Back in 2008 I was blazing ‘Ransom’ on my 1xtra show. A year later I caught up with Drake for his first ever UK interview – before the videos, before the hype, before the success. Drake was supposed to pass through my 1xtra show but he got caught up at a recording session with Rihanna, so I met with him the following morning in Knightsbridge where he was staying. I did the interview in Hyde Park because it was a Saturday morning and there was absolutely no pressure as no one knew him at the time. It was a classic interview and although I’ve interviewed Drake several times since then, it’s been a while since we last connected.
7 years later I get the call. This is the next episode, this is more talk with Drake…
When we hooked up years ago, you were supposed to come on the show, it didn’t happen but we connected the day after and did a legendary interview in Hyde Park. I said it felt like you’re gonna make history.
It’s been a while, that’s kinda how we ended up here. When I got here [London], I was just like in my room, just tryna find my lineage of coming to London and just trying to figure out where it all started. And I just watched that Hyde Park interview and I’m watching this kid, it’s me but to me it’s just a kid that’s just trying to talk, trying to answer questions in the best way possible. Just the fact that we were just walking around, just me, you, a microphone and a camera. I was like “man I should hit Semtex up, man we should talk again”. I feel like that was a good conversation, we covered a wide spectrum of things and I think it’s been a long time since somebody’s been able to sit down and do that with me, and that’s how we’re here.
How’s it feel to go from doing mixtapes, So Far Gone was the mixtape that really broke, before that Lil Wayne mentioned you in an interview with me, and I started following you and it’s just grown. From there you’ve been non-stop, its crazy…
Yeah that was an amazing time for all of us… still doing it with the same people. It was just… our landmark for that project is 15 Fort York, which was “40” and Oliver’s apartment and we really started that project there. Then it moved to the Beverly Hills Hotel in LA, when we were first just getting around Wayne, I know Wayne mentioned me in the interview, but the real turning point for me was when Wayne went on stage at the MTV awards and rapped one of the verses from ‘Money To Blow’. Instead of doing his own verse he just impromptu rapped one of my verses. And at that time, people are like, people from back home who really didn’t….. I mean it was just a tough thing to believe like, “I know he says he’s over there but is he gonna come home with a Lil Wayne record, is this gonna really happen” at that time people were like “ok he just rapped Drakes song, if he gets a Wayne record this is outta here”.
That was when I was able to come back off those trips with Ransom. I went back home with Ransom, which was the first time I had ever got a Lil Wayne verse. From there I had a bunch of songs that I had recorded at the studio called Hot Beats and Wayne just got on all of them like ‘Stunt Hard’ and ‘Forever’ was one of them, early early. Then we started crafting that first project and using the input of two people who again I still work with to this day and my music wouldn’t be what it is without them, that’s Oliver and ‘40’ – you know it’s funny cos we’re sitting here talking and they’re back in Toronto executive producing ‘More Life’. Oliver’s executive producing it and ‘40’ is obviously always involved, but kinda just a full circle moment for us, cos Oliver had so much input on ‘So Far Gone’ so I was like “man it would be nice to do something with me and you again”, so I gave him that task and he’s at home piecing it together. So yes it was a great start and from there it just became a wild journey that I guess we’ll talk about.
A lot to talk about – ‘More Talk’…
Since we’re right at the beginning, I was in Amsterdam with Lil Wayne….and he tells me – Yo he’s been writing on ‘Detox’ that was like the mythical album, you gotta be about your business to be involved in that, or to be in the studio. How did you end up from doing a tv show to working with Dr Dre, writing for him on Detox? It’s taking it back…
Its taking it back, I’m not usually that good with the ‘taking it back moments’ but I actually remember this one vividly. But yeah, I was on the show and while I was on the show, I started getting less and less character time, because of the fact that everybody was taking a notice to just the fact that I was more focused on music. And at the time I actually had a studio that was right by the film studio for Degrassi, so I ended up working out a deal with the after hours staff where I would leave work, go home get my stuff – Degrassi was all the way in the east end, which is Scarborough that’s like an area of our city. I’d go home all the way back to the city, get my stuff, come back to the studio, I would record and around 4/5am I would sneak back into Degrassi, they’d let me in and I would go to sleep in my dressing room. Eventually they found out what I was doing and they got really upset. During that time I was crafting all these songs, and I had a song that Omen produced – it was me and Mickey Factz and somebody else was on it I think. So Dre had heard the song and he had hit me like, “man I need proof that you wrote this” (laughs), so I had to fax him the lyrics of the song, I had to send him a fax message, from my moms fax machine in her bedroom I sent him a fax.
You know at that time, Detox was going on, it was more like he had just a camp of people, I guess churning out ideas and just trying to spark something. I was flown out to record at Record One, which is a legendary studio. Yeah I was in there for a while, I did a lot of work, me and ‘40’, always brought ‘40’ with me, that was like a stipulation in my career, I wouldn’t move without ‘40’, so brought ’40’. Got to meet a lot of great people, obviously got to work with Dre, and it kinda all came to an end, when I.. Dre brought me into his office and said “Man you’re doing really good work” and he gave me a $10,000 cheque, and it was the most money I’d ever had in my life and at the time I was in a relationship. So I got the money and I called my girl, and I flew my girl down to L.A and was like “we can get a hotel this is crazy”, it was just a joyous moment for me. And I had missed studio or I had done something wrong, I had let my mind deviate from work and I had missed something, and next thing I know I was sent home and that was kind of it. It was a huge life lesson for me and I still have that… Actually when Drake came out at the Forum, I brought him the $10,000 cheque cos I had saved the actual hard copy of it, even though I got the money for it, they let me keep a copy of the cheque.
