Drake knows. He knows that his debut album, due out this spring, faces stratospheric expectations. “I feel like people are gonna get it and pop it in,” the 23-year-old Toronto rapper says, “and, no matter what it sounds like—I could make the most beautiful arrangements of hip-hop in the last 20 years—and people will still be like, ‘Nope, he didn’t do it.’” That’s why he named the record Thank Me Later. Eventually, he believes, everyone will come around.
Why the hype? Blame lady-killing single “Best I Ever Had” (46 million MySpace streams and counting) and a slew of free online tracks for establishing Aubrey Drake Graham as a star without an album, the first pop artist to rap and sing with equal skill. He’s now so intensely watched that, when he hurt his knee earlier this year, “Drake’s Knee” got its own Twitter account.
The former child actor figures he missed out on a million-and-a-half, maybe two million bucks by staying on the sidelines for the last few months. Oh well. He’s still “comfortable financially.” Apparently his deal with Lil Wayne’s label, Young Money, helps. “You get it off the deal,” Drake says, “and of course you go from doing shows for whatever you can get to people start offering real money. Wayne gets real money. I don’t get that. But even so, shows start climbing from 10 thousand to 20, 30, 40, 50, 60—whatever.”
The album, when it finally comes, won’t exactly be rock-inspired. But Drake does love Grizzly Bear, Kings of Leon and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, and he’s rhymed fiercely over a Coldplay hook. “What I wanna do,” he says, “is sorta keep the element of those dark, sexy chord progressions that you hear in those indie-rock songs and bring it out more sonically with a more powerful drum sound. ’Cause my life has graduated from a very grey, gloomy point to a moment that’s very triumphant. And I want the music to represent that.”