TheMotto No. 56 acknowledges Canada Day with the second of five interviews I’ve done with Aubrey Drake Graham. Live from the Rap Radar Mansion in spring of 2012, Drake was on his Club Paradise tour in Berlin, Germany and I rang him up for the cover of RESPECT.
There’s no video of this conversation. But there’s audio, and once I got it transcribed, I asked my wife Danyel, like I usually do, to edit my work. Yes she loves me. But she’s also a former editor-in-chief of Vibe, and Billboard.
The below is a 1061-word excerpt from a 4500+ word transcript. And, yes, Drake and his OVO team provided all artwork. I love collaborating with those Canadian creatives.
Let’s go to Take Care. I remember [the last time] we talked…you were candid about what you liked and didn’t like about your first album...you’d begun recording, and you did some stuff with 9th Wonder and Q-Tip, but...it seemed by the time you got into the heart of 2011’s Take Care, it went to a whole other place. Like, Fuck it, this is my lane, nobody does it like me, I’m going to deliver. Am I accurate?
Yeah…I’m human. I often get baited into hip-hop debates. And I often feel that I don’t get enough credit as a bar-for-bar MC because of the fact that I choose to take musical risks. And I also feel like when other people take musical risks, they get...more credit than me. With that being said, I found myself, and my sound when I went back home. Take Care, much like So Far Gone, sounds like our city. If you spend six months there, and get to know the people, and you find yourself a girl there, and you end up going out there — it really sounds like our city...And — not to say that every project I do is going to be like that...But yeah, at first I guess I was trying to be like Oh, I’m gonna make the rapper’s rap album, and I’m just gonna rap, and I’m gonna prove that I’m one of the best. And then I realized, like, You know what? Fuck you. Like, I can prove that I’m one of the best without…without the names. The names don’t mean anything. If the songs aren’t good, they’re not good. If me and so-and-so don’t make a bunch of music like me and 40 would, or me and Jamie xx would…that moves people, that I can come to Berlin and do for 8,000-9,000 people, or go do 30,000 people in London…if it’s not going to work, then what’s the point? Who am I doing it for? I’m basically doing it for your website.
[Laughs] even when the Common thing began, and he took his shot, it seemed like...Who are you attacking? The only guy…that sings well, raps well, and [does] the combination of that, is you.
Yeah. And ... still doing it with the quiet, unspoken integrity that we all take pride in. Like the fact that I had Rihanna do ... a Gil Scott cover. The fact that I essentially birthed The Weeknd within this whole cycle of Take Care. Things that I’m not going to throw in people’s faces…but at the same time, I’m proud. Every time we embark on a musical quest...there’s a lot more than just the product that happens...I really like the way I make music. I’m no longer in question. And if it’s not hip hop to some people... it’s like, I care so much less every day because I see the results, and I’ve realized that the few comments are not the world. That’s not how the world thinks. That’s not the majority opinion, and therefore I have to keep doing it for the people that are actually showing up at these shows, and actually buying this record in the first week..and coming up to me on the street, telling me how much that music means to them. It does mean a lot to people. And if there’s a certain person that doesn’t appreciate it, then that’s fine, that’s how shit goes. That’s perfect. It’s supposed to go that way.
So unlike the first album, when you look back on Take Care, every piece is the way you’d like it? Is there anything, nitpick-wise, you’d change?
There’s this one point in the album where it goes, I think like “Cameras,” “Good Ones Go,” “Doing It Wrong,” “The Real Her.” I could have — had I had a bit more time...shifted some of those R&B moments to bonus moments and put like one more potent joint on there. I don’t know. It’s silly for me…to speculate on what I would’ve changed, but that’s the one thing that always stuck out to me…and structure-wise I’ve always been great at staggering it. But…we explored a lot of sounds, and ...40 did incredible...T-Minus really came through with some big records. And…as much as people try and say how somber an album it was, you didn’t go to the club and not hear Drake. “The Motto” was running. “Hell Ya Fucking Right” was running. “Headlines” was running. I had joints in there. So as long as I can keep doing that, I can keep doing the brand of music I love.
Did you feel that “The Motto” didn’t fit the structure? Is that why you ended up making it a bonus?
No. Actually, “The Motto” was made two days after the album went to press…I went to Vegas for my birthday…and two days after my birthday party I was at Mally Mall’s house, in his studio. We were all just chilling, drinking. T-Minus had just voice-clipped me this beat. I was like, ‘Fuck!’ I played it over the big speakers. And it was so funny, there was this girl in the studio from the Bay Area, I think her name was Jaden...She was like, ‘This is some Bay shit. This would go so stupid in The Bay.’ Franzen is from the Bay, so he was like “Yeah.’ I’ve always loved the sound, the tempo, the drums, the flows. But I never thought of myself doing something. So I was like, Okay, a challenge. I like it. I did the verse and I did the hook and I remember just watching everybody in the studio like, Wow. I can always tell...I do my verse, and I sit back and I play it loud, and I get observant. Like, the girls that just walked in the room. Are they going to start dancing to it right when they walk in? Do my friends already know the lyrics if I played it like six, seven times? Just little things, so I know this might be one of those ones. From there, I sent it to Wayne. And when we got Wayne’s verse back, it was just… I was...like, ‘Oh my God. Can I put it on the album? This is the joint that was missing!’
a danyelliott production
Danyel Smith + Elliott Wilson