So yeah that was kinda my dealings with that very early on, and I had heard rumblings, like oh all these people are here and I had met Snoop, and I kinda wrote this song, that ‘40’ has somewhere for Dre and Snoop. We listened to it not too long, couple years ago, its kinda hard. But yeah it was a great experience, a great learning experience for me and ‘40’, it brought us closer and it just taught us about how this shit really works and I think that set us on our own path.
So lets fast forward to 2015/2016, VIEWS one of the most successful albums, the tour you did in America was the most successful tours. How do you feel about what you achieved with VIEWS and the reaction? It’s a very pivotal point for you, going from writing for Dre and being on a TV show all the way up to …
Yeah I mean, it was one of those moments in my career, where the album started to build and build and build and you know when anticipation starts to build, it can either result in massive failure or massive success. Obviously somebody’s watching over us and it resulted in massive success for us and it was also just an opportunity for me to really take a lot of risks that I felt I was ready to take at that moment. And yeah, I mean I was obviously very proud of it from the title to the cover, to just the styles of music that I felt we introduced almost as a package. It kinda started with ‘Work’ because ‘Work’ came out before my album, and then progressed into ‘One Dance’, ‘Controlla’, ‘Too Good’. But just the style of music that was making me happy at the time, because to be completely honest with you I was having trouble figuring myself out in rap at that time I was a very defensive individual just coming off the situations that I’d come off of. I was having trouble trying to make rap music where I was able to peel back the layers and every time I’d make a song – ’40’ is always really bluntly honest with me and was like “Man you really sound like aggressive and defensive” – and I was just trying to figure out why and I realised it was just a reaction to my previous situation that had kinda happened before that.
Whether people want to admit or not, the influence that it’s had on music, I feel is very evident, whether people don’t wanna say it.
So there was a time where I actually thought about taking the rap off of VIEWS and just making it an album full of music that made me happy with melody. But obviously I know why I’m here, I know who my core fanbase is, and so towards the end of the album, I tried to execute it as best as I could, on the rap end. You know I still listen to the bars and I know exactly where I was at and they are great to me, and they are time markers to me, but yeah, I guess we’ll get into ‘More Life’ after and how that situation progressed. But yeah VIEWS for us was, it was surreal, the numbers and all the things we were able to achieve, it was an incredible time for us. And of course in true OVO fashion we didn’t celebrate it all, we just kinda went on to working on the next thing. That was kinda it, it was just another album to us, it wasn’t my biggest album by any means, it wasn’t the one to me, it was just another chapter in the story but I’m very grateful for the people who enjoyed it and supported it. Whether people want to admit or not, the influence that it’s had on music, I feel is very evident, whether people don’t wanna say it.
Did you know what you were doing when you made ‘One Dance’, Kyla’s on there, Wizkid is on there, it’s a truly global records, because I think very few people have done what you’ve done with mixing everything with the US, the UK and African sounds. Did you know how big it was going to be, it was the song of the year.
It really all started with the Kyla record, it was just a song that I had played, we Dj at our own parties just because …
How did you discover it though, that’s like a UK underground Funky Sound…
I mean I just listen to a lot of music and I have friends with great taste in music, so I’ve been personally putting that song in my own playlist and DJ set for like four/five years now, I know it’s older than that, even just playing it and having people… What really set something off for me was having people in America come up to me and be like “Yo what was that song you just played?” and I would be like “man people really like that song but they don’t know it”. So I just, my brain started working of like how could I utilise a bit of it, there’s so many good pieces. So I introduced the concept to ‘85’ and I said to him like “man if we could make a beat, I don’t wanna do a cover I wanna write a whole new song, I just want Kyla to serve as the bridge or as a bridge to the next verse, or as a bridge to the next hook”, and he was like “alright alright cool”.
I had the beat for a while, I was just trying to figure it all out, and at that time I had met Wizkid through Skepta, cos we did a remix of one of Wizkid’s songs together and it just kinda all really fell into place naturally. And when it was all said and done, it was one of those moments much like ‘Hotline Bling’, I just didn’t really know how people were gonna feel about it, and that was part of the reason why I dropped ‘Pop Style’ along with it, cos I was kinda almost nervous like man I don’t know, this is just so different, let me just make sure I drop a rap record, so people just know I’m still on my shit. And I remember Boi1da had walked into the studio one night and he had heard ‘One Dance’ and he just looked at me and he’s like “man that’s gonna be the biggest song of your career to date” and I was like “c’mon man it’s like, that’s a lot to say, we hope it does well”. And yeah he was right, and it was just the perfect marriage of a lot of things, so many thank you’s to Kyla for being so supportive, she came out to South Africa and shot a movie with us for this song, and you know of course Wizkid doing his thing, and yeah just the entire UK for supporting it and the world for being open to listening to it.
I love that tempo, I love that cadence, those melodies, that’s the music that makes me happy in life, so it was great to just be able to just make something like that and shine light on a song from the UK that deserves it, because that’s truly a classic song.
