As one of the 21st century’s most successful music artists and cultural figures, Drake has continually broken records through chart-dominating songs and albums. But how did Aubrey Drake Graham become Drake – the hitmaking rapper, former actor, and entrepreneur with unprecedented influence? This deep dive explores Drake’s origins and multifaceted career.
Childhood and Upbringing
Drake, born Aubrey Drake Graham on October 24, 1986, grew up in Toronto, Canada. He was raised primarily by his mother, Sandi Graham, a teacher, after his parents divorced when he was five. Drake’s father, Dennis Graham, was an African-American musician from Memphis who drummed for Jerry Lee Lewis.
Growing up, Drake attended Forest Hill Collegiate Institute, where he first developed an interest in acting. He also attended Vaughan Road Academy, where he honed his acting skills and became involved in the school’s music program.
From a young age, Drake was surrounded by music and performance. With a mother working as an educator and a father as a professional drummer, the foundations were laid for Drake’s future multi-faceted entertainment career.
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As a teenager, Drake began intensely pursuing acting alongside his growing passion for music. In 2001 at age 15, he landed his breakout role as Jimmy Brooks on the hit Canadian TV series Degrassi: The Next Generation.
On the show, Drake portrayed the character of a talented high school basketball player who becomes physically disabled after a traumatic school shooting. His emotional performance as Jimmy Brooks earned him praise from critics and quickly made him a fan favorite.
Drake appeared in over 100 episodes of Degrassi between 2001-2007. Reprising this signature role helped propel Drake’s acting career within Canada and provided a platform for him to hone his craft as a performer.
Emerging Music Career
While acting on Degrassi, Drake also began cultivating skills as an emerging hip hop artist by releasing mixtapes and one-off singles. In 2006, he released his first mixtape Room for Improvement at age 19, followed by Comeback Season and So Far Gone.
In particular, his third mixtape So Far Gone generated significant buzz in 2009. Songs like “Best I Ever Had” showcased Drake’s talent blending R&B and rap, while lyrics drew from raw, personal experiences.
So Far Gone peaked at #6 on Billboard’s Top Rap Albums chart and was nominated for a Juno Award. This early success marked Drake as an up-and-coming force to watch in the music sphere.
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Drake achieved widespread commercial success and critical praise with his first two chart-topping albums. This catapulted him from a rising artist into one of music’s biggest stars.
2010 Release: Thank Me Later
After signing to Lil Wayne’s Young Money Entertainment label in 2009, Drake released his official debut album Thank Me Later in 2010. Singles “Over” and “Find Your Love” drove the album to #1 on US Billboard charts, achieving platinum status.
Thank Me Later blended R&B and rap with pop melodies through songs about fame, romance, and family. By vulnerably articulating the complexity of relationships, Drake’s lyrical style struck a chord and connected deeply with listeners.
Winning Best New Artist at the Juno Awards and getting nominated for a Grammy, this album propelled Drake into the stratosphere as a force in hip hop and the broader music landscape.
2011 Release: Take Care
Drake’s sophomore album Take Care became one of the most critically successful albums of his career, earning widespread critical acclaim. Standout hit singles included “Headlines,” “Make Me Proud,” “The Motto,” and “Marvins Room.”
By incorporating sublime melodies with lyrics expressing heartbreak and introspection, Take Care highlighted Drake’s artistry and versatility across hip hop and R&B. Guest vocals from rising artists like Rihanna and Nicki Minaj also contributed to the album’s cross-over pop success.
With over 5 million copies sold globally, Drake’s Take Care won him Best Rap Album at the 2013 Grammy Awards and cemented his status as one of music’s most talented young hitmakers.
Developing Musical Style
While his early albums blended genres, Drake continued honing and developing his musical style with subsequent releases at the intersection of rap, R&B and pop.
Hallmarks of Drake’s musicality include soul-infused beats, lyrics exploring vulnerability and connections, silky vocals transitioning between rapped verses and crooned hooks, and heavy use of melodies and synth.
By incorporating diverse stylistic influences like dancehall, house, grime and more, Drake blending traditional hip hop with pop sensibilities. This created an accessible yet genuine sound that resonated widely.
His hitmaking capabilities come from a keen ear for beats and melodies paired with an adeptness for infectious hooks and compelling songwriting reflecting relatable life experiences. As Drake evolves, so too does his genre-melding musical style.
Beyond his first two albums, Drake continued releasing more hit singles and iconic projects:
- 2013: Nothing Was The Same – Features hits “Started from the Bottom” and “Hold On We’re Going Home”
- 2015: If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late – Surprise mixtape-album with “Energy,” “Legend”
- 2016: Views – First #1 album on Billboard charts
- 2018: Scorpion – Double platinum album with hits “In My Feelings” and “God’s Plan”
- 2022: Honestly Nevermind – Showcases house-inspired dance style
Some career highlights:
- Longest streak (431 weeks) of Billboard Hot 100 entries
- Most singles (275) charting on the Hot 100
- First artist to have 10 songs debut at #1 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs
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Though his musical career took off, Drake continued nurturing his passion for acting through sporadic and often more indie-oriented projects.
