Solo Albums: Thank Me Later (2010), Take Care (2011), Nothing Was the Same (2013)
Group Albums: We Are Young Money (2009)
Biggest Hits: "Hold On, We're Going Home" f/ Majid Jodan (2013), "Started From the Botom" (2013), "Take Care" f/ Rihanna (2012), "Find Your Love" (2010), "Best I Ever Had" (2009)
When Drake first hit the national scene in 2009, he was exactly what Nas declared him to be, "like fresh water right now on dry land." After the Toronto actor-turned-rapper born Aubrey Graham hooked up with Lil Wayne, he made his presence felt with his 2009 mixtape, So Far Gone and his massive hit "Best I Ever Had." Heavily influenced by Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak, the tape sounded like a complete thought, a real album filled with mostly original production—not the sort of hodgepodge of raps over popular instrumentals that had become so popular in the post-50 Cent era.
Beyond the music, the context of that tape was crucial. 2009 saw a ton of promising new faces step unto the national scene including, but not limited to; Kid Cudi, J. Cole, Wale, and Nicki Minaj. But Drake trumped them all. If he couldn't outrap them, he could outsing them. And his unique skillset suggested he could potentially compete with his idols like Jay Z and Kanye West. It was obvious that a star had arrived, the only question that remained was whether or not this was a legend in the making.
That idea, Drake becoming a legend, seemed to be jeopardy in 2010 when he dropped his major label debut album, Thank Me Later. His debut arrived amid sky high expectations and criticisms of the #hashtag flow, his singing, and using a Blackberry during his Funkmaster Flex freestyle. Though Drake weathered the storm-the album spawned four Top 40 singles and sold over 1.5 million copies-it didn't feel like quite the ultimate victory it should have been. The hits were there, but the album lacked the overarching feel that made So Far Gone such an event.
But Drake silenced his critics in 2011. He claimed the year as his own early on, with a pair of singles, "Dreams Money Can Buy" and "I'm On One" (we'll never understand why he gave that one away to DJ Khaled.) Come fall, he unleashed the album that stands as his masterpiece, the sprawling, overtly ambitious Take Care. Sure enough, this album proved Drake was all that he'd claimed to be. It encompassed the full scope of his talent, the rapping, the singing, the writing, the fearless belief that hip-hop could incorporate more types of distinctly "non-rap" elements than it ever had before—pop, R&B, emo, "yacht-rock" stylings. Drake, even many of his detractors were forced to admit, was worth the hype. "Fuck you all, I claim that whenever/I change rap forever," he said on "Lord Knows." Even if you hated him, you had to admit he was right.
After that, all bets were off. Drake had found the sweet spot between celebrity and artistry, between chart hits and album cuts, between singing and rapping, between celebrity and artist. In 2012, he played like a Jordan, a Kobe, a Lebron, choosing his spots by popping up every so often on hits, he was controling the game without taking many shots. He's carried that momentum into this year (into right now, in fact). His third album, Nothing Was The Same, is another powerful statement: carefully-conceived, exquisitely executed, exuberantly recieved. He's still scoring hits on the regular, his celebrity is still growing, and he's become better at managing his brand, his narrative, and the pressures of fame. Even his haters seem to be getting tired of hating. The question is no longer whether he'll fulfill his promise, it's when he's gonna fall off. — Insanul Ahmed