Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Ryan Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Frost
Degrassi: The Next Generation
Currently Known For:
Singer, Songwriter, Rapper, Actor, and Entrepreneur
October 24, 1986
Degrassi: The Next Generation
Click the button below to view the next entry.
“My life is mine to remember.” One of the most talented and best looking artists in Hollywood today, Drake is an award-winning rapper, singer and songwriter who first turned heads in the early 2000s when he starred on the Canadian teen drama Degrassi: The Next Generation. After six years on the show and over 140 episode appearances, he made the transition from acting to music and released his first mixtape—Room for Improvement—in 2006. He followed up with two more independent projects—Comeback Season and So Far Gone—before bidding farewell to Degrassi and signing his first recording contract with Lil Wayne’s Young Money Entertainment. Fast forward nine years and now the 31-year-old Drake is a record-setting artist with over 150 hit singles landing on the Billboard Hot 100 list and a cool $90 million in the bank! So, how did he get his start in the business? We thought you’d never ask!
The Makings of a Star
Aubrey Drake Graham was born on October 24, 1986 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to a Jewish-Canadian English teacher and a drummer from Memphis known for playing alongside rock ‘n roll legends like Jerry Lee Lewis. When he was five years old, Drake’s parents divorced and, although he had dual citizenship in both Canada and the United States, he stayed in Toronto with his mother while his father returned to his native Tennessee to pursue his music dreams.
For a few years, Drake spent his summers in Memphis until his father’s drug addiction landed him in jail for a number of years. However, Drake remains grateful for the time he spent with his dad especially since they shared a deep love of music. “When my dad drove me to Memphis one time from Toronto, it was a 20-something hour drive. I brought my Doggystyle cassette,” Drake recalled. “I asked him, ‘Dad, can I please play this? Mom won’t let me play it in the house.’ He was like, ‘Yeah. You can play it for 20 minutes and then we listen to an hour of my music.’ That was Al Green, that was the Spinners, that was Sade. That was Marvin Gaye… it was really pivotal for me because I started listening to the melodies and the emotion in this music that he was playing me.”
Back in Toronto, Drake grew up in a working-class neighborhood before he and his mother moved to a more affluent part of town where they rented half a house with another family. “We had a half of a house we could live in,” he recalled. “The other people had the top half, we had the bottom half. I lived in the basement, my mom lived on the first floor. It was not big, it was not luxurious. It was what we could afford.”
Despite their obvious financial struggle, Drake had a happy childhood and played minor hockey with the Weston Red Wings before discovering his passion for the arts in a class production at Forest Hill Collegiate Institute. His mother encouraged those dreams saying, “You know whatever you want to do, whatever you end up being, I’ll always love you. I’ll always support you.” That encouragement was all he needed as he transferred to the prestigious Vaughan Road Academy where the academics were tough but life in the hallways was even tougher as Drake was bullied for being both biracial and Jewish. Eventually, he realized that his demanding academic schedule was doing little to help his acting dreams, which led him to drop out and pursue acting full time at only 15 years old.
Getting His Start
“I was in class and I used to always crack jokes… I was a good liar and a good talker,” Drake said of getting his start. “This kid in my class was like, ‘Yo, my dad is an agent. You should go talk to him because you’re good and you make people laugh.’ I was just good. I was my father’s soon. I was slick, you know? When it comes to knowing what to say, to charm, I always had it.”
Drake certainly had “it” as he signed on with his friend’s dad and landed his first audition for a new Canadian teen drama, Degrassi: The Next Generation. Although he had little acting experience, he won the part of Jimmy Brooks and spent the next six seasons (from 2001 to 2007) on the series while caring for his mother. Amid his success on the show, he saw his interests shift more toward music thanks to artists like Clipse and Jay Z whose music inspired him to release his first mixtape, Room for Improvement, in 2006.
Room for Improvement sold over 6,000 copies as Drake launched his record label—October’s Very Own—and released his second mixtape, Comeback Season. The second release was another huge success and featured Drake’s earliest hit single, “Replacement Girl,” which he also released as a BET music video. At the time, this was unheard of since no unsigned rapper from Canada had ever thought to enter the market on their own! Drake was a first and, because of his ambition, he became one of the most sought after artists as he ended his tenure with Degrassi and launched into his music career full-time.
Making Music and A Name for Himself
In 2009, Drake signed a record deal with Lil Wayne’s Young Money Entertainment and released his first studio album, Thank Me Later, in 2010. Upon its debut, the album ranked at the top of the Billboard 200 charts in the United States and was RIAA certified platinum. Cashing in on his success, he followed up with albums Take Care in 2011 and Nothing Was the Same in 2013, both of which were critically acclaimed commercial successes. Take Care even earned Drake his first Grammy Award for Best Rap Album of the year.
Setting new Billboard records with 154 charted singles, Drake wrapped up his six-date Jungle Tour and co-headlined with Future on the Summer Sixteen Tour in 2016 following the release of his fourth studio album, Views. Once again, the album broke several chart records thanks to hits like “One Dance” that put Drake at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and the Billboard 200 for eight consecutive weeks. In the two years since then, he’s picked up even more steam with the Boy Meets World Tour and the Aubrey & the Three Migos Tour in addition to promoting the release of his latest album, Scorpion.
Beyond music and his reputation as one of the best-selling rappers of the 21st century, Drake has also proven his talents as an actor and producer with credits in Ice Age: Continental Drift, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, and Saturday Night Live. In 2017, he made his debut as a producer in The Carter Effect and has since hinted at focusing more time behind the camera. “Being a young black guy, I think there’s definitely the chance to get typecast,” he said of his acting ambitions, “but I also have been pretty adamant about showing range. I try to show it through different outlets like Saturday Night Live… When I get back into acting, I want to do things that make people go, ‘Wow, I didn’t expect that.’”
Toying around with the idea of taking six months to a year off to work in film, Drake doesn’t plan to give up music anytime soon, but he does want the freedom to pursue other ventures. He’s endorsed a number of products and teams like the Toronto Raptors and even launched his second record label, OVO Sound, under Warner Bros. Records. He’s also the mastermind behind the Virginia Black bourbon-based whisky and the OVO clothing line. It’s easy to see why the 31-year-old is already worth $90 million and counting, isn’t it?
All Things Dating and Romance
Apart from his business ventures and incredible success as an actor and musician, Drake is also well-known for his on-again, off-again “friendship” with the incredibly talented and beautiful Rihanna. First meeting in 2005 when Rihanna was filming the music video for “Pon De Replay,” Drake and Rihanna had their first date four years later after Rihanna’s very public split from Chris Brown. Although they were spotted making out the entire night at Lucky Strike in New York City, Rihanna later denied the rumors of a brewing romance as Drake realized his feelings for Rihanna were far stronger than her feelings for him.
Putting their differences aside and collaborating on “What’s My Name,” “Work,” and “Too Good,” Drake and Rihanna continued the on-again, off-again cycle for years with Drake even allegedly fighting Chris Brown over Rihanna in a club in 2012. Then, in 2016, things got even wilder when Drake surprised Rihanna with a billboard congratulating her on winning the MTV Video Vanguard Award and then professed his love to her as he presented the award. “She’s someone I’ve been in love with since I was 22 years old, she’s one of my best friends in the world,” Drake said. “She’s a living, breathing legend in our industry…”
Despite Drake’s heartfelt confession, Rihanna has since pulled away stating, “We don’t have a friendship now, but we’re not enemies either. It is what it is.” Of course, with their romantic rollercoaster ride over the years, who’s to say they won’t get back together very soon!