Even while dedicating time towards music, Drake still found opportunities to revisit his acting roots through cameo television appearances.
In 2008, he reprised his breakout role as Jimmy Brooks in Degrassi Goes Hollywood, a made-for-TV movie. His vulnerable performance depicting life after paralysis highlighted Drake’s skill even with a more somber character.
In 2009, Drake appeared as himself in an episode of Being Erica entitled “What I Am Is What I Am.” Though brief, this spot again proved his acting flexibility.
Expanding beyond television, Drake also played supporting and minor roles in various films where he could hone his acting chops.
In Charlie Bartlett from 2007, Drake played privileged student A/V Jones navigating social drama at an elite private school.
And in 2008 for The Border TV series, Drake appeared in one episode as a prisoner who exchanged criminal evidence for parole.
While ephemeral, these acting stints allowed Drake to exercise different creative muscles and demonstrate his depth on screen. Even as music took centerstage, acting remained an outlet for self-expression.
Capitalizing on his explosive success, Drake leveraged his profile to pursue various business ventures expanding his commercial footprint.
In 2012, Drake founded his OVO record label in partnership with producer Noah “40” Shebib. OVO (October’s Very Own) has since signed prominent artists like PARTYNEXTDOOR and Majid Jordan.
OVO serves both as a vessel for Drake to mentor newcomers while boosting his own music through in-house producers contributing beats and co-signs. Under OVO, artists have released compilation albums and exclusives on Drake’s OVO Sound radio show.
Drake also owns the October’s Very Own (OVO) clothing line established in 2011 which features urban streetwear. Sold through the OVO brick-and-mortar store as well as retailers like Nike and Canada Goose, OVO reflects Drake’s eclectic fashion sense.
Between album merch and limited edition collaborations with brands like Takashi Murakami and Roots Canada, Drake’s creative fashion ventures contribute both cultural caché and revenue.
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Investments and Endorsements
In addition to his own entrepreneurial ventures, Drake holds diverse investment and endorsement portfolios spanning alcohol, tech, sports and beyond:
- Virginia Black Whiskey – Launched premium whiskey company and serves as lead brand ambassador
- Apple Music – Maintains exclusive partnership producing content and serving as a public face
- Nike – Collaborated with Nike subline NOCTA for apparel and limited-release sneakers
- Toronto Raptors – Serves as global ambassador for hometown professional basketball team
- 100 Thieves – Invested in prominent esports organization focused on gaming lifestyle
- Sher Club – Owns private members-only entertainment club in Toronto
Ranging from tech to liquor and beyond, Drake has proven adept at capitalizing on his celebrity to invest strategically across industries both for financial success and cultural visibility.
Achievements and Impact
Over his decorated career, Drake has made history with groundbreaking commercial success and recognition cementing his influence on music and the culture at large.
Awards and Recognition
Among his myriad accolades, Drake has won:
- 4 Grammy Awards
- 27 Billboard Music Awards
- 13 BET Awards
- 6 Juno Awards
- 4 MTV Video Music Awards
- Artist of the Decade (Billboard, 2021)
- Most Billboard Music Awards of any artist
- Most BET Awards nominations ever
- First rapper inducted into Songwriters Hall of Fame
With hardware ranging from Grammys to Junos, Drake’s trophy case reflects his rare versatile artistry as both a rap juggernaut and pop hitmaker appealing to diverse audiences.
Chart Success and Records
As one of music’s most-streamed artists today, Drake has made history through albums and singles dominating charts:
- Achieved 9 #1 albums
- Holds record for most Hot 100 Top 10 hits among soloists
- First artist to have 7 songs simultaneously chart on Hot 100
- Most RIAA digital single certifications
Beyond awards and accolades, Drake’s longevity and record-breaking statistics on Billboard and beyond quantify his meteoric success. His music has resonated widely through cultural moments and personal memories soundtracking fans’ lives.
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Influence and Legacy
With exceptional commercial success matched by reverberating cultural influence, Drake has left an indelible impact as both a versatile hitmaker and visionary rap artist.
By bridging hip hop and pop while amplifying vulnerability as a representation of confident modern manhood, Drake redefined prevailing images of masculinity in rap and notions of success. In the process, his candid artistry has shaped tastes and trends across the music industry.
From elevating Toronto’s profile internationally to mentoring artists as one of Epic Records’ biggest acts, Drake’s creative vision and business savvy have bolstered his city and label. Meanwhile his ‘Yolo’ mantra encapsulated millennial attitudes.
Love or hate his music, Drake’s prolific output matched with entrepreneurial ambition have made him a cultural and commercial force still evolving in real-time.
From Child Actor to Famous Rapper: Drake Has Left His Mark on Music and Culture
From childhood acting beginnings to one of music’s most streamed artists today, Drake’s creativity and vulnerability have connected widely. By expanding his cultural influence through entrepreneurial pursuits, Drake has redefined prevailing success images in hip hop and beyond with his genuine artistry. Though still evolving, Drake’s unprecedented accomplishments have undeniably left a mark on music and culture this century.