With ‘Pop style’ what happened with that, because when I got it originally it was Jay-Z and Kanye on it and they kinda weren’t on it?
Yeah, I was dealing directly with Ye and that’s the version that he sent me and that was what we talked about and he was like “man you know this is like ‘Pop Style’ featuring The Throne, this is huge” and I was excited obviously anybody would be excited to see them link back up. And then I didn’t know what I was gonna hear. So when I heard Jay had two bars, I was like alright it is what it is, it’s cool I like that, it’s a little intro and Kanye goes off. And then you know I’m not really sure the details between how that conversation was miscommunicated or what they were going through at that time, or what anybody felt towards me or whatever it was, I’m not really sure but next thing I knew it just became a bit of an issue. And you know from there I don’t waste too much time, so I just was like alright cool I’ll finish it, I can rap as good as anybody else, so I’ll just go finish this song and put forth my own version cos I don’t really like… you know no one can dangle anything over my head in this business, I don’t play that. So it just needed to be done and I did it myself and yeah both versions exist, so when Kanye comes out to do it at the shows it goes crazy. I know he was really upset cos at that time we were working together pretty heavy and he really wanted to be on the record but you know…
I’m not really sure what he’s referring to half the time, cos in the same breath, I went from being… like working on a project with him, to him sorta publicly shitting on me.
On the Pablo tour, he said a lot of things that are well documented but he said, before the last show, he was talking about how he was sick of not being able to do certain things everyone should come together and just make music. Is it digital politics now that prevents things from happening?
I don’t know, I think everybody has their own little things going on, I’m not really sure what he’s referring to half the time, cos in the same breath, I went from being… like working on a project with him, to him sorta publicly shitting on me and DJ Khaled for being on the radio too much. But yeah I’m not really sure, everybody’s got their own thing going on. Again me when I hear that, I just distance myself from it you know, alright if that’s what it is I don’t really even understand the point you’re trying to make but whatever it is that you’re going through, I accept it, I don’t respect it at all. You know cos I feel like me and Khaled are just good people, I’m not sure why we’re the target of your choice that you made that night. And yeah I accept what you’re going through, and I just go and continue working on my own thing. You know the more and more this progresses, the more and more I just feel like keeping to myself, cos its just so unpredictable, you never know which way people are gonna go. I mean streaming is the new record business, so yeah I guess you could call it digital politics, that’s kinda a good name for a song, I might have to do that when I get upstairs.
So with ‘Childs Play’ another banger, there’s a line on there where you say why you acting light? What does that mean?
Oh you mean “I’m acting like I’m light skin”, that line (laughs), that’s just sorta something people… that’s like very an American thing people say like ‘ah man’ you’re being light-skinned”, I guess they say it’s like ‘emotional’ you know. I just think it’s a ridiculous stereotype, but I was just kinda playing on the irony of it, cos I’m actually light skinned so it made me laugh so I said it. But yeah it’s just a silly stereotype in black American culture, that light-skinned guys are this way or that way, so that was just a little joke.
When did you first experience racism, you’re coming from a dual heritage, your fathers black, your mothers white, it puts you in a predicament, when was the first time you really noticed you get it from both sides, or one side or the other?
Man you know, I’ve really been grateful in my life to be born in Canada and just the journey that I had growing up was so… it was just a very accepting journey. I always had friends from all different backgrounds, from different walks of life, we all get along, I never really notice colour, religion, we don’t live like that. There’s really not that much segregation in Canada, and especially in Toronto, it’s like a cultural mosaic. And I know I’ve said that time and time again, but it truly is, it’s made up of so many beautiful people from beautiful places and you get to actually learn and you don’t ever develop hate. You know, the first time I really experienced it, was when I got famous and went to America and people would challenge me, like I don’t understand how it works or like “your Canadian, you’ll never understand, like the Black American struggle, or you’ll never under…..” That was the first time I really got challenged, and it was by people I had met from America that were like even close to me at the time.
I feel almost like alienated or you’re tryna purposely alienate me by making me win rap awards, or either just pacify me by handing me something, putting me in that category, cos it’s the only place you can figure out where to put me.
You know, if I ever feel anything or if I ever feel like an outsider, it’s usually because I’m not American to be honest with you, that’s when I feel like people are against me or they feel like I’m not part of the…. I guess it’s got something to do with the fact that I have quite an eclectic make up, I am mixed, I am Jewish. Yeah but I feel like, at the end of the day when it comes to everything else I’m Black. I am referred to as a Black artist, last night at that Awards show, I’m a Black artist. I’m apparently a ‘rapper’ even though ‘Hotline Bling’ is not a rap song. The only category that they can manage to fit me in is a ‘rap’ category, maybe because I’ve rapped in the past, or because I’m Black, I can’t figure out why. Just like I can’t figure out why ‘One Dance’ wasn’t nominated, maybe because they can’t… I mean, well it’s just there’s pop obligations that they have and I fluked out, I fluked out and got one of the biggest songs of the year that is a pop song and I’m proud of that, you know. I love the rap world, I love the rap community, but you’re right I write pop songs for a reason, I wanna be like Michael Jackson, I wanna be like artists that I looked up to, those are pop songs but I never get any credit to that.
