Artist Of The Decade: Drake and his Incredible 10 Year Run
Look, I know. Drake is the biggest artist on the planet, we don’t need another Drake article. Too bad, you’re getting another Drake article. Earlier this week, Billboard announced that Aubrey Graham, formally known as Drizzy Drake (do right and kill everything), will be named artist of the decade. It’s appropriate with this incredible achievement to look back at just how he got here, and where we’re headed with the OVO Sound front.
We’ll start in 2010. Drake had released his debut album Thank Me Later under YMCMB and it went number 1 on the charts. Lil Wayne’s prodigy started off hot, with tracks like “Miss Me,” “Over,” “Show Me a Good Time,” and “Up All Night.” The man started off with a knack for making hits, coming strong the previous year with the So Far Gone mixtape featuring Wayne himself and really making a splash. Thank Me Later, while dated in 2021, is still an integral piece to what made the man one of the biggest artists in the world. It was here where he developed his sing song, “emotional rap” that would grow into one of the biggest memes in the following year. In 2011, Take Care touched down, giving Drake consecutive number 1 debuts. At this point, Drake had already gained a massive following, and it would only grow larger with his sophomore effort. He had the poise of a vet, standing on the back of a few mixtapes and a solid debut, and really leaned into his sad boy rap style. The R&B rap blend that Drake put out would influence a number of artists to emulate his style in the coming years, with a Bryson Tiller type-sound as an example “I guess it really is just me, myself and all my children!” would become an understatement (Looking at you, Tory Lanez).
Post- Take Care, many looked at Drake as one of the best in the game at the moment. He put himself in that Andre 3000, Kanye West type of genre with his ability to be “soft” in a hypermasculine music scene and still do numbers. Drake would take a two-year layoff between major releases, all the while dropping heat on features and gearing up for his third studio album, Nothing Was the Same. He’d stay hot with a third number 1 debut under his belt, featuring hits like “The Language,” “Started from the Bottom,” and “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” The versatility only became more apparent and Drizzy even stole the show from Hov on “Pound Cake.” This solidified The Boy right alongside Weezy as a legend in this game.
It only got crazier from there. Soundcloud Drake was born, with releases like “Draft Day,” “2 On Remix,” “Days in the East,” and more. The man went on a killing spree, to put it nicely. All of this culminated into the surprise drop of his fourth studio album, “If You’re Reading This Its Too Late.” This project saw Drake reach for a new sound entirely, venturing into a trap style of rap, while still mixing in his R&B flow. This era also ushered in the infamous ghostwriting accusation from Meek Mill, and Drake’s “Charged Up”/”Back To Back" response that shook the rap game. Drake made a diss record into a club banger, and Meek was essentially bullied into irrelevancy without mentioning Drake’s name. The two have since made up and collaborated again. Subsequently, Drake and Future came together to release the biggest collab album since Kanye and Jay Z hopped on Watch the Throne with their What a Time to be Alive project. The two flowed infectiously over tracks together, and put out a wonderfully aging album produced by Metro Boomin, featuring the lead hit “Jumpman.”
If you shorted how big the man could get after four number 1 albums in a row, Views was a disappointment for you man. Views, Drakes 2016 release catapulted him into superstardom beyond that of pretty much any rapper ever. Drake’s new style was that of Jamaican Dancehall mixed with rap, which you see on the hit “Too Good,” featuring Rihanna. Drake would return the favor on “Work,” and both saw immense success. The lead single “Hotline Bling” is one of the biggest songs of the decade. This album took a man who was already global, and made him universal. He looked unstoppable. So what was next? Not an album.
Next from the number 1 artist in the rap game we saw a “playlist” as described by the man himself. We saw the next evolution of Drake, U.K. Roadman Drill artist Drake. Many have come for Drake for borrowing flows and from other genres, but if it was that easy, everyone would do it. Drake collaborated with U.K. stars like Skepta, Giggs, and long time collaborator Sampha, putting together a mix of Jamaican Dancehall and U.K. drill, along with classic Drake bars to make a complete, well, Playlist.
After the U.K. era, we saw the rollout for Scorpion, the double album from Mr. Graham. The controversy with the Pusha T beef before the release definitely spoiled the album a bit, with some clear last-minute changes put in to response to the beef after “Story Of Adonis” served Drake with his first L in a beef. While this took away a bit from the album, there were still 15 to 20 great tracks, and in my opinion it’s still a great album underneath some of the extra fat. Side 1 was rap focused, with tracks like “God’s Plan,” “Nonstop,” and “Mob Ties,” while side 2 was entirely R&B focused, with standouts like “Nice for What,” “Finesse,” and “Jaded.” The year leading up to Scorpion was one of Drake’s best yet, seeing three number 1 songs in the span of a single year.
In the following year we would get Dark Lane Demo Tapes, a release to hold fans over for the much-anticipated Certified Lover Boy. Drake had previously announced and delayed the album multiple times, with the last date rumored to have been January 2021. It is May Aubrey. Drake thinks he’s a professional athlete, and even while being unable to tour, decided to postpone his album due to ACL surgery. The Boy came with the heat though, ramping up album promotion with singles like “Laugh Now, Cry Later” featuring Lil Durk, who’s on quite a run of his own. Later he would release Scary Hours 2, featuring “What’s Next,” “Wants & Needs” featuring up and comer Lil Baby, and “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” featuring the legend Ricky Rozay who can do no wrong alongside the man from the 6.
In 2020, we’ve seen a focused, hungrier Drake, looking to prove himself after a bit of a downer in Scorpion. Now over a decade in, the critically acclaimed artist still feels like he has something left to prove. The question is though, how many more rings can the man fit on his fingers? Solidly in the top three currently, and my top 10 all time, The Boy is solidified. I’m sure I missed some things, but this pretty much wraps up the last decade for our GOAT. So, Drizzy, “What’s Next?”