Aubrey Drake Graham, better known by his stage name Drake, is a Canadian rapper, songwriter, singer, actor, and record producer. At the Billboard Music Awards 2017, Drake broke Adele’s record of 12 awards in a single night by winning 13 awards out of 22 nominations. He has also won three Grammys, two MTV Video Music Awards, three Juno Awards and six American Music Awards. Drake’s first four solo albums have all gone platinum and won various awards. Four of his songs (“Best I Ever Had”, “Jumpman”, “Over,” and “Hold On, We’re Going Home”) have been certified triple platinum in the U.S for combined sales plus streaming units, while Drake’s “Hotline Bling” was certified quintuple platinum with over five million units.
Drake’s mind-boggling success, recognition, and wealth could be anybody’s envy, but it has humble origins, one rife with struggles and striving every day to better himself. Drake’s father is an African-American Catholic and his mother is a white Jew from Canada. Drake’s parents divorced when he was only five, with his mother taking full responsibility of raising him. Speaking about his personal identity, Drake says, “At the end of the day, I consider myself a black man because I’m more immersed in black culture than any other. Being Jewish is kind of a cool twist. It makes me unique.”
Drake’s mother ensured a Jewish upbringing for him, but Drake always felt like an outsider at his largely all-white school, Forest Hill Collegiate Institute. Being a black Jew made him sort of an amusement at the school where nobody really understood him and his background. But as they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And, Drake was a born champion, who knew hard work and his steely resolve would bring him the success he dreams of. The adverse circumstances just made him a lot stronger.
Acting Career: Degrassi
Drake started his career as an actor, starring as Jimmy Brooks, sometimes dubbed as “Wheelchair Jimmy,” on the teen-drama television series Degrassi: The Next Generation. He played the role for seven years and earned a Young Artist Award in 2002 along with other awards. The show quickly developed a cult following, making him a celebrity in Canada but still anonymous in the U.S. While he continued his acting endeavors, he began exploring the world of hip hop.
Still part of the Degrassi cast, Drake released his debut album Room for Improvement. The album achieved modest sales of around 6000 copies. Determined to pursue a career as a rapper, a year later, he followed up with another album Comeback Season. This proved to be his breakthrough album. It contained Drake’s first hit single and music video, “Replacement Girl.” The song caught the attention of Jas Prince, the son of Rap-A-Lot Records’ founder James Prince, who decided to play the song to Lil Wayne.
In 2008, disaster struck when the producers of Degrassi overhauled the cast and eliminated Drake’s character. For Drake, his albums did not bring in sufficient money and acting was his primary source of income. This brought him to the verge of financial turmoil where he began considering a day job. But the fire inside him to become a world-class rapper continued to burn.
The Road to Fame and Fortune
Early in 2008, after being cut from Degrassi, Drake received a phone call from Lil Wayne, who asked him to board a flight that night to Houston and join his Carter III tour. After touring and singing with Lil Wayne, Drake released his third album, So far Gone, in 2009. This album featured the amazing “Best I Ever Had” song, which reached number 2 in Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles Chart. The album also had “Successful,” collaboration with Trey Songz and Wayne, which went gold and made the Rolling Stone’s list, “25 Best Songs of 2009.”
This was the beginning of Drake’s road to fame as a rapper, which triggered a bidding war for his signature. To no one’s surprise, Drake signed a record deal with Young Money Entertainment in mid-2009.
Soon after, Drake met yet another setback when he tumbled on stage during America’s Most Wanted Tour in July 2009. The fall resulted in a torn anterior cruciate ligament and required surgery.
The fall led to a serious physical injury; his spirit, however, only became stronger. In 2010, Drake returned with his new and first studio album, “Thank me later”. The album went platinum and topped both the American and Canadian charts. In 2011, Drake followed up with his second studio album, “Take Care,” which got him the 2013 Grammy award for Best Rap Album and multiple other honors.
Greg Kot’s review in the Chicago Tribune summed up Drake’s unique appeal perfectly: “Drake, the melancholy hustler with a conscience, is back drunk-dialing former girlfriends and mourning the ones who got away.” -Source: Biography
It wasn’t just that Drake had a childhood full of challenges. Even when he was topping the charts and everything seemed to be going well for him, he had to deal with a number of issues, some of his own making. He had an ugly feud with Chris Brown for their common love interest, Rihanna. In the summer of 2012, the violence between the two resulted in other people getting caught in the fight and subsequent lawsuits filed against the two stars. Tony Parker, the professional basketball player, a male model, and two women filed these lawsuits.
The same year, Drake settled another lawsuit with his former girlfriend who sought credit for co-writing the track “Marvin’s Room”. To add to his woes, Drake was also sued by the estate of Jimmy Smith, the jazz musician, and Rappin 4-Tay.
Besides the lawsuits, Drake also engaged in a verbal battle with Tyga and got into a diss war with Meek Mill, who alleged that Drake used a ghostwriter for a track they collaborated on. Drake responded with his music, recording “Charged up” and “Back to back” tracks within a week, both aimed at Mill.
In 2016, he got into another diss war and this time it was with Joe Budden.
Besides the lawsuits and the diss wars, Internet rumors also dogged the rapper about his beef with Kanye West, Jay Z, and other rappers.
Perseverance Leading to Success
Despite the troubled childhood, innumerable lawsuits, the diss wars, and the rumor mills working overtime, Drake persevered. His passion for rapping did not falter, and he followed up with another album, “Views”. Views remained for 13 non-consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard, thus becoming an instant success. It also featured the “Hotline Bling” track, which earned Drake two Grammy Awards for Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung performance in early 2017.
And this brings us to his latest achievement—a record breaking collection of 13 awards in a single night. It is clear that he remained true to his passion despite the tough challenges. He persisted, preserved, and aspired for better and more. While some may question his personality or other such affairs, none can disagree about his talent.
Drake’s success story is a model of strive despite setbacks and challenges. How are you striving? Sign up to be notified when the Strive book becomes available.