To hear the legions of Drake fans tell it, despite not having a full body of original work, he's an artist whose records can without question carry an entire show…and then some. It's those fans and that body of work that have well-known artists hopping on the Drake gravy train before it runs dry. And who can blame them? They can feel the tide changing, so instead of being washed ashore, artists like Jamie Foxx and Mary J. Blige—and even Kanye and Jay-Z, hip-hop's shrewdest trend forecasters—chose to sign up before the Drake movement moved without them. Not to say Drake is going to eclipse 'Ye or Jay, but when the younger audience is spending the money in today's here-this-morning-gone-this-afternoon culture, it's better to be safe than sorry. However, in order to play nice with everyone…well, you gotta play nice with everyone. Except maybe your fellow rookies.The first time we ever spoke, you said that you were more in tune with R&B artists than the current new guys rapping.
Drake: When you're coming up, and you're in competition with somebody, it's always hard to have a friendship. I think Cudi and I are realizing that we don't threaten each other. It's ended up being one of the greatest industry friendships I have.
Around the time that Kanye directed "Best I Ever Had," it seemed like there was strife between your camp and Cudi's camp because Kanye was so enamored of you while Cudi's project was being worked on.
Drake: I wasn't aware of that. Even so, I could understand. If Wayne were to be enamored—which is a great word—of another young artist, I would be like, "Damn, I'm here too!" But at the same time, it happens in more than one situation. It happens with 'Ye, and I have a great relationship with Jay, and Jay's got Wale and J. Cole, who's one of my favorite dudes rapping right now. I've happened to have had more success. I made the most money, I have number-one records, those guys don't have that shit. And it's just facts, it's not even my feelings or that I feel I'm more talented. That's what the game is about, making great music that earns profit. When it comes to my relationship with the new dudes, I'm just excited for them. I get to sit back in a cool position and be like, "Yo, I'm excited to see you do it now because I know what it's like, it's gonna be so much fun for you…"
You feel like you're at the finish line?
Drake: I'm at the starting line. Those guys are at home, putting on their tracksuits, getting ready to make their attack. When J. Cole gets it super-right, I think he's gonna have a place as a Nas-type character who really stands for hip-hop, but still makes ill records that everybody fucks with.
If J. Cole is Nas, then who are you?
Drake: [Laughs.] I'm the young big homie!
Of all your contemporaries, it seems like you want to be famous the most.
Drake: That's gonna change. When Cole's sound is the new sound that everybody wants to hear, he's gonna be like, "I wanna be as big as possible with this shit." I didn't jeopardize anything to be in the position I'm in. You're listening to the shit that I believe in, not some shit I did because I needed to get here. People just happen to embrace my shit. That's very rare—but I also think the younger generation appreciates that brand of music, so I think it's possible for one of these guys to emerge and do exactly what I'm doing.