And shout out… and by the way I’m speaking to you as a winner from last night, I won two awards last night, but I don’t even want them, cos it feels weird for some reason, it doesn’t feel right to me. I feel almost like alienated or you’re tryna purposely alienate me by making me win rap awards, or either just pacify me by handing me something, putting me in that category, cos it’s the only place you can figure out where to put me. And remember they don’t decide the winners, but they do decide the nominations so they have to play it politically. And shout out to Chance, for last night, like I said I’m speaking from a winners point of view and I’m so happy for him, I’m not talking about.. I’m not angry about how last night worked out. But when you ask me like where, like do I feel, like racism, or do I feel it the same as everyone else, yeah I feel it, I notice it going on in it’s own places. But thankfully I get to be around the greatest group of people, my friends are from all over the place, they like Lebanese, they’re.. I’m Jewish, most of my friends are from the Islands of Jamaica, English, so I mean, we just don’t really notice it like that until I start talking about the music business.
Yeah it’s a really tough time in the world and again that statement has been said over and over again and I think we know it’s a tough time and I’m …
How did it feel to be on stage in Manchester when the Grammy’s were going on, you stuck to the tour..
Yeah I mean I did it because that at the end of the day is what matters to me that’s real life you know. I was pitched by the Grammy’s to cancel those two shows and fly and go sit in the audience to lose because they don’t air the other rap awards on TV. So I would have left 30,000 people hanging to sit there and just be there for their own ratings you know. The worst part is I expressed myself, like man I’m really thankful I was at those shows in Manchester cos those were two of the strongest shows that we’ve had so far. I texted somebody from the Grammys and was like I’m really glad I stayed behind, I really don’t wanna have this conversation about coming out there again and I got a text back that said ‘Blame It On Donald Trump’ – and I’m not gonna say who it is that I’m texting but this is like the institution, we’ve been conditioned to think that this it the true award for our accomplishments, for our music. By the way if you had a night like Chance last night, he deserves it, for his friends, for his family, for his collaborators, its amazing when they champion you. But all I’m saying is, to kids that will be coming up in the future and might now get championed or might not get that moment, that’s OK too. Because you have to realise what institution you’re dealing with. You’re dealing with a bunch of people that are just people at the end of the day and they’re either good people to the core or bad people to the core and we’ll never know. But I mean yeah, I was really glad that I was in Manchester last night, and like I said I’m speaking from the perspective of a winner, I won two awards, it’s just it really put it all in perspective for that thank God that I stayed here and did what I’m supposed to be doing for the people that actually care about my music, you know. Yeah man, that’s just kinda how I feel about that about this given time.
Who’s Quentin Miller?
Quentin Miller – Quentin Miller is a kid that I was introduced to through Boi1da – me and Boi1da were working on a project at the time and I’d said to him “I wanna do a mixtape, I wanna do it quick, I wanna surprise people” and I want him to executive produce it. And we were working, we were going through the motions of building a project and he was like “Yo I got this kid and sometimes I send him beats and he just cooks up ideas” and he’s like “yo his ideas aren’t shit they’re good, they need work but they’re good”. So yeah at the time I was like dope lets collaborate, line it up you know. And yeah I started working with this kid and we ended up doing five songs together in total a few of which were on that project and a few that just made their way out. He was a guy I collaborated on music with and I’m proud to sit in front of you and say that you know.
That is what I do, that is what I’m known for, I go and write for other people, I write my biggest songs, my biggest hits, the massive majority of my catalogue has all been written solely by me.
Meek Mill at the time due to some issue with Nicki whatever, decided to create a narrative that I don’t write my own music because that was what was convenient at the time and he caught wind of it. It’s unfortunate too because Quentin was being managed by Dj Drama and Don Ken who ended up really fucking his shit up because they were just like really messy with the shit, unnecessarily. But he decided to create this narrative that I don’t write my own music. The reason why I never felt like necessarily pressured to sit down and defend myself right away or go do an interview is just because I mean anybody that was in those rooms, that worked on that project, or anybody that’s been in any room with me, period, knows first of all knows that I am one of the best writers period. That is what I do, that is what I’m known for, I go and write for other people, I write my biggest songs, my biggest hits, the massive majority of my catalogue has all been written solely by me, which is a big feat because music is a collaborative process. At that given time with those isolated records, they just wouldn’t be what they were if it wasn’t for me, if it wasn’t for my pen, my contributions to that, and not taking away from him, we did great work together in a very small space. Yeah it really just kind of blossomed into this thing where I became the poster child for ghost writing. Which is a huge conversation now in music and if I was like a evil spirit, if I had a different agenda, I could sit here and tell you how this shit really works. I could sit here and tell you ten, twenty people who are worse than me, that literally take everything as it’s just a verbatim process.
But I’m not like that, when my peers get a record, I’m happy it’s great, doesn’t matter where it comes from, I don’t care. But for me it was a big deal because it just wasn’t the truth, you know but like I said if I have to be the poster child for it, if you choose to after finding out about that situation, discredit my entire catalogue, or my career, you were gonna discredit me anyway so you may as well just go for it. I’ve come to peace with that but yeah I really, when it came to that whole writing situation I never felt the urge to defend myself because if you ask about any of the biggest Drake records ever, I’ve done them all and if you ask about those Quentin Millers sessions I was there, I was working. There would be no 2nd half of ‘Know Yourself’ and the bars wouldn’t be as good if it wasn’t for me, on any of those songs. We sit down and talk about cadences and we talk about which lines to do and that’s just what a collaborative experience is, and if people are that naïve and they think that that doesn’t go on in music, then you’re outta your mind. But because it was me, it was the first chink in my armour, that people were like “oh oh oh we got him!”.
