How big of a battle rap fan is Drake? Last week, battle rap media personality Heavy Bag raved on his Restore Order show that the Toronto rapper once walked up to him backstage during a mid-2010s event and recognized him from the battle rap outlet he worked for—which is something only someone deeply in tune with the scene would know.
The battle rap world feels secluded from the mainstream rap industry a lot of the time, only getting the attention of the general public when rounds go viral—or when well-known entertainers like Drake, Eminem, Method Man, Joe Budden, Nick Cannon, and Cassidy break bread with the culture. This weekend, Drake will be at URL’s NOME XI, rewarding the winner of the platform’s 16-person Ultimate Madness 3 tournament with $100,000 out of his own funds.
Drake rarely appears at events these days, but his presence has been felt in various ways. In 2020, he partnered with Twitch competitor Caffeine and signed a multi-year deal with URL to bring the league to streaming and help make it more accessible to fans. Live URL battle events have been the backbone of the app, as have the numerous shows hosted by URL battlers. Celebrity involvement in a fringe community can be harmful, but Drake has only helped battle rap leagues like URL and the Toronto-based KOTD (King of The Dot) thrive, which is a credit to him.
His support for battle rap has been public knowledge since 2009, when he told Nardwuar about Toronto rapper and journalist Mindbender being at KOTD events (a rare instance of a Nardwuar interviewee dropping an obscure reference). Drake has told The Village Voice that Take Care recording sessions were stirred by battlers like Hollow Da Don and The Saurus, noting, “It gets me excited in the studio, to watch these rappers, to see them rap for a whole different cause.”
In 2011, he struck up a formal relationship with the KOTD league, calling himself an “official King of The Dot representer,” co-hosting and funding events, and maybe almost battling at one? Since around 2015, though, he’s mainly dealt with KOTD rival URL, which is widely regarded as the biggest and best league, due to its lineage and amount of “homegrown” stars.
Here’s a timeline of Drake’s involvement with the battle rap culture, highlighting his most impactful contributions, from helping events happen to aiding battlers in their time of need.