Finally. After months of everyone bumping Drake's "Best I Ever Had"—sweat pants, hair-tied, chillin' with no makeup on—the biggest song in the country finally gets a video. A video directed by Complex homie Kanye West, no less. And it couldn't have come at a more perfect time. This past week, the Toronto native's smash single rocketed up 24 spots to #3 on the Billboard charts, right as he solidified his much gossiped-about record deal.
Just before premiering the highly anticipated video (whatup, OnSMASH!), Drake stopped by the Complex office to discuss working with Kanye, the truth about his new deal, his handicapped experience at the 2009 BET Awards and his thoughts on World Star Hip Hop's newfound love of Degrassi...
Interview By Damien Scott
Complex: Everyone's been waiting on this video. Can you take us through the making of it?
Drake: Yeah. The video is directed by Kanye West. Basically we decided, as opposed to taking ourselves super serious, we just wanted to have some fun with it. Myself, being a young man, a young single man at that, I kind of wanted to be real about the way I function with women at this current point in my life. Which is, I don't have one woman that I call my girl. There's different girls in my life that play different roles and I see at different times, but collectively they kind of make up the roster of happiness for me [Laughs].
Complex: Understandable. So what's the concept?
Drake: The concept of the video is, I'm a coach at a high school and the girls of my life are all on my high school basketball team. Throughout the video you see us prepping for this big championship game, and my team ends up losing. You see the looks on their faces at the end of the video, but the moral of the story, I guess, is win or lose, you can still be the best to somebody. When women see the video and see all the breast and ass, hopefully they don't take offense. Hopefully they see the real meaning.
Complex: Well, now they'll know.
Drake: [Laughs.] Now they'll know.
Complex: Kanye is known as kind of a control freak. How was it working with him on set with him directing?
Drake: Me and Kanye have a great eye to eye. I can't speak for anybody else, but I would give Kanye the utmost credit for actually being one of the most understanding creative people that I have worked with. I think me and Kanye have mutual respect for each another and I listen to what he has to say regardless, 'cause I trust him. I don't really fight his suggestions [Laughs.] But he was great. It was a long day and I just thank him for dedicating the time he dedicated. He was great.
Complex: Speaking of basketball, you tore your ACL playing basketball, right?
Drake: Yes sir. It was intense casual, I guess [Laughs]. It was just a regular pick up game and I just took the wrong step.
Complex: Damn, that's horrible. At the BET Awards this past Sunday, everyone was shocked to see you sitting on a stool. Did you ever think to yourself, Maybe I shouldn't perform?
Drake: That, actually—to be honest—was a terrible idea that I'll never do to myself again. [Laughs] But I was being pressed from different areas to perform, and I think what really happened at the BET Awards is with the passing of Mike, the climate really changed, as far as the award show goes. I don't think it called for us to perform "Every Girl" and "Always Strapped," and I think it was an award show filled with tributes and music and these genuine heartfelt speeches. And to sort of climax out of a very tongue-in-cheek point, and then people misconstruing Wayne's daughters and her friends coming out on stage...
Complex: Yeah, it really was an awkward moment.
Drake: Yeah, it was just timed very poorly and it definitely wasn't planned like that, but with that being said, it is what is. I believe in Wayne and myself and it's nothing we can't bounce back from. To anyone who was offended, my personal apologies, it wasn't intended to offend anybody.
Complex: Watching it at home, the BET Awards seemed to be a mess. Did it seem that way in person?
Drake: Well, I can only speak for my portion of it. I had asked for something very specific for my performance and none of those were met, as far as production value, so...
Complex: That's BET for you...
Drake: I understood my situation, as far as sitting in one place, and figured there was a way to make it interesting. But when I looked around and noticed that none of that was going on [laughs], I kind of just realized that it was going to be a loss for me. But at the end of the day, it is what it is.
Complex: How did you feel when you heard Mike passed?
Drake : Shocking. Because Michael is just one of those people that you just kind of expect to always be there—he's Michael Jackson. He's like one of those guys you never think about...
Complex: ...as a real person?
Drake: Yeah. I just never thought Mike could die. And it's tragic. I know before this tour, a lot of people never had the opportunity to see Mike perform. It's unfortunate and I always find it interesting to see when people pass away and people find this new found love for the person
Complex: Yeah, a lot of people were saying if Mike never passed, a lot of the comedians would have still gone on making jokes and what not.