It really made me realise how deep this shit really goes, because there were like these references from our sessions when we’d worked together, no context to those references at all but they existed you know. That taught me a valuable lesson as well, which is just like “man I can’t trust anybody, you can’t leave this studio with nothing”. Like I said it was really DJ Drama that got a call from somebody higher up, at that time, he just didn’t have the backbone to say no to this person and he was like “yo my man’s getting roasted, you gotta give him some ammo, we gotta keep Drake down” and that is when I realised how deep this shit really is. Yeah that whole situation it was what it was and I can sit here now and you can interview Meek and you can ask him if it was worth it and I bet he’ll tell you no!
Like my mind was going a thousand miles a minute, I’m thinking this thing goes so high up that I’m about to see the craziest shit I’ve ever seen.
How did it feel to see it play it out with Meek?
I mean it’s just a pattern in my career. There’s just this one sided switch that happens with people, I don’t know you can ask me about a bunch of people in this interview and you can literally ask me what my problem is with them and I’ll tell you I don’t have one. I watched him say that it was about, posting an album or some show I found out about the day before that I couldn’t get to in time, it’s not about any of that. When somebody makes a decision to say alright ‘everybody’s supporting this guy, maybe I should be the guy to go against him’, or they just have a series of events that gets them aggravated enough to do that, that’s what happens you know and unfortunately on display for the world, that was a terrible impulsive decision because you weren’t ready and in my mind I study the game and not only that but I’m a very calculated thinker and I’m sitting here thinking you’re ready for it. Like my mind was going a thousand miles a minute, I’m thinking this thing goes so high up that I’m about to see the craziest shit I’ve ever seen. I didn’t know who was gonna be on a diss track with him, or what he had ready, I thought that this was like three months in the making and I’m just getting blind sided. And then when I dropped ‘Charged Up’ just to see…. just to kinda see what the preparation level was, I realised, I was like “Wow you’re not ready” this was just emotions about something, I don’t even know what it was. But this, this is just your emotion.
Ok now.. that was just the moment, I remember I was in the studio and I was working on some beat and I knew I had to do something, I knew I had to retaliate, because I realised that he was unprepared and when you realise some ones unprepared you have to strike. I was in the studio and it was some kind of rap beat, I probably would’ve gone like eighty bars on it, and somebody that’s very important to me said to me “listen if you’re gonna do this, this next move, you have to finish this forever and he has to live with this forever, that means he has to hear it all the time, it can’t be some…”
Who said that?
I can’t say, but its great advice though, a true champion said it though its not one of my friends, like a real person that goes to war and wins all the time, like a true champion you know. And that’s when I switched it around, that was like around midnight and this kid walked in the studio for the first time, and he played a beat and the beat was too slow and I told ‘40’ – “Man I like the drums, speed it up like about 15 bpm” and when he sped it up he just sped the whole beat up, he didn’t just speed the whole drums up. And that’s when I heard [hums the beat] and I was like oh man, I was like alright this is it and by 4.30 in the morning, the record was out and that was pretty much it, it was over.
‘Back to Back’ was brutal, line for line you made it a club classic…
You know what the biggest thing was because I don’t have real hatred for him, the key was like… first of all my biggest focus the entire time was I cannot disrespect Nicki Minaj or use Nicki Minaj in any way other than to lift her up, that’s just not in my character. I didn’t go the route of calling him a bunch of terrible names, I just used wit, I just used wit and good writing, ironically enough great writing, to just win that situation. Obviously yeah the beat was perfect because it lived in the club, it didn’t live.. and it wasn’t like you listen to it two times and you dismiss it, nah people have to like.. DJ’s have to take a hit when you’re hosting a party and you can’t play the biggest record of the night because you’re standing there. It hurt and I wanted it to hurt, I really did, because it wasn’t just like.. man I can take a lot of things, a lot of criticism, a lot of negativity, people say terrible things about me and that’s fine. That is just unfortunately this very sad generation that we live in where people get off on bullying people on the internet. So I can take all that but man you really tried to like… and man, you know how good I am at writing music but you really tried to not only spin the entire narrative of my career, but like end my life and take food from my family and really try and end it all and you didn’t even do it through music, you just talked or tweeted, it was like sickening to me. I had to really get revenge on that situation, like I said I respect revenge when its warranted and that was just warranted and it was what it was and it’s not something that I’m proud of because it took just as much of an emotional toll on me, I mean not as much as it did on him, but it took an emotional toll on me, it was just a lot, you always gotta hear about it, even just seeing people get so riled up off negativity. It didn’t feel great, it just was what had to happen at the time.
It hurt and I wanted it to hurt, I really did, because it wasn’t just like.. man I can take a lot of things, a lot of criticism, a lot of negativity, people say terrible things about me and that’s fine.
