New money stands out. Take the Twelve Hotel in downtown Atlanta. Everything is modern, angular, all rich wood grains and polished metals. The chairs in the lobby are likely as expensive as they are uncomfortable. It feels like a playground for people comfortable with privilege. So it comes as no surprise that Aubrey “Drake” Graham and his crew are staying here while in ATL, and it’s hard to blame him for feeling entitled: After all, he did help usher in an entirely new sensibility in hip-hop. It’s not the singing that makes him special—MCs have been crooning for years. What puts Drake in a different space than rappers past and present has less to do with his music than how he found himself in a position to make it. He doesn’t represent traditional hip-hop in any form or fashion. There were no obstacles to his success; far from a statistic, he caked off as a child star on a soft-ass show (Degrassi: The Next Generation). He’s Canadian, which as we all know did wonders for the careers of Maestro Fresh Wes and Kardinal Offishall. And he’s Jewish! Scope those stats on paper and rap celebrity seemed destined to elude Drake. Yet, the Toronto kid made it work. But how?

Call it the Kanye plan (at least to an extent—even K. West had more trouble breaking down doors than Drizzy has). Just as the Chicagoan did with the Roc, Drake aligned himself with one of the most prominent rap labels in the game (Cash Money) and absorbed a modicum of street cred in the process. Would DJ Khaled ask him to appear on record if he wasn’t down with Weezy? Probably not. But that’s beside the point. The fact is that a guy who raps—and sings!—about heartache is working with Jeezy; more than anything, that exemplifies the shift in the landscape. Hip-hop has long conflated gangster and authenticity, and Drake has managed to shrug that off without losing face. The question is, how long will his balancing act last? Rap may change, but it also keeps changing; overnight success has no insurance policy. Thinking about it all is enough to make anyone crazy, but sitting down to dinner in the half-empty restaurant on the Twelve’s ground floor, Young Money’s (half-)white knight seems calm and carefree, even as he builds about the year behind him and the one ahead. What’s to worry about? It might be new money, but having it never gets old.