Drake had everything working against him; he was already famous, wealthy—in a word, he was successful. He had a cosign from the biggest rapper in the industry. Everything was given to him on a platter. And in a genre that relies heavily on narratives of struggle, of speaking for the have-nots, it became a burden.

Even after some of his biggest successes, people still doubted. It wasn't until 2011 that Drake truly dominated the industry, turning his disadvantages into their own reverse-underdog narrative and coming out on top. It helped that the aesthetic he and 40 pioneered—an icy, atmospheric blanket of sound, and a melodic vocal approach—ended up being one of the most singular styles in an era otherwise devoid of musical subtlety.

He also released Take Care, one of hip-hop's most cohesive records in recent memory, stole the show on the year's biggest single ("I'm On One"), and otherwise became the most dominant force in hip-hop, despite all expectations.