Yeah I guess that’s just kinda rap is a sport, and finally, I’ve always said the problem with rap is we never have a trophy at the end of the year, or any stats to prove, but finally I had a clear win. That was the only part about it that felt good, ah I finally got to compete when I was doubted and win. That was pretty much the only positive of it, but the rest of it was just all trash man, it was just embarrassing to witness you know. If he had revealed some huge thing, you would have heard a lot more people, like peers of mine chime in. I mean I think every single person that I’ve ever worked with or shared studio time with, knows how hard I work man and to try and discredit me for that, its just crazy, that’s just what I’m known for that’s just what I do.
Jay-Z and Nas, they said some savage things about each other, and it had been brewing for years, back to back there had been a lot of subliminals that was going on. Now they’re friends, now they work together, do you ever think you’ll see a situation like that with yourself and Meek, where time heels old wounds?
Well Jay Z and Nas said some crazy shit about each other, they went really deep and personal, our thing wasn’t that bad. You know that’s just not somebody I ever really wanna be friends with, you know I think Jay-Z has a mutual respect for Nas, I just really don’t have that level of respect for him because of his actions. So I’m not really looking to be friends, or be cordial, for example I have respect for Ross because I have a history with Ross, with Meek I did a lot of things, I put you on your first tour, I flew to Philly to shoot the ‘Amen’ video with you. I was always there, I was always supportive and you just chose to flip. So you know it’s like I have no desire to.. it’s over lets go with life… I mean even out here I don’t perform ‘Back to Back’. Its something that happened, it is what it is and unfortunately for him its part of history, rap history but at the end of the day its really something that’s over and done with and I’m not tryna make any songs or be like boys or any of that shit. I’m good, I’m great, I’m happy with my friends, I’m happy doing my music over here and it doesn’t need to go anywhere from here, because we look stupid if we keep it going but it’s just like yeah. All blessings to Jay and Nas for coming together after all those years and I can’t predict what’s going to happen in the future, but right now nah I’m good – just be over there, I’ll be over here – that’s it.Drake Signs Semtex's Book 'Hip Hop Raised Me' Drake Signs Semtex's Book 'Hip Hop Raised Me' Drake Signs Semtex's Book 'Hip Hop Raised Me'
How did you first hook up with Skepta?
I’ve been a fan of Skepta for a long time. Oliver really linked me and Skepta up and yeah it was just, really really respected his movement, really respected his talent, felt like it he should just be bigger than he was. I honestly, I think that the best rappers in the world are in London, I just think the complexity and the cadences and the way they piece music together. I mean from the Grime scene to now, how Grime has evolved, where you got a guy like Giggs who has a huge club record but you’re still getting bars off. That’s been my formula for life, like OK I’ma do the club shit, but I’m still gonna give you bars. I just really, I really respect a lot of London MC’s and Skepta was just the first guy I really got a chance to build with.
Before that you were shouting out Sneakbo.
Oh yeah, yeah yeah, see I mean I’ve been on it. Even like coming from Toronto our worlds are so similar, that when Brixton and Pecky were beefing we used to watch that and be like yo this is just like home. You know in the way they talk and how .. it reminds us of Toronto. I just used to sit and watch hours of all these different guys and try and learn the inner workings of what was going on. Ah man, who’s Sneakbo’s light skinned bredren, Johnny Gunz remember him, like all those guys, I used to just watch those videos. And then from them, after all the wild videos, I started learning about just all the real G’s. And not to say those guys aren’t talented but just the real foundation of London rap. Skepta was obviously the first guy I linked with and we just, our teams clicked, our vision clicked, he brought the WizKid record to me and we did it.
I think that was also one of the dopest tracks, but I think Skepta did one of his hottest verses, Drizzy, Wizkid, Skepta..
Even just big up to Skepta, because when he brought that to me it really kinda like, I can honestly say I don’t know if my mind would have been as open to a ‘One Dance’ or a ‘Controlla’ if I hadn’t had done that record with Skep. Ok I rapped on that record, or kinda like rap sang on that record, but yo I could get on one of these and this is our music, this is all, we’re all intertwined, afro-beats, Toronto, the Jamaican culture, Dancehall, London, you know. I gotta hail Skep for that, because that was a turning point for me and its funny because I just recorded ‘Hotline Bling’ in a hotel room, right before I recorded that Skepta verse and I did both those in the same night.
But yeah, it was a big thing, and at the time unfortunately Skep’s bredren has passed away Lukey and we just kinda like found solitude in each other, we were just supporting him. From Wireless, to OVO fest, to making the OVO shirts for his boy, it was just important to us, Skep was really important to us.
Then from there, I’ve known Shola Ama for like nine years, ten years, I’ve known her just off a My Space ting, we used to just talk all the time. Just like I was a fan, not like… ‘Imagine’ remix that was my shit, shout out to Craig David too, those were like big influences.
I remember I was at dinner with Shola one night, this is like years, a while back she’s like “yo, I know you know, but do you know about Giggs, do you know about Giggs, do you understand like how many crazy, legendary records Giggs has, how ill he is at rapping” and that was when she played me ‘Talking The Hardest’ for the first time. My mind was just blown and I was like yo these guys are just too good it’s crazy, so I just made it a point to shine light on… as much as I can. That’s what I’m here for, I’m in a really really blessed position, and people try again because of all the bullshit, people try and flip everything on me like “ah man, you’re using, you got Giggs on a record, you’re just using the culture” its like “nah man I’m just showing love bro to these guys, you can ask Giggs, those are big moments for him and me”. I enjoy that, I wanna be remembered in London, in the UK scene, like “Drake rated us man”.
