Despite the episode described in our December/January cover story, "The Long Way Home"—during which Drake stormed off the set of our photo shoot—Aubrey Graham is a gracious host. After that incident he invited us to join him and his OVO crew for dinner at the Hazelton Hotel's ONE Restaurant, where he was staying while his apartment underwent construction.
It was there, among the moneyed Toronto folk and ostentatious decor, that the majority of our interview went down. Over drinks and seafood, Drake spoke for nearly two hours about a range of topics including his work in Toronto, his transformation as an artist and as a person, and where he sees himself in the future.
The conversation was candid and open, and we're giving it to you uncut. Think the full story has never been told? Read on....
Interview by Damien Scott (@thisisdscott)
How are you feeling about Take Care?
I feel great. I feel really good. If I had to drop it today, I’d be good. I’d be golden, but it’s just that I’ve made mistakes that weren’t crucial enough to be career ending, but I’ve learned so much from them, and I really want to utilize everything I’ve learned.
Have you done anything special in Toronto for this album?
The billboards. One of them is the Take Care promo, and then this one is our actual “Welcome To Toronto” population sign, but we changed it and did a bomb over it—so it’ll have the population underneath. We’re going to put that up. This is straight violation shit [Laughs.] It’s going to be fun man. I want everything to be in place. That’s the biggest thing.
What are some of the mistakes you feel you’ve made?
Nothing too specific. It’s mainly things like, “I could have paid more attention to this. I could have waited a little longer for that.” Even shit like what just happened. As a new artist, I would have been like, “Well, I’m going to do the shoot anyway, even though it’s not what we discussed and it’s not the way we want to do it. I’m going to do it anyway, because i don’t want to piss anyone off.”
So there’s this whole control aspect.
No one has any clue that literally two kids that I know from my city directed that 'Headlines' video. It just proves to you that if you give someone the resources, if they have the creative vision, anything is possible.
Yeah, but less than just being an asshole. I’ve witnessed artists just be demanding and controlling for the sake of their own ego. It’s got nothing to do with that man. It’s just that I’m proud of these guys man. They’re doing good work.
No one has any clue that literally two kids that I know from my city directed that “Headlines” video. It just proves to you that if you give someone the resources, if they have the creative vision, anything is possible. I’m not going to take anyone else’s bullshit and mix it in my vision. It doesn’t need to happen anymore.
If I get up in the morning, and I make it here, and I make sure my barber’s here to get my own haircut, still do the mastering that I needed to do last night... Like if I can do it, then nah, you’ve got to have my shit right for me. Just things I’ve learned. Like, I’ve wasted four or five thousand dollars on a video before. “Headlines” cost me like $60,000 to shoot.
What was your least favorite video that you’ve ever done?
Probably “Miss Me.” It was like, I had hired one director to do my whole album [Anthony Mandler], and I think towards the end creatively we fell out of sync on that video. We shot two videos in one day, one that didn’t even come out, which was “Fancy.”
It was just the end of that Thank Me Later chapter, not that I don’t like it. My favorite video is still “Best I Ever Had.” That video is a piece of work. That’s a genius video.
I can’t believe the “Miss Me” video cost more than the “Headlines” video.
Yeah, the “Miss Me” video cost me like, $250,000 or something like that.
That’s crazy. Just hearing the music that’s been coming out since Thank Me Later, there seems to be a theme of returning back home, like, “I’m more comfortable up here doing it with all my people.”
Yeah. I mean, you just summed up the whole concept of the album, which is... It’s actually a story based off of one song I did off of So Far Gone, “Houstatlantavegas.” The album is themed around the fact that if you look at the old covers and the old artwork, if you listen to a lot of the old music, I was always this kid looking from the outside into this world that I call “Houstatlantavegas,” which is just any given city at any given point in the night time with beautiful women, money, evils, and darkness. I was always intrigued by the nightlife.
In the interview for your first Complex cover, I was like, “Describe your album to me.” You said, “Bright lights at night. Driving through a city with bright lights at night.”
I was always this kid looking from the outside into this world that I call 'Houstatlantavegas,' which is just any given city at any given point in the night time with beautiful women, money, evils, and darkness. I was always intrigued by the nightlife.
Yeah. I spent a lot of years looking in through this glass window, and three years later I became like a king there. There’s no city that I go to that I don’t feel appreciated in that regard, as far as being accepted in that world, whether it’s a club, a strip club, a restaurant.
I took the biggest leap ever. It’s an unimaginable leap in my mind. I come there and these girls are dancing to my music. They know me. They want to fuck me too. Guys want to dap me up, talk to me. Guys that I don’t even know or guys that I respect, athletes, actors, rappers.
So that’s pretty much what the album is about. Instead of making reflective music, in the vein of... Like I said something on Thank Me Later, “I wish I wasn’t famous, I wish I was still in school.” At the time, that’s how I felt. I felt like, “Man, I missed out on something.” I don’t feel like that anymore. I’m fully embracing this right here.
This album, after “Marvin’s Room” it switches, and you’re in my world. You’re fully immersed in that moment, and there’s no doubt in my mind in those lyrics and in those songs. It’s not like, “Oh man, I’m thinking about this and...” No. It’s not “Club Paradise.” It’s not. It’s not that song. It’s not that brand of music. That’s why I put that song out. That song is not on my album.
That was just one night in the city, me thinking about things, and sort of writing a song about it, but it’s not that. I mean, of course those raps are there... It’s hard for me to really explain it without you hearing some of it. I’m like, fully in that world from that point on.
“Club Paradise” was interesting. One of the lines that struck me was you said a girl said you’re not popping back home, and you’re like, “What the fuck?” and she’s like, “Why do you care? You’re not even here.” Do you feel like you weren’t taking care of shit back home?
I said something on Thank Me Later, 'I wish I wasn’t famous, I wish I was still in school.' At the time, that’s how I felt. I felt like, 'Man, I missed out on something.' I don’t feel like that anymore. I’m fully embracing this right here.
Yeah. That was based off of a real conversation I had, for sure. The conversation was more like, “Damn, I can’t get any of these women I used to talk to to text me back.”
Their numbers have changed or they’re busy or they’re telling me, “No.” I can get any other woman to say, “Yes,” but I can’t get these women that I’ve actually cared about to say, “Yes.”
It was that girl telling me, “Yeah, they’ve moved on. You haven’t been here for years. You haven’t been home in the city for longer than two weeks in like, two years."
So of course, there’s new guys they have. There’s new jobs they have. There’s new things. They’re not thinking about you. The world doesn’t revolve around you.”
For someone in a position where your mind, your ego, and your heart are being pulled in all these different directions, that’s a crazy thing to hear. It’s like, “Man, these people can forget about you, even if they hear you on the radio everyday.
It doesn’t mean that they’re going to drop everything just because it’s you. They don’t give a fuck.” That’s when I said, “Man, sure they do.” That’s me telling myself. So yeah, that verse stems from a real conversation.