Drake Talks Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Ghostwriting, & 'More Life'
Before dropping More Life, Drake opens up.
During a rare interview with DJ Semtex for OVOSOUND Radio, premiered on Beats 1 Saturday (Feb. 18), the 6 God spoke candidly about ghostwriting, Kanye West, Jay Z, and his Meek Mill feud. The interview also focused on Drizzy’s upcoming playlist, which he says is “an evolution of the mixtape.”
“The style in which it’s being put together is based off of our concept that is OVOSOUND Radio,” he explained. “You’ll kind of hear it when you hear the project. I love the way it’s put together. It’s really put together as a seamless listen. Basically, what I asked myself was, ‘What would happen if I just did an OVOSOUND Radio but every song was a new Drake song?’ That was kind of my idea for it.’
“It’s just an evolution of the mixtape,” he continued. “It was getting tough to be like, ‘I’m dropping a mixtape but it’s for sale on iTunes.’ It was like, ‘Oh, that’s your album.’ I didn’t want people to say this is my next album. Views was my album. This is something that, after Views, I was just inspired. I wanted to keep the music flowing.”
Drake is currently on his “Boy Meets Word Tour” through March 16 in Cologne. Meanwhile, Drizzy’s manager Oliver El-Khatib has hinted at More Life dropping on the next episode of OVOSOUND Radio, slated for March 4. Listen to the full interview and read highlights from the lengthy conversation below.
On Views: “It was also an opportunity for me to take a lot of risks that I felt I was ready to take at that moment. I was obviously really proud of it, from the title to the cover to the styles of music that I felt we introduced almost as a package. It started with ‘Work’ because it came out before my album. And then, it progressed into ‘One Dance,’ ‘Controlla,’ ‘Too Good.’ The style of music that was making me happy at the time…I was having trouble figuring myself out in rap at the time. I was a very defensive individual coming off the situations I was coming off of. I was having trouble making rap music where I was able to peel back the layers. Every time I’d make a song, 40 is always very bluntly honest with me and he’d say, ‘You sound aggressive or defensive.’ I was trying to figure out why and realized it was just a reaction to previous situations…There was a time when I actually thought about taking all the rap off of Views and just making it an album full of music that made me happy with melody. But I know why I’m here. I know who my core fan base is. So, towards the end of the album, I tried to execute as best as I could on the rap end.”
On “Pop Style”: “I was dealing directly with ‘Ye and that’s the version that he sent me and that was what we talked about. He was like, ‘Man you know this is like “Pop Style” featuring The Throne! This is huge!’ And I was excited obviously, anybody would be excited to see them link back up. Then I didn’t know what I was gonna hear so when I heard Jay had two bars, I was like, ‘Alright it is what it is, it’s cool I like that, it’s a little intro and Kanye goes off.’ And then, I’m not really sure the details between how that conversation was miscommunicated or what they were going through at the time or what anybody felt towards me or whatever it was. I’m not really sure. Next thing I knew, it became a bit of an issue. From there, I don’t waste too much time so I was like, ‘Alright, cool. I’ll finish it. I can rap as good as anybody else so I’ll just go finish the song and put forth my own version.’ Nobody can ever dangle anything over my head in this business. I don’t play that. It just needed to be done and I did it myself. Both versions exist and when Kanye does it at his shows, it goes crazy. I know he was really upset because at that time, we were working together pretty heavy. He really wanted to be on the record.”
On Kanye West: “I’m not really sure what he’s referring to half the time…I went from working on a project with him to him sort of publicly shitting on me and Khaled for being on the radio too much…Everybody has their own thing going on. Again, when I hear that, I just distance myself from it. If that’s what it is, I don’t even understand the point you’re trying to make. Whatever it is that you’re going through, I accept it. I don’t respect it at all because me and Khaled are both good people. I’m not really sure why we’re the target of the choice you made that night. But again, I accept what you’re going through.”
On Streaming: “Streaming is the new record business so I guess you could call it digital politics. That’s kind of a good name for a song, actually. I might have to do that when I get upstairs.”
On Racism: “The first time I really experienced [racism] was when I got famous and went to America. People would challenge me like I don’t understand how it works. ‘Oh, you’re Canadian. You’ll never understand the black American struggle.’ That was the first time I really ever got challenged. It was by people who I’d met in America who were close to me at the time.”
On Grammys: “I am referred to as a black artist. Last night, at [the Grammys], I am a black artist. I’m apparently a rapper even though ‘Hotline Bling’ is not a rap song. The only category that they can manage to fit me in is in a rap category, maybe because I’ve rapped in the past or because I’m rap. I can’t figure out why, just like I can’t figure out why ‘One Dance’ wasn’t nominated. There’s pop obligations that they have and I fluked out and got one of the biggest songs of the year. That is a pop song and I’m proud of that. I love the rap world and I love the pop community but I write pop songs for a reason. I want to be like Michael Jackson and artists I looked up to. Those are pop songs. I never get any credit for that. By the way, I’m speaking to you as a winner. I won two awards last night, but I don’t even want them. It just feels weird, for some reason. It just doesn’t feel right to me.”
