In 2017, Drake is one of the biggest stars in the world, and at age thirty, he’s already a sixteen-year strong entertainment industry veteran. He won Canada’s heart as a child star while acting on Degrassi: The Next Generation in the early 2000s then proceeded to reinvent himself as an all-singing, all-rapping threat. Since the release of his early mixtapes in the late 2000s, Drake’s conquered radio charts, record sales, streaming numbers, and stadiums across the globe, changing the sound of hip-hop and RnB in the process.
Over the last five or six years, however, Drake has also been proving his entertainment chops online, in particular via social media, where he’s come into his own as a marketing genius. The flair he’s showed as an actor, recording artist, and performer comes through loud and clear in how he handles his online activities. When twitter kicked off, he made the platform light up, before doing the same on Instagram. And as he rolls out his projects, and the projects of his friends and collaborators, he consistently shows a shift for manipulating the culture of the internet to keep himself scoring headlines everywhere. He’s a high-engagement meme lord with the hooks and grooves to match, and his impact and influence are undeniable.
On Friday the 3rd and Saturday the 4th of November, Drake returns to New Zealand for the first time in two years to bring his Boy Meets World stage show to Auckland’s Spark Arena. While tickets to his Friday show are sold out, you can still purchase tickets to Saturday’s show here. In honor of Drake’s impending return, we took a look at how he’s used social media and memes to amplify his fame and success.
By 2011, most of us already had a sense that Drake was a star on the rise, but we didn’t quite know how much of a tastemaker he was going to become. That all changed when He tweeted out music from a then little-known and mysterious artist called The Weeknd. The response was rapturous, and people quickly started looking at Drake for new artist tips. At the time, The Weekend’s grayscale late-night R&B aesthetic fit perfectly with Drake’s forlorn balcony raps, and together, they reached new heights, culminating in a series of collaborations across his 2011 opus Take Care.
“Bring your love baby I could bring my shame.” – The Weeknd http://bit.ly/dLGnts
— Drizzy (@Drake) March 7, 2011
— XO (@XOnews_) August 8, 2017
Y.O.L.O (You Only Live Once)
When Drake was in promotion mode for Take Care, he teamed up with Lil Wayne and Tyga to record a Bay Area-styled hyphy rap cut called ‘The Motto.’ A key part of the chorus was the line “You only live once: that’s the motto… Y.O.L.O.” Drake openly acknowledges that Rick Ross put him onto Y.O.L.O and at one point they were going to record a split mixtape under that title. Thanks to Drake’s juice, and a jumped-up music video featuring cameos from Bay Area rap legends E40 and Mistah F.A.B, Y.O.L.O quickly entered the international cultural lexicon. The other day I saw a cafe blackboard with “You need coffee, cause Y.O.L.O,” written on it. Drake and Y.O.LO are inextricably intertwined.
@rickyrozay put me up on YOLO…pay homage.
— Drizzy (@Drake) November 3, 2011
In 2014, Drake made an important statement; his fourth studio album would be titled Views From The 6. Although it didn’t actually arrive until the 29th of April 2016, in the intervening time, The 6 took on a life of its own. As those familiar will know, 416 is the telephone area code for Toronto. Canadians, much like New Zealanders, love to shorten a phrase. In Drake’s hands, 416 became The 6, and as he promoted it as the new nickname for Toronto, he took his connection with his hometown’s international profile to increasingly higher levels. These days, they feel inseparable. You can’t have Drake without The 6, and vice versa.
My album title is VIEWS FROM THE 6. The 6 is Toronto. Rih is a great girl who I know is about to kill this tour with Eminem. It’s all love!!
— Drizzy (@Drake) August 6, 2014
THE OVO LINT ROLLER
Say what you want about Drake, but his outfits almost always look great, and he’s a master of creating a moment out of little touches. In 2014, Drizzy sat courtside while the Toronto Raptors were playing the Brooklyn Nets. In a stroke of genius, he spent the game obsessively grooming his outfit with a lint roller. Footage from the game became a .gif, and the internet went wild. In a stroke of further genius, OVO, the Toronto Raptors, and Procter & Gamble’s dryer sheets imprint teamed up to create and sell an OFFICIAL DRAKE LINT ROLLER. Not only was Drake in on the joke, he was scoring headlines across the internet. That year one of the lint rollers went for $55,100 on eBay.
What a time to be alive indeed. Halfway through 2015, Meek Mill kicked off with a series of tweets accusing Drake of using ghostwriters. Not long after, HOT97 Radio DJ Funkmaster Flex dropped a reference track for Drake’s song ‘10 Bands,’ allegedly written by Atlanta rapper Quentin Miller. Drake followed up by dropping two cutting diss tracks in a row ‘Charged Up,’ and ‘Back To Back.’ At the time, Meek was on tour with his ex, Nicki Minaj. By the time he responded with ‘Wanna Know,’ the internet meme machine was in full swing. The savagery culminated in Drake performing ‘Back To Back’ at OVO Fest in front of a slideshow of the best memes. Later on Instagram, he was seen laughing at his phone with Kanye West, and Philadelphia’s hometown hero Will Smith. The inference was strong. Once again, the internet went wild.
