The life of an up-and-coming hip-hop star isn't all bling and Cristal. Just ask Drake, the Canadian rapper/actor who is the subject of a major-label bidding war. Days after Billboard reported that Universal/Motown was close to signing the young artist, the magazine's Mariel Concepcion broke the news about an apparently authorized album, The Girls Love Drake, appearing on iTunes and other digital music retailers. The alleged illegal release has since been yanked off the services, but don't expect that to cool down the red-hot Drake. His single, "Best I Ever Had," is currently No. 3 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart. The track has inspired nearly a dozen remixes and covers spotlighted on Drake's YouTube channel, including this remix featuring Swizz Beatz. Check it out.
Drake, born Abrey Graham to a black Catholic father and white Jewish mother, grew up in Toronto. He first gained notice as an actor on Degrassi: The Next Generation in 2001. (Another Degrassi alum, rocker Cassie Steele, has an album due later this summer). On the show, Drake portrayed Jimmy Brooks, a student paralyzed by a bullet in a school shooting, but that's as close to real gunplay as the rapper plans to get. "I'll be honest. I'm an actor," he told VIBE's Shanel Odum. "I'm not a thug who decided to be in a movie and play himself. I'm not reppin' a 'hood, I'm not claiming a set, no street shit. I try and keep my lyrics triumphant."
When VIBE caught Drake back in December, the rapper the magazine called "hip hop's next Fresh Prince" said he was close to inking a deal with Interscope, but Billboard reported last week the bidding war was now down to three majors and named Universal Motown and Atlantic Records as possible suitors, with the edge going to Universal since Drake already has an established relationship with Lil Wayne's Universal-affiliated Cash Money/Young Money imprint. Indeed Drake's connection to Lil Wayne is well documented and has already resulted in "I'm Going In," a track featuring Weezy and Young Jeezy. Check it out below.
Like most aspiring young MCs, Drake started spreading the word about his talents via a series of mixtapes, including 2006's Room For Improvement, 2007's Comeback Season, 2008's Heartbreak Drake, and 2009's So Far Gone. While he's largely been an underground phenomenon, Drake has released one official video, "Replacement Girl," a 2007 track featuring Trey Songz. Check it out below.
With "Best I Ever Had" heating up the airwaves, Drake is reportedly in the studio working on Thank Me Later, his official full-length debut. Don't be surprised if it's loaded with guest spots from the likes of Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and Young Jezzy, with whom Drake is rumored to tour with later this year. "The one thing I know is I'm going to make some phenomenal music just because I'm working with people that I've been dying to work with," he recently told MuchMusic. "I think great things are going to come of it."