On Chance the Rapper: “They don’t decide the winners but they do decide the nominations. They have to play it politically. Shoutout to Chance [the Rapper] for last night. Like I said, I’m speaking from a winner’s point of view and I’m so happy for him. I’m not angry about the way last night worked out but do I feel racism? Yeah, I feel it. I notice it going on.”
On Quentin Miller: “Quentin Miller is a kid I was introduced to through Boi-1da. Me and Boi-1da were working on a project at the time. I said to him, ‘I want to do a mixtape. I want to do it quick. I want to surprise people.’ I wanted him to executive produce it. We were working and going through the motions of building a project.’ He was like, ‘Yo, I got this kid and sometimes I send him beats and he cooks up ideas and his ideas are good. They need work, but they’re good.’ So, at the time, I was like, ‘Dope. Let’s collaborate. Line it up.’ I started working with this kid and I think we ended up doing about five songs together in total, a few of which were on that project and a few of which just made their way out. He was a guy I collaborated on music with. I’m proud to sit here in front of you and say that. Meek Mill, at the time, due to some issue with Nicki, whatever it was, decided to create a narrative, that I don’t write my own music, because that’s what was convenient for him at the time, and he caught wind of it. It’s unfortunate too because Quentin was being managed by DJ Drama and Don Cannon, who ended up really fucking his shit up because they were just messy with the shit unnecessarily. He decided to create this narrative where I don’t write my own music. The reason why I never felt pressured to sit down and defend myself right away or go do an interview is because anybody that was in those rooms, that worked on that project, or anybody that’s been in any room with me, period, knows first of all that I am one of the best writers period. That is what I do. That’s what I’m known for. I go and write for other people. I write my biggest songs, my biggest hits. The massive majority of my catalog has all been solely written by me, which is a big feat because music is a collaborative process. At that given time, with those isolated records, they just wouldn’t be what they were if it wasn’t for me, if it wasn’t for my pen, and my contributions to that. Not taking away from him. We did great work together in a very small space. It really just kind of blossomed into this thing where I became the poster child for ghostwriting, which is a huge conversation now in music. If I was an evil spirit, if I had a different agenda, I could sit here and tell you how the shit really works. I could sit here and tell you 10-20 people that are worse than me, that literally take everything, and it’s just a verbatim process. But I’m not like that. When my peers get a record, I’m happy. It’s great. It doesn’t matter where it comes from. I don’t care. But for me, it was a big deal because it wasn’t the truth. If I have to be the poster child for it and if you choose to, after finding out about the situation, discredit my entire catalog or my career, you were going to discredit me anyway. I’ve come to peace with that. When it came to that writing situation, I never felt the urge to have to defend myself because if you ask about any of the biggest Drake records ever, I’ve done them all. If you ask about those Quentin Miller sessions, I was there. I was working. There would be no second half of ‘Know Yourself.’ And the bars wouldn’t be as good if it wasn’t for me on any of those songs. We sit down and we talk about cadences and we talk about which lines to do and that’s just what a collaborative experience is. If people are that naive and they think that that doesn’t go on in music, then you’re out of your mind.”
On DJ Drama and Reference Tracks: “They were these references from my sessions, when we worked together. No context to those references at all, but they existed. That taught me a valuable lesson as well, which was, ‘Man, I can’t trust anybody. You can’t leave with nothing.’… It was really DJ Drama that got a call from somebody higher up. At that time, he didn’t have the backbone to say no to this person. He was like, ‘My guy’s getting roasted. You gotta give him some ammo to keep Drake down.’ That was when I realized how deep this shit really is. That whole situation was what it was.”
On Meek Mill: “You can interview Meek and ask him if it was worth it. I bet he’ll say ‘no.’ … That was a terrible, impulsive decision because you weren’t ready. I study the game and I’m a very calculated thinker. I’m sitting here thinking you’re ready for it. My mind was going 1,000 miles a minute. I’m thinking this goes so high up that I’m about to see the craziest shit I ever seen. I didn’t know who was going to be on a diss track with him or what he had ready. I thought this was three months in the making and I’m just getting blindsided. And then when I drop ‘Charged Up’ just to kind of see what the preparation level was, I realized you’re not ready.”
On Nicki Minaj: “My biggest focus the entire time was, ‘I cannot disrespect Nicki Minaj or use Nicki Minaj in any way other than to lift her up.’ That’s not in my character. I didn’t go the route of calling him a bunch of terrible names. I just used wit and good writing, ironically enough, great writing, to win that situation.”
On XXXTentacion Biting Allegations: “I’m trying to read and figure out who they’re talking about. I find out who they’re talking about…I listen to it and I’m like, ‘Okay, I see where people can draw this comparison off the first two lines, whether it be the cadence or rhyme pattern or whatever.’ It’s crazy that people think that after all this time, after all I’ve been through, that I’m the type of person to go [copy] some song that’s on SoundCloud. It doesn’t have like two plays. It has plays. He has his cult following. To think that I would take that and make it my song, I’m not stupid. I’m not a shit person like that.”