Interview by Damien Scott, Complex’s February/March Issue.
The first time we ever spoke, you said that you were more in tune with R&B artists than the current new guys rapping.
Drake: When you’re coming up, and you’re in competition with somebody, it’s always hard to have a friendship. I think Cudi and I are realizing that we don’t threaten each other. It’s ended up being one of the greatest industry friendships I have.
Around the time that Kanye directed “Best I Ever Had,” it seemed like there was strife between your camp and Cudi’s camp because Kanye was so enamored of you while Cudi’s project was being worked on.
Drake: I wasn’t aware of that. Even so, I could understand. If Wayne were to be enamored—which is a great word—of another young artist, I would be like, “Damn, I’m here too!” But at the same time, it happens in more than one situation. It happens with ‘Ye, and I have a great relationship with Jay, and Jay’s got Wale and J. Cole, who’s one of my favorite dudes rapping right now. I’ve happened to have had more success. I made the most money, I have number-one records, those guys don’t have that shit. And it’s just facts, it’s not even my feelings or that I feel I’m more talented. That’s what the game is about, making great music that earns profit. When it comes to my relationship with the new dudes, I’m just excited for them. I get to sit back in a cool position and be like, “Yo, I’m excited to see you do it now because I know what it’s like, it’s gonna be so much fun for you…”
You feel like you’re at the finish line?
Drake: I’m at the starting line. Those guys are at home, putting on their tracksuits, getting ready to make their attack. When J. Cole gets it super-right, I think he’s gonna have a place as a Nas-type character who really stands for hip-hop, but still makes ill records that everybody fucks with.
If J. Cole is Nas, then who are you?
Drake: [Laughs.] I’m the young big homie! (Jay-Z)
Of all your contemporaries, it seems like you want to be famous the most.
Drake: That’s gonna change. When Cole’s sound is the new sound that everybody wants to hear, he’s gonna be like, “I wanna be as big as possible with this shit.” I didn’t jeopardize anything to be in the position I’m in. You’re listening to the shit that I believe in, not some shit I did because I needed to get here. People just happen to embrace my shit. That’s very rare—but I also think the younger generation appreciates that brand of music, so I think it’s possible for one of these guys to emerge and do exactly what I’m doing.
How’s the atmosphere at Young Money now that Wayne is about to go to jail?
Drake: We don’t really talk about it. It’s surreal to me still. I guess on the day that it really happens, I’ll start thinking about what I gotta do. I wanna have a talk with Wayne and ask him what he needs from me.
You and Wayne share an ability to cross over to diverse groups. What do you think it is that attracts polar-opposite groups to enjoy your music? Is it the Young Money affiliation alone?
Drake: I’m not talking about a thousand rounds in a chopper or payin’ 24, 23. It’s just delivery. One of my favorite rappers in the world, Jeezy, is somebody who loves my music. For him to not only co-sign what I’m doing but also to want to make music with me is crazy. Wayne had this conversation with me like, “You’re in a position where you could be a star. Not just a rapper star. A true star.” Me being biracial, me being from Canada but having success in the States, I have all these moments in my life where I’m jumping roof to roof. Black to white. Singing and rapping. My mom’s friends listen to my music and don’t feel weird about it. They feel weird listening to Wayne.
Does anybody in your extended team ever push you to be more…anything, I guess?
Drake: Never. Nobody’s ever come to me and said, “Yo, you need to start rapping about this.” Not Sylvia [Rhone, president of Motown/executive VP of Universal], Wayne, Doug Morris [CEO of Universal]. Nobody’s ever said that to me in my life. I don’t think anybody could ever do that. I talk about my real life. That’s undeniable shit.
Are there other rappers you bounce ideas off of that may give you a line?
Drake: I’ve done it with three people. You don’t want to have clowns in the studio being like, “You should do it like this!” That shit’ll get annoying. But when you have a valid opinion around, it takes a lot of the pressure off.
Is one of those “valid opinions” from a rapper named Nickelus F.?
Drake: Not really. Me and F worked together at a younger stage in my life, but I can’t really say that I all-the-way utilized Nickelus for anything on So Far Gone. F’s one of the most gifted people I know at finding flows. I like to write for myself, though. He’s helped me before, just not on a consistent basis. But yeah, F is dope.
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