse. And every single time it seems like he enjoys the verse and that he enjoys being on songs with me. And that alone is an honor. So when it came to "Ransom," it was out of character for me because "Ransom" is not necessarily something you would hear me doing. When you hear the beat you wouldn't say, "Oh, that's Drake. He gotta rap on that." I think what we do a lot is just pull one another into each other's world. Sometimes i go into Dedication 3 land and Carter 3 land and then sometimes I pull him into So far Gone and Thank Me Later, where we just do abstract different stuff. But he still raps, like we did a song for his new album and it's great. I'm singing and he's rapping, it's different. We recognize each other's talents. I don't know who isn't a Lil Wayne fan, but obviously it goes without saying that I was a Wayne fan before I was Wayne's friend and Wayne's artist. To sit here and describe what an honor it was to go through this process is pointless. I read the comments on the iIternet too and people sort of go back and forth about that debate, you know, "well, who raps better?" and "is Wayne writing his verse?" So it's great, man. It's great to get people talking and that's what we both love to do, just make music that gets people excited and gets people talking. That's our goal.
But, the best feeling is to be on the tour bus and he'll play the record and he'll just be rapping the verses like they're his. He'll be rapping my verses like those are his words. Passionately, he doesn't just say the words. He'll stop what he's doing and look to the sky and flash his ice, or whatever he's wearing, and shake his dreds like he's really passionate about the words I'm saying. I know that he enjoys the verse.
How do you deal with the conflicting views of your growth, from teen TV star to rapper to singer?
I just have to rest comfortably in my head with the theory that there's always going to be people that like and people that don't like. I can't please everybody and therefore if it feels right and if it has a place and it makes sense then I'm gonna do it. I don't sit in the studio and make 20 records a night. One, I don't have that kind of work ethic, as far as writing. Writing does take me time because I put a lot of thought into it. I can't make 15 joints in one night and then maybe one of them is special. I do what makes sense, so if I hear a beat and it inspires me I guarantee you that by the end of that night I'm going to get a record out of that beat that we use somewhere or means something to all of us. I rarely spend time on a record and it becomes a throw away record. Somebody who hears "Ransom" and then Googles me and sees a pictures of me in a jheri curl afro and a wheelchair might bug out for a second. but like i said, we all grow. I was 14, 15 years old and it was the right move for me at the time to be on TV. I did a lot of studying with a lot of acting coaches and I'm grateful for that because I plan to get back into acting as the music picks up. Everything happens for a reason and that show was a great stepping stone; I built a lot of strong relationships at MTV and people know me. But the greatest thing right now is that my fans don't call me "Jimmy" anymore. They don't say, "That's the guy from the Degrassi." They say that's Drake. They may have not have heard all my songs, but they'll find out eventually that I'm doing music is the most important thing. I'm getting a 100,00 plays on MySpace each day, [that] is important too. It's important that I'm getting mixtape orders from Paris and Stockholm as I start to branch out with things like the Lykke Li song. People know me in places that I've never even dreamt of going. And with that being said, I hope that my fans grow with me. We were all young once, you were young too at one point and you enjoyed it, but it's time to move on.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Here is the URB interview from October's finest...enjoy