Crowning Achievement: The release of his debut EP, So Far Gone.
Predecessor: Kardinal Offishall
Royal Court: P. Reign, OB O'Brien, Tory Lanez, Rich Kidd
With all respect due to Kardinal Offishall, Saukrates, and Choclair, the city of Toronto was once a mere afterthought on the rap atlas. In fact, Toronto hip-hop used to be followed only by Canadians or rap completists (or Canadian rap completists). But in 2009, a groundbreaking mixtape changed the entire landscape. When Drake released So Far Gone, goals that once seemed unattainable for a north-of-the-border artist—widespread American acclaim, major U.S. radio hits, and co-signs across the board from the biggest rap stars—were suddenly being checked off and the stigma of being a Canadian MC (or, for that matter, a former teenage actor who played a wheelchair-bound student on a popular kids TV show) disappeared.
The wins started stacking up: Whether it was signing with the self-proclaimed best rapper alive at the time, firing subliminals at Kanye West and Jay-Z, or, most recently, breaking Hov's record for most No. 1 records on two different Billboard charts, Drake’s power moves are impossible to deny. On his road to global stardom, Drake has repped for T.Dot every step of the way, both subtly (performing at an NHL All-Star Game, ’cause you know, Canadians love hockey) and loudly (filming part of the "Headlines" video at the Rogers Centre with a Blue Jays hat on). Meanwhile, Drake’s record label, OVO SOUND, has become a hotbed for Toronto talent, including soon-to-be stars PARTYNEXTDOOR and Majid Jordan. People sometimes clown Drake for being a rap carpetbagger who freely appropriates the styles of different regions, but you can't say that he hasn't put on for his home city.
This point was made crystal clear earlier this summer when Drake hosted the biggest show of his career with the fourth edition of his annual OVO Fest in Toronto. OVO Fest 2013 brought Puffy and Ma$e back together, reunited the surviving members of TLC, and—most notably—coaxed Kanye West into a rare not-about-himself performance. For neither the first or last time, Drake had the eyes of the entire hip-hop world focused squarely on his hometown. Can't make a king move bigger than that. —Cyrus K. Taravati