The craziest thing you did on the night of the Brits you came off stage and went straight to the Section Boyz show.
But that’s just like, that’s just something like, Skep was like “I’m going to the Section Boyz show”, and I’d just performed with Ri and I told Ri like ‘Yo I’ma meet up with you after, I’ma roll with Skep”. I was at the Section Boyz show in the same outfit, you know what I’m saying. Yeah those are just really things that are important to me. I love supporting Section, the young gunners, Dave, AJ Tracey… you know.
How did ‘Wanna Know’ come to your attention?
Man it’s a crazy story there’s these I don’t know what the YouTube account is, theres just like this guy that compiles, he’ll be like here’s 50 songs you need to now from Chicago, here’s 50 songs you need to know from Toronto, I usually, I’m always watching the Toronto ones to know who’s got new tunes in our city, cos I always pay attention. And then he did a London one, so I was watching it and honestly I had my phone on my chest and I was falling asleep, I had my headphones in and I was 37,38 minutes in and the Dave song started and I kinda woke up and looked at the screen and it says the title underneath. So I exited out of it and I went on and listened to the song and I was like yo this song is so good, I don’t know who the kid is, I’m praying that he’s a good yout and I’m praying.. cos sometimes these guys get, you never know who you’re showing love to, sometimes these guys get weird on you, you know.
Even at your status?
Even worse in that sense, I have a thing on me where, we’ll talk about that later, but I’ll finish the Dave story first. So I heard this record and I hit Oliver right away, whenever I need to get in touch with anyone right away, I always hit Oliver. So I said yo, this kid from London, you gotta find out about him, cos I really want the beat, I wanna do a remix and so it ends up that Morgan ends up knowing who manages him. So yeah we just put it together like that and then on top of it the cherry on top was just everyone was like “yo that kids just a good good yout, he’s a good kid” and so yeah I just did it, sent it back to him, I played it on OVO Sound radio, we put it up on Apple Music and all that. I was great man, it was just a great moment for all of us.
When I have genuine intentions to always big people up and show love, sometimes it gets twisted
But yeah I mean just to go back to what you were talking about, it’s just like, I feel like sometimes I’m fighting against how big it’s all gotten for me. And when I have genuine intentions to always big people up and show love, sometimes it gets twisted. I think that again, just like the writing thing, there’s another thing that people tend to bring up as a negative about me, like “oh you’re taking from the culture, this that and the third”. It’s really like, that bothers me as well, because people go so far, they reach so far. You know the other day I dropped the song with Giggs, and I’m seeing all this shot on my IG under some random picture, of people being like ‘Ah fuck you, you took this kids flow” like whatever right.
So I’m “what’s happening to me right now?” I’m trying to read and figure out who they’re talking about. I find out who they’re talking about, I go and I find out what song they’re talking about. So I see all these things going on so I go and I find that song and you know I listen to it, ok I see where people could draw this comparison off of the first two lines, whether it be the cadence or the rhyme patterns whatever. I just like I’m just like yo, it’s crazy that people think that after all this time, after all I’ve been through, that I’m type of person to go pree some song that’s on Soundcloud. It doesn’t have two plays, it has play, he has this like cult following, and go and think that I’m gonna take that and make it my own. I’m not stupid, I’m not like a shitty person like that you know. It just, I mean, I think people definitely wanna build me up to be… when they’re in a negative headspace I think anything works for them. By the way, his song is ill, I know he’s going through… I had to learn about him through this situation, so shout out to him, I hope everything works out for me. But for me it’s just like damn when, where does it end.
Isn’t it a case of heavy lies the crown, because you’re at the top of the game…
Of course, and it’s things that you have to .. for example I’m not a reactive person, it’s the first time I’m talking about it, to you and I’m only talking to you cos I wanna talk to you. I really don’t have to talk about it but I like to talk about it. I’m not hiding anything, I wanna be open you know. I’m just not reactive, I don’t feel like I have to fix everything, I know in my soul what I … I sleep well at night, I sleep well with all these things we’re talking about. So I mean, yeah …
How’s it feel to be at the top of the game though?
I dunno, its mixed feelings you know. Sometimes there’s nights where I go into the O2 and see all that love, and I feel like the greatest emotions I’ve ever felt and then there’s nights where I just feel like “man” you know! Sometimes I feel like the most hated, sometimes I still feel like a huge underdog, people just kinda almost are just too scared to give me support or credit, cos they don’t wanna be, cos that’s too like cliché, I don’t wanna support that cos we already know, so lets find the next thing. But I just, listen I really enjoy making music, I make music for all the people that buy all these tickets and come out and party with me every night. I make music for my friends, I make music about real experiences and I just am addicted to it. I don’t like stopping, I go on vacation and I start going nuts, I don’t know what to do with myself. You know it’s just an inspiring time for us and its been that way for eight solid years now.
Why is ‘More Life’ a playlist and it’s not classed as an album?
The style in which it’s being put together is based off of our concept that is OVO Sound Radio, you’ll kinda hear it when you hear the project. I love the way it’s put together by the way, it’s really put together like a seamless listen. Its almost like a radio show, basically I asked myself man what would happen if I did OVO Sound radio but every song was a new Drake song? So that was kinda my idea for it and plus how it’s being released which only that guy knows the answers, but yeah it’ll all kinda like come to fruition.
