February 13th, 2019 marks the 10 year anniversary of Drake’s So Far Gone mixtape. An instrumental project that propelled the rapper’s career into the limelight and began the journey of the artist known as Drake.
My introduction to Aubrey Graham began on Canada’s hit TV show Degrassi: The Next Generation. Graham’s character Jimmy was a young black male that I could relate with on a Canadian level, and I was absorbed in the comparable drama of young teens that took place in my life and throughout the show.
Behind the scenes, Aubrey was working on a music career that I caught wind of in 2007 during the height of the DatPiff mixtape era. At that moment Aubrey officially became Drake, and he had just released his second mixtape Comeback Season with features from some well known artists including Toronto’s own Kardinal Offishall, Trey Songz, No Malice of The Clipse, Robin Thicke and Lil Wayne.
Those types of collaborations were unheard of for Canadian rappers at the time. Lil Wayne was the biggest thing in the mixtape era and he dominated rap, along with my iPod Nano’s rotation, so there was an indescribable sense of pride – only comparable to Vince Carter – when I heard a local rapper like Drake rap alongside Louisiana’s finest.
That pride propelled me to share this new music with the person who’s musical opinion I valued most: my brother’s. To this day I can vividly remember his response to my new discovery:
“I ain’t listening to that clown off Degrassi…”
Further attempts to convince him of Drake’s abilities fell on deaf ears. It wasn’t until the release of So Far Gone that my brother, and the world, began to take notice of Drake’s talent.
The release of So Far Gone marked a new era of Hip-Hop that grew it’s roots two years prior. Lil Wayne had dabbled with the infusion of rap and r&b on the third instalment of his Drought mixtape series with songs like Ciara’s Promise and Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy.
However, it was Kanye West who pioneered the sound by laying his emotions on the line and accompanying his heartbreak with auto-tuned croons, dark synths, and punchy 808s. That musical leap of 808’s & Heartbreak birthed Drake and with his new found sound, Drake took flight.
“Before I ever got the chance to meet him, Kanye West shaped a lot of what I do, as far as music goes,” Drake told MTV News back in 2009. “…I’d even go as far as to say he’s the most influential person as far as a musician that I’d ever had in my life.”
Songs such as Successful, Lust For Life, Houstatlantavegas and A Night Off drew their creativity off a dark ethereal sound that Kanye put forth into the culture. But it was Drake’s talent that was able to expand upon what West had done. For one, Drake didn’t need to rely on auto-tune like his inspiration had, and while his vocals weren’t the greatest, they were good enough to blend elements of pop, electronic, rap, and r&B into a seamless sound.
The line between rapping and singing began to blur with Drake’s talent and eventually led to the current climate of Hip-Hop/R&B we’re in today.
The success of the album grew through word of mouth via internet forums, mixtape websites, and the early stages of social media. At the time Drake had also found a mentor in Lil Wayne who’s stardom helped Drake get recognition within the United States.
Best I Ever Had blew up as a radio single getting plays daily within several markets and the video, directed by Kanye West, made it’s round on TV networks and the internet. At the time I was in high school and Hip-Hop wasn’t the force it was today, so a lot of girls I knew weren’t into traditional rap. But as that song began to trend, mainstream listeners took notice and that gap dwindled leading to Drake’s breakthrough as a mainstream name.
10 years later and I still remember 15-year-old me trying to get dates popping by “renting a movie and calling h**s over” cause Drake made that move on Ignorant Shit, or hyping myself up as the man with options after hearing the infamous “I get it when I need it” line on November 18th (a song I annually play on that date). And I can’t forget how Sooner Or Later got me through the multitude of heart breaks I felt whenever my crush told me she “didn’t feel the same way” via MSN.
Although I don’t often revisit the mixtape as a whole, there are still songs to this day that I’ll forever hold as timeless. And it’s shocking to think that there’s a whole generation of new kids that have never heard this masterpiece.
As for my brother? He eventually came around to the wave and I never miss the chance to let him know…”Remember how I put you on to Drake?”
Featured image via: Kanyetowest.com