The Feature: Drake, The Makings Of A Mogul

Drake

For half of a decade, Drake has been a mainstay in regards to the hottest names in the music industry. In a generation loaded with flash-in-the-pan artists, the Toronto-bred emcee’s perennial popularity is an astounding achievement, and a testament to his star power. Drake’s extended period of success has largely been due to the combination of his unique sound, his charisma and connection with his listeners, the establishment of his own brand, and his ventures outside of the music industry. Drake possesses a rare blend of qualities which have made him a household name and provide him the potential to be much more. 2014 will be the year that Drake solidifies his spot amongst the hierarchy of the music industry’s elite.
Starting from the bottom, Aubrey Drake Graham’s potential for stardom has been apparent long before he ever sold a record. The Canadian emcee’s last name was more famous than his middle name at one point, as he shares a family tree with none other than Larry Graham of the well-known funk bands Sly & The Family Stone and Graham Central Station. Furthermore, Drake found success in the entertainment field at a young age, appearing on multiple seasons of local sitcom Degrassi, which later grew in popularity and became widely syndicated. Finally, Drake’s early music career demonstrated his ability to make quality music, and he quickly developed a core fan base with Room For Improvement and Comeback Season (a fan base that included a cosign from the likes of rap’s biggest star at the time, Lil’ Wayne).

Drake performing at the Cisco Ottowa Bluesfest in 2010 (Credit to Brennan Schnell)

Drake performing at the Cisco Ottowa Bluesfest in 2010 (Credit to Brennan Schnell)

Noting his musically-inclined affiliations and his previous success in the entertainment field, it was apparent early on that Drake had potential to build a career within the music industry. This potential began to become a realization with the release of So Far Gone, a free mixtape release that garnered Drake an exorbitant amount of critical acclaim. Released in February of 2009, the project was one of the records that defined the year in music, and was lauded as such by the industry’s top publications. The project displayed Drake’s organic ability to craft hit records and quality project without the help of a record label, as most of the project was produced by longtime collaborators Noah “40” Shebib and Boi-1da on an independent artist budget. So Far Gone served as the “big break” for Drake’s career, as it resulted in critical and commercial success on the way to a multi-million dollar record deal with Young Money through Universal Motown.
In the years since his breakthrough, Drake has not slowed down one bit, keeping his foot on the industry’s neck with a huge output of successful music, tours, and more. Following the triumph of So Far Gone, Drake would go on to release two platinum-selling, chart-topping albums (Thank Me Later & Take Care) within the next three years. Within this time frame, Drake’s status within the entertainment industry grew exponentially as he established himself as a force to be reckoned with. For one, his hit-making ability was on full display en route to the emcee charting with 14 charting singles as a lead artist and 29 more as a featured artist. In addition to success on the charts, Drake also began to build his brand by hosting the first annual OVO (October’s Very Own, which would later become an official label in 2012) Festival in 2010, a festival that has continued through the years. Drake also began touring as a headlining act during this time frame, embarking on the “Away From Home” and “Club Paradise” Tours in 2010 and 2012, respectively. Furthermore, Drake showed his growing superstar status by appearing in film (Breakaway and Ice Age 4) and on television (musical guest on Saturday Night Live).
As prosperous as those years were for Drizzy, the past year has truly set the foundation for him to fully realize his immense potential. 2013 saw Drake take steps in the direction of becoming the next mainstay of hip hop music, something which has not happened in the genre since Kanye West established himself earlier in the millennium. To begin the year, Drake won his first Grammy award, winning rap album of the year for his 2011 effort Take Care. Drake carried this momentum through the year, with records like “Started From The Bottom” and “Hold On, We’re Going Home” lighting up the airwaves for months before the release of his third full-length studio album Nothing Was The Same. The former is a certified double platinum-selling single which features Drake primarily as an emcee, while the latter is a multi-platinum record that showcases his songwriting skills and rhythmic stylings.
Drake’s versatility has led to his third chart-topping, platinum-selling album in a row, and has also opened the door for bigger opportunities for the emcee. First, Drake’s current “Would You Like A Tour?” features artists whose careers have been aided by the emcee (including The Weeknd, Jhene Aiko, Future, and OVO label signee PartyNextDoor). Considering the fact that he was in the position of being cosigned a mere four years ago, it is astounding to see Drake in the position to now offer cosigns and attach his name to other artists and brands in the hopes of helping them succeed.
This newfound addition to his repertoire has caused Drake to appear on the radar of several larger entities, including the infamous Jordan Brand and his hometown NBA Toronto Raptors. Drake became the official global ambassador for the Raptors in September, giving him executive status within the team and making him partially responsible for rebranding the team as a consultant. He will look to play an important role in the upcoming 20th anniversary of the team in the 2014-15 season, as well as play the role of host for the 2016 all-star weekend to be held in Toronto. In regards to Jordan Brand, Drake is now the second non-athlete to reach an endorsement deal with the brand following Kanye West’s departure to Adidas. The partnership has already yielded exclusive new designs of retro Jordan’s, which have been seen in the public eye at events such as the Raptors’ recent “Drake night” on January 11th. While Drake further pushes these brands, his success in these positions will further cement his level of marketability.
Finally, Drake has managed to find his way back onto television screens, but in a much bigger manner. Drake was the most recent guest on the long-tenured sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. Although making his first appearance in 2011 as a musical guest, Drake’s most recent appearance upped the ante, as he hosted the episode. Drake’s latest television outing was met with great reception from fans and critics alike, and may serve to open the door to bigger and better acting opportunities. After all, acting is where he gained his first bit of public notoriety.
With a firm foundation set by his countless accomplishments, Drake is set to make the jump to the next level of stardom. If his recent output is any indication, he’s well on his way to becoming bigger than a household name. Bigger than a superstar, even. Drake is poised to become the next hip hop mogul. With new hits, a new tour, new positions, new endorsements, and new ventures, Drizzy should prepare himself to make a whole heap of new friends in the years to come.

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