It’s just more an evolution of the mixtape, it was kinda getting tough to be like “hey I’m dropping a mixtape, but it’s for sale on iTunes”, it’s just kinda like “Oh so that’s you’re album”. I really didn’t want to people to say “that’s your next album”. ‘VIEWS’ was my album, this is something after ‘Views I was just inspired, I wanted to keep the music flowing, I wanna keep people excited, I wanna perform this summer.
With ‘More Life’ you got Giggs on there massive look, Giggs is official out here, he’s one of the realest, he’s lived it and he represents the streets to the fullest out here. So what was it like working with him, when you were putting the joint together?
I mean me and Giggs more just became like friends, Giggs is one of those guys that if he takes a liking to you, you just have to build that vibe with him. He was really into Baka, who’s like one of my best friends who’s on the road with me, but he liked his music, so we would talk about that. I would always big him up on like features, he did the song for Suspect, he did a remix. So I hit him up about that, I would send him videos when we were playing ‘Whippin’ Excursion’ in L.A and people were going crazy. And it just kinda built from there like a real genuine friendship. And then, we kinda got into this thing where it would be like, yo I’ll send you something and then he’d send it back and he’d kill it. And then I was like alright ,alright and every time I got in the studio, I’d be like yo I’ma send this to Giggs. Me and Giggs had like 3 or 4 songs, ones for his project, I got two on ‘More Life’ and then another one just kinda there.
But yeah, we’re also again, competitive rappers in a great way. Like Giggs, his verses are like too catching, too good, and that’s what I pride myself on so we just have fun kinda like compeiting and talking to each other about what bars we enjoy from each other. Yeah that was good, we built a good rapport, it was natural, it wasn’t forced and he’s such a humble, good, like everybody who’s on the road who’s met him has made a point to come to me and be like ‘yo Giggs is like a real G, he’s like a good, pure soul you know” and that’s tough, not a lot of people make a point to tell me that every night when they meet people. So yeah I mean he’s just somebody I support and again he’s somebody I feel should be one of the biggest rappers as big as he can possibly get. So I’m gonna do everything that I can to try and make that happen. He’s doing it all by himself basically.
You got the midas touch, everything you do is popping. Same with OVO it feels like a really real organisation.
We’re a firm, we’re like an ol’ English firm in Britain.
How do you feel like OVO Show its like an appointment to listen. Its almost like mixtapes from back in the day. It’s crazy the impact that you’re having and its truly international. US before has always been the home of hip hop but you guys have opened the doors to the whole world and there’s a shift now in the thinking, and acceptance of music from other countries and I think you guys have played a big part in it…
Yeah I mean OVO Sound Radio was like the first of it’s kind, Future set up the situation for us with Jimmy and Apple. Yeah its just, the OVO Blog, I don’t know if you know the OVO blog we used to run, but that used to be our headquarters and that used to be where we could kinda like share exclusive thoughts, exclusive music with people and it became kind of like a hub to check in with. We haven’t had that in a while because of just how everything is so accessible and it’s all so spread out. And with OVO Sound radio, you have to make an appointment to listen cos you never really know what you’re gonna hear. Its a great feeling and we all gather round and listen, especially when we know we’re playing new music. We all sit there and turn our phones on no matter where we’re at and listen in. It makes it fun again, it just reminds you of those mixtape days, it reminds you of exclusive New York radio rap days or even out here when they break a song on the radio. Its just something that’s fun and something that brings people together. I know now they have a bunch of different people with different shows and its going really well for them but I don’t think anybody has the cache of music to be able to continue to engage people with exclusives.
I feel like that’s the true blessing of OVO sound radio, you know we’ve got so many artists that are always willing to fire something off. If it’s not me, it’s Party, its Roy, its Majid, its DVSN. If not them then it’s just some guys from our city that we want to be known or it’s like people that link us from London. And I like that people hit us up and say ‘Yo I got a new song can you play it on OVO Sound radio’ and it means a lot to get a text like that cos it means wow, you could debut it anywhere you want really and its nice to know that our platform is respected. Me and Ollie always told ourselves yo those episodes have to be collectables man, someone has to put those all together one day and kinda be like yo those are like moments in time’ you know.
Yeah it’s been a really exciting journey, it’s a lot though, it’s every two weeks, we gotta find reasons to keep people listening. So it’s quite a task to take on but people always ask ‘yo why do you so much’ but that’s been one of the things that pushes me to work harder. Cos it’s just like things change so fast these days, I remember when songs used to last forever, people used to drop albums like every four years. Its just we’re in fast fast fast forward, rapid motion now, so to keep people engaged, you gotta keep them engaged, you gotta drop frequently but it’s also has to be music that has longevity. It can just disappear in just two or three weeks or two months, that’s the goal.
I mean I think for the last however many years, my focus has been solely on just trying to be relentless and dominating music and just giving people that moment every summer, every year, every time – he was always there.
But I mean I don’t plan on stopping, this is my life this is why I’m on this earth, and yeah I just wanna keep going, I think have a lot more to offer the world, I’m definitely excited to start acting again, I just gotta figure out what the right beginning is for me. But yeah I just wanna keep going man, I enjoy being Drake, everything that comes with it on both sides, I just enjoy my life, I’m a happy person you know.