Solo Albums Between 2008-2013: Thank Me Later (2010), Take Care (2011), Nothing Was the Same (2013)

Group Albums Between 2008-2013: We Are Young Money, Young Money Entertainment (2009)

Biggest Hits Between 2008-2013: Drake f/ Kanye West, Eminem, & Lil Wayne "Forever" (2009), Drake f/ Lil Wayne "The Motto" (2011), Drake f/ Rihanna "Take Care" (2012), Drake "Started From the Bottom" (2013), Drake f/ Majid Jordan "Hold On, We're Going Home" (2013)

Mixtapes: So Far Gone (2009)

Five years ago, you'd be hard pressed to find people who could see this coming. After all, in 2008, Aubrey Drake Graham was still that Canadian ex-Degrassi star with the decent-but-nothing-special mixtape Comeback Season, and had managed to get his video on BET a few times. But that was the same year his music made his way to Lil Wayne, who saw something special in the double-threat rapper who sings (or singer who raps), and took him out on tour with him, beginning the anointing of his stardom. It was the beginning of the ignition sequence, sure, but Wayne taking a former teen Canadian soap star on the road with him as the Next Big Thing was weird. What came next was just straight up unreal.

In 2009, Drake released So Far Gone. It's not the fact that everything about it set it apart from everything else in 2009 that makes it great. It's that those things, those creative risks that Drake took, they weren't just opportunities to be different for the sake of being different that were seized upon when the whole world was beginning to watch. It's that they were simply better than almost everything else out there. The cover. The guest spots, which ranged from Bun B to Wayne to Trey Songz and back. The beats, those dark, ominous, sparse productions that opened up to reveal lush soundscapes unlike anything being heard in rap at that moment, by this "40" guy Drake kept calling out (one who music writers would later clamor for interviews with). And the samples, which ranged from Swedish indie darlings like Peter Bjorn & John to Swedish indie songstress Lykke Li, to Santigold, to Jay-Z and even Kanye West. The songs themselves were nothing short of incredible, and even more incredible was the fact that they came together on that tape in a coherent way, weaving a narrative of an introspective kid who seemingly had it all, but didn't, and who questioned his self-worth while always working hard to gas it up (whether or not he deserved it or not). Hell, even the mixtape name, which came from a conversation between Drake and Oliver North about how terribly they treated women? That was different.

But then, there were the raps themselves: Whether it was Drake's hashtag flow, or simple teardowns of himself, there was something equal measures absurd, but sharp, slick, and pointed about what he was doing, all of which was underscored by a self-conscious depth no other rapper even remotely close to his level of frighteningly innate talent had or was exhibiting. He ruled the summer with "Best I Ever Had," an absurdly charming single which made him a ubiquitous rapper who anticipated the ways you would hate him before you could articulate them yourself. By the time you realized it, it was too late. You were hooked. And of course, 2009 was also the year "Forever" was everywhere, a single that more or less minted him into the current crop of top-tier rap artists, if only by his place among the others (Kanye, Em, Wayne).

2010 saw the release of Thank Me Later, Drake's official studio debut record. It was a much, much different Drake than the one on So Far Gone, one who was being poised for a cultural takeover, one who would be accompanied by a star-studded cast of guest players including Alicia Keys, Nikki Minaj, T.I., The-Dream, Jeezy, and Wayne. Thank Me Later was the summer blockbuster to So Far Gone's indie sleeper, and yes, it alienated some core Drake fans. It also won him a world of core rap and rap-pop crossover fans who hadn't yet fallen in line. Four distinct singles ("Over," "Find Your Love," "Miss Me," and "Fancy") made the album inescapable, to say nothing of its deeper cuts ("Up All Night," "Fireworks") that seemed equally planted all over the culture.

In the time between Thank Me Later and his next studio album, Drake started to appear everywhere. On Jay-Z's Blueprint 3. On Ross's Teflon Don. On Rihanna's smash single "What's My Name?" On "I'm On One" and "She Will" and "The Motto" and "It's Good." Odds are, if you were making a rap song or a rap album then, you wanted Drake to be in its orbit. And more often than not, he was, and he was there delivering smash verses, too, absolute, undisputed, show-stealing knockouts. At a certain point, it's almost a running joke, the rap game Catch-22: You can have Drake on your song, if you're lucky, at which point, he will then steal your own song from you.