Drake: Yeah, you know it's just...it's a very interesting thing when somebody passes away and people sort of...the world loves Michael Jackson, I just think that there are certain people who use it as an opportunity to talk more. With that being said, I always appreciated what Mike did and my condolences go out to Mike's family.
Complex: For real. Going back to your music, "Best I Ever Had" jumped to #3 on the Billboard charts. And then you announced yesterday that you signed your deal with Universal...
Drake: Nah...I definitely want to clear this up, I didn't sign to Universal. I'm actually signed to... a lot of people were telling me, "Oh, you should do it independent." I'm actually 100% independent. I signed to Cortez Bryant and G. Roberson, my managers, so I signed a joint venture between Aspire Music Group, which is them, and Young Money. So the only part that Universal plays is P&D [pressing and distribution]. I'm not a Universal artist. I'm signed to myself.
Complex: What does Young Money bring to the table?
Drake: Since the beginning of this, Lil' Wayne has always put himself out there on behalf of me, from spitting my verse at the VMAs, to jumping on the songs that I needed him on and always promoting me. Right now it's more about building up Young Money, as opposed to what Young Money brings to the table at this point. Obviously, what Young Money brings to the table is Lil' Wayne. He's a powerhouse and I felt it was only fair to stay loyal. I thought it was only fair for him to get that look and I wanted the YM logo on the album and to make sure that he knows that I don't take what he did for me for granted.
Complex: You were entertaining other offers from Atlantic and Interscope, right?
Drake: I can definitely say that I wanted to be over at Interscope for a while, but it wouldn't allow me to work with Wayne the way that I wanted to work with Wayne. I had to make a sacrifice. But with that being said, if we sell some records and people actually see how the record deal breaks down... Somebody told me they saw my deal the other day and they said it was one of the worst record deals in history [for] the label. That's a good thing for me. I own everything, I have 100% creative control, I own all my masters, everything. I'm blessed to be in that situation. If we sell some records, I think we'll just add to the historic pace that this has been going at.
Complex: There was a feeling that if you didn't sign to a major label, that would signal the demise of the record industry.
Drake: I think that it all depends on the success on the project. I can have this conversation with you and tell you the impact I think it may have, especially when the details of the deal get out. But it's all dependent on what I do. I first have to make the right album that will sell some records. With that being said, I definitely think it could cause a bit of a shift if we find a way to sell a million records.
Complex: What made you want to strive to stay independent?
Drake: Since I started, I've always been giving my music away for free...I've always kind of done it for the people, you know? So I just want them to still have some attachment to this project. I don't want to lose my fans completely because they support me in a way that's more than just listening to my music. They support me like we're friends. They support me like they have emotions invested in it. So I want there to be a challenge to it, so when it drops, they're looking at the numbers, they're maybe even clicking it twice on iTunes just to prove a point. I want it to be fun, man. This shit is just not exciting if it's so straight forward like, "I'm putting a record out, go to the store and buy it" and there's so many people behind it, it has nothing to do with me. You know? It's like, fuck it, let's just have fun, let's see if we can shake up the world, let's see if we can fuck with the system. I just figure it'd make it more interesting on the album day.
Complex: There were rumors of a $4 million bonus...
Drake: [Laughs] Where is it? Tell me where it is, I'll go pick it up right now. I got some money. I got a little money. I'll be alright for a couple months.
Complex: Lately there have been a couple videos on World Star Hip-Hop showing you in your Degrassi days. It doesn't seem like your past bothers you in any regard...
Drake: I think World Star Hip-Hop thinks it bothers me. There was a time in my life when I really lashed out against World Star Hip-Hop. And it wasn't World Star Hip-Hop the site, 'cause I'm not gonna pretend like I don't go there every day. It was just the way people look at World Star Hip-Hop as an outlet for them to talk about shit. There are artists that I feel could be doing a lot better for themselves that go on there and kill their own careers by just talking too much, and I think that they took that personally and now all they do is air Degrassi clips of me and potential things that could embarrass me. But with me, man...the great thing about me being me in this game is that I've been so honest up until this point, I really have nothing to hide, I don't fear any clip, you know? It's out there already, everyone knows that's my story. At the end of the day, it's part of me, it's my stepping stone. I'm proud of every moment thus far.
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