It’s not every day that a record set by Michael Jackson is broken by a fellow Canadian — or by anyone, for that matter. But that’s exactly what Drake did at this year’s Billboard Music Awards. Drizzy took home 13 trophies, beating the previous record of 11 nominations in a single year held by the King of Pop. Not a bad night.
Drake’s signature fusion of hip-hop and R&B, along with unique dancehall influences, skyrocketed the rapper to the top of the charts. Frequently looking to other musicians for inspiration, Drake’s samples range from vintage slow jams to more modern artists, combined with memorable lyrics and catchy hooks to create the 6 god’s unmistakable sound.
“Best I Ever Had” (2009)
Song Sampled: “Fallin’ in Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds (1975)
Drake’s break-out single off his So Far Gone EP was riddled with controversy. Producer Kia Shine claimed that he co-wrote the smash hit for Drake, making him entitled to part ownership of the song. Shine had produced a track for Lil Wayne titled “Do It for the Boy,” which “Best I Ever Had” uses a small portion of. Drake claimed that he had never worked Shine with, let alone met him. “I wrote the entire composition in Toronto and I borrowed one line from a Lil Wayne song that he produced the BEAT for. The claims of 25% ownership are false and for an artist to brag about splits on a song is distasteful to begin with,” Drake wrote on his website. If that wasn’t enough, the rapper then got sued by Playboy. On June 24, 2010 Playboy Enterprises filed a lawsuit against Drake, Cash Money Records and Universal Music Group, claiming that “Best I Ever Had” samples American rock group Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds’ 1975 hit “Fallin’ in Love”, a song to which Playboy owns the copyright. Listen to 10 seconds of the ’70s disco track and you’ll be waiting for Drake to come in and start his verse.
“Take Care” feat. Rihanna (2011)
Song Sampled: “I’ll Take Care of U” by Jamie xx and Gil-Scott Heron (2011)
The second collaboration between Drake and Rihanna after 2010’s “What’s My Name?”, this track samples the beat and the hook from Jamie xx’s remix of Gil Scott-Heron’s version of “I’ll Take Care of U,” which was originally recorded as a blues song by Bobby Bland in 1959. In addition, the rapper also references Lesley Gore’s 1963 number one single “It’s My Party” where she sings, “it’s my party, I’ll cry if I want to.” Drake reworks the lyrics to “It’s my birthday, I’ll get high if I want to/Can’t deny that I want you, but I’ll lie if I have to.” If you listen to the chorus of “It’s My Party,” you’ll see that Drake even mimics its tone in this part of his song. These lines are fitting, as Take Care (the album) was originally set to be released on Drake’s birthday (October 24th).
“Hotline Bling” (2015)
Song Sampled: “Why Can’t We Live Together” by Timmy Thomas (1972), among others
Getting sued by Playboy wasn’t the only questionable thing that happened to Drake throughout his career. His smash hit was originally titled “Hotline Bling (Cha Cha Remix)” after singer-rapper D.R.A.M’s “Cha Cha” when it premiered on Beats 1 OVO Sound Radio in July 2015. The two tracks sound eerily similar and Drake has even called it a “quasi cover.” However, although Timmy Thomas is listed as a co-writer on “Hotline Bling” due to the sampling of his 1972 soul hit “Why Can’t We Live Together,” D.R.A.M.’s song has since been removed from the title and is nowhere to be found on the credits. “I feel like my record got jacked,” D.R.A.M. says, “and it’s not just me. People been comparing ‘Cha Cha’ and ‘Hotline Bling’ since it came out.”
“One Dance” feat. Wizkid and Kyla (2016)
Song Sampled: “Do You Mind” (Crazy Cousinz Remix) by Kyla (2009)
It’s hard to believe that “One Dance” was Drake’s first number one single on the Billboard charts. He had been featured on two number one singles prior to the dancehall-infused smash hit, but they were both under Rihanna’s name: “What’s My Name?” and “Work.” “One Dance” features a slowed down sample of the vocals and chord stabs from a 2008 UK funky house anthem, Kyla’s “Do You Mind,” along with a verse from Nigerian singer, Wizkid. He and Drake had teamed up in 2015 to remix his song “Ojuelegba.” Drake had reportedly been a fan of Kyla’s song for several years and after convincing his producer to use “Do You Mind” as a bridge, production of “One Dance” took only about a week to complete. Kyla said of the experience:
“I thought it was going to be a good few weeks before it dropped, but I saw it in the paper on Monday, and Tuesday it was out. It was really crazy, really quick […] They got my track, cut the bits out that they wanted, and just made a song out of it. They explained to me that two tunes [from Views] had been leaked, so they weren’t going to send the song over to me. They played a little snippet of it over the phone. They were very much like, ‘Let’s run with this version, there’s no time for recording it or anything like that. We’re getting hacked left, right, and centre.’”
In fact, Drake and his team were unsure how “One Dance” would be received since they thought it was a significant shift from his previous work. Therefore, they decided to release “Pop Style” along with it, since they felt it was more aligned with conventional rap. After claiming the top spot in the US and global charts, as well as becoming the number one streamed song in Spotify’s history, it’s safe to say Drake and his team underestimated the broad appeal of “One Dance.”
“Glow” feat. Kanye West (2017)
Song Sampled: “Devotion” (Live) by Earth, Wind & Fire (1975)
Despite having joined forces with Drake numerous times in the past, that didn’t stop Kanye West from dissing the hitmaker in a lengthy concert rant late last year. At a Sacramento gig, Kanye called out Drake, DJ Khaled, Jay Z, Beyoncé and others after stopping his show three songs in. Kanye dissed radio stations for not playing his music, implying that Drake and Khaled had boosted their track’s performance on the radio. “We can love each other, but the rules gotta be fair,” he said, “Khaled, and Drake, and radio, and Doc, and 92.3 and everybody, is it just me or did you hear that song so many times? You say you wanna play it ‘For Free?’ Ayy, ayy, you know what it is, though.” He also claimed that MTV executives told him Beyoncé would be winning the Video of the Year VMA for “Formation.” “Beyoncé, I was hurt cause I heard that you said you wouldn’t perform unless you won Video of the Year over me, and over ‘Hotline Bling,'” he said. “We are all great people, we are all equal, but sometimes we be playing the politics too much and forgetting who we are just to win. Fuck winning!” Kanye said. Finally, the rapper called out long-time collaborator Jay Z: “Call me bra. You still ain’t call me. Jay Z, call me. Ayy brah, Jay Z I know you got killas, please don’t send ‘em at my head, just call me. Talk to me like a man,” he said. Kanye seemed angry that Bey and Jay hadn’t reciprocated the love after the infamous Taylor Swift incident at the 2009 VMA awards. “I went down 7 years of my life of motherfuckas hating me cause I said Beyoncé had the best video,” Yeezy concluded. “Glow” does not necessarily mean that the two have made amends, however, as the track was most likely recorded around August 2016 — well before Kanye’s November rant.
– Matthew Martino