Stop comparing drake to me too…. He don’t write his own raps! That’s why he ain’t tweet my album because we found out! 😁
— Meek Mill (@MeekMill) July 22, 2015
HOTLINE BLING, AND THAT MUSIC VIDEO
In a lot of ways, Hotline Bling is peak-meme Drake. Following in the footsteps of his idol Sade, and oddball rap crooner DRAM, Drake and his production team re-interpolated American R&B singer Timmy Thomas’ 1972 civil rights anthem into ‘Hotline Bling,’ arguably Drake’s catchiest hit. The groove and melody was infectious, and the lyrical were all tweetables. For the video, they teamed up with legendary hip-hop/dancehall music video auteur Director X. Drizzy donned a luxurious turtleneck, and flaunted some dad-ready dance moves alongside choreographer Tanisha Scott in a set that paid homage to legendary American artist James Turrell. Every scene was .gif or meme-ready, and as the song blasted into the highest heights of commercial radio, ‘Hotline Bling’s imagery was equally inescapable. Drake was everywhere.
Who did this 😭😭😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/CNLiPelbB7
— Complex (@Complex) October 20, 2015
— 6god (@DRAKEDANClNG) October 20, 2015
— 6god (@DRAKEDANClNG) October 20, 2015
Drake dances to the Frasier theme quite nicely. pic.twitter.com/GK0X6iTlsz
— Mark (@tole_cover) October 20, 2015
THE VIEWS COVER ART
The brilliance of the cover art for Views – Drake’s long-awaited fourth studio album – was how quickly the internet was drawn to replicating or memeing it. Picture it. Drake, a lonely king, sitting atop Toronto’s sky-high CN Tour. Except he actually wasn’t, it was photoshopped, and his scale in the image wasn’t even right. And if it had been real, Drake would be 12 foot tall in real life. Imagine that?! After a website that allowed you to place lonely seated Drake on any image of your choosing went live, the memes were everywhere. This was following ‘Hotline Bling,’ so the buzz was furious. Heck, even New Zealand got in on the act, with Newshub presenter Hilary Barry recreating the cover by posing seated atop Auckland’s Sky Tower. The influence was international.
APPLE MUSIC AND OVO SOUND RADIO
Since July 2015, Drake, Oliver El-Khatib, and their crew have hosted the OVO Sound Radio show fortnightly Apple Music’s Beats1 platform. For Drake, it’s part of a bigger arrangement that has seen him debut some amazing music via Apple’s channels. When Drake is on a roll, new episodes of OVO Sound Radio have been known to stop the internet, and social media, in its tracks. OVO Sound Radio is where we first heard ‘Hotline Bling,’ ‘Back To Back,’ and ‘One Dance,’ all of which exist as crucial songs turned career moments for Drizzy. OVO Sound Radio was also where we first heard Drake’s game-changing playlist release More Life and numerous heat-generating projects from various OVO affiliates. Drop after drop, the shares and reposts keep coming.
JOE BUDDEN VS. DRAKE
Not long after it dropped, the now-retired rapper turned podcaster, and hip-hop debate show host Joe Budden reviewed Views. Joe felt Drake sounded uninspired, and he said as much. In June that year, Drake dropped a loose cut titled ‘4 PM In Calabasas.’ It had a Bad Boy Records feel, which alluded to an alleged scuffle between Drake and Puff Daddy, but Joe was also convinced there were bars in it aimed at him. People thought he was bugging. Nevertheless, Joe doing what Joe does, he aimed a barrage of response tracks at Drake. Joe thought Drake sounded inspired again on ‘4 PM In Calabasas,’ and he wanted to see where this was all going. Drake didn’t explicitly respond to Joe on record, but he did mention him on stage during the Summer Sixteen Tour. Also, after a carload of OVO fans pulled up at Joe’s house, and Joe chased them down the street, Drake followed some of them on Instagram. As always, with Drake being Drake, and the internet being the internet, their interactions triggered a litany of memes, .gifs, blog posts, status updates, tweets, and grams.
These are some of the greatest memes ever, but I truly hope u kids don’t make running up to ppl’s homes a thing. It’s dangerous.
— Joe Budden (@JoeBudden) July 25, 2016
— Tripz™ (@Tripzy) July 25, 2016
Joe Budden been wilding all day https://t.co/MMozGZ2qj4
— Brozay (@lilrookwood) July 25, 2016
Joe Budden out here chasing cars like Tyrese Gibson in Waist Deep 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/lbcETDNsCg
— Pharaoh Pegasus (@PrinceBoogie1) July 25, 2016
Drake’s Boy Meets World tour arrives at Auckland’s Spark Arena on the 3rd and 4th of November. While tickets to the 3rd are sold-out, you can still purchase tickets for the show on the 4th here.