But then, at the end of 2011: Enter Take Care, an album that begins with a drippy piano line and the words "I thought I killed everybody in the game last year, man/Fuck it, I was on, though." It was hard to argue with him, and even harder as he made his case for the next seventeen (okay, fourteen) songs, each one delivering the various degrees of Drake we'd met along the way. Drake was singing. Drake was rapping about catching bodies. Drake was going in on a Grand Canyon-sized Just Blaze beat with Ross. Drake was throwing down for Toronto. Drake was rapping about relationships, gone good, and gone bad. Drake was rapping about his crew. Drake was having a round of introspection about the women in his life. His mother. His ex-girlfriends. His grandmother. Drake was there alongside a perfect lineup of guest spots: Ross, Rihanna, The Weeknd, Wayne, Nikki, Birdman (in full Birdman soliloquy form), Kendrick Lamar, Andre 3000. Then there were 40's beats, a musical style that seemed to evolve in tandem with Drake's rapping, the kind of sonic evolution that felt missing from the crystalline production of Thank Me Later that finally fell into place. And of course, there was "Marvin's Room," the ultimate synthesizing of the Drake ethos. Take Care earned Drake a Grammy, for very, very good reason: It's an incredibly well composed album, one that delivers on any and all promises Drake has made over the course of his career (maybe a little too much, with its protracted length, but who's arguing with it?).

In 2012 and 2013, in the wake of Take Care, Drake was everywhere, moreso than ever: As his album burned, he kept the fire going by contributing to every and any solid single that he could, intent on stealing the spotlight from whoever was smart (or naive) enough to welcome him onto their track: "Pop That" and "Stay Schemin" and "No Lie" just to name a few. "Poetic Justice" and "Fuckin Problems" and "Amen" to name a few more. But Drake's guest spot output slowed towards the middle of this year, as he started dropping more of his own material, a few songs at a time: "Started from the Bottom," the slow-burn slam-dunk single of the summer. Or "5AM in Toronto," which prominently features Drake absolutely topping himself in terms of sheer rap dynamics. Or "No New Friends," in which he runs away with another DJ Khaled hit. Then there was the "Versace" remix verse, where he rendered Migos all but irrelevant on the Atlanta group's own track (sorry, but it's true). Or "All Me," in which he referred to himself as the "light skinned Keith Sweat," and nobody blinked, as if this were a perfectly normal thing for Drake to say (because by this point, it was). As we started the run-up into fall, Drake started showing a different side of what was to come: "Hold On, We're Going Home" was a straight-up R&B jam with old-school ideas embedded in its sonic fabric. "Wu-Tang Forever," with its absurd title, was an equally absurd proposition of Drake vacillating wildly between rapping and singing in a way that felt, somehow, after all this time, still audacious. And then his album leaked, and it's since destroyed the Internet, when not sending every music writer who's had to spend hours pouring over it to a corkscrew or their ex-girlfriend. Drake's new album has probably racked up more billing hours for the psychiatrists of millennials since the week they all graduated college. He fucks people up that badly.

And now, here we are: Yes, Drake is the second-most dominant rap act of the last five years. Five years ago, it seemed implausible. Now, it doesn't seem like it could have gone any other way. He has vanquished what few enemies he's had, if not made them look at the very least foolish. He has made the old men look like geriatrics, and the younger men look like children. He's won the hearts and minds of everyone. You. Your mom. Your grandmother. Whoever. He is capable of being a complete affront to everything some people hold sacred about rap while at the same time epitomizing everything some people love about rap. Or R&B. It barely makes a difference anymore. The only thing Drake can't do yet is produce, and hopefully, he never will (his dedication to having a longtime collaborator in 40 is the kind of Dre/Snoop or Dre/Em or Ye/Jay classic rapper-producer relationship we need more of). If he continues at his current rate, the only thing left for Drake to do, really, is outlast the next guy on this list, and hang on as long as he possibly can. —Foster Kamer