When he was just 23, the rapper Drake set a goal for himself: He’d make $25 million by the time he was 25 years old by rapping about money, cars, girls, and—here’s the bizarre part—his rawest feelings and emotions. He achieved it. Easily. Now 26 and readying his most inspired album yet, the Canadian sensation has set a new goal for himself. The approach is the same, but the endgame is exponentially more ambitious:
In one song off the new album, Drake delves into the pain of his parents’ split, but as always for Drake, it’s raw material—powerful, personal, and cautionary—reshaped as art. And it’s what makes Drake Drake: his willingness to go there and say it out loud, and in that way possess it. If it’s an impulse not wholly recognizable in rap, it suggests that perhaps Drake belongs on a slightly different continuum, one belonging, at least in spirit, to confessional poets or expressionist painters or indie bands like the xx, a band he loves. But, he says, his lodestar for the new work has been Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear, the 1978 double-album confessional chronicling the collapse of Gaye’s first marriage, described by one critic as “the sound of divorce…exposed in all its tender-nerve glory.”
"It’s so honest," says Drake, who’s also been recording in Gaye’s old studio, Marvin’s Room. "He just puts it all out there.
"As for my whole story," he says, "I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve told bits and pieces of it—and I’ll tell more. Maybe because I had friends who grew up in the hood, I could have acted like I had, too, and perpetrated a different lifestyle, and it would be eating away at me because it wouldn’t be the truth. I’m actually here in front of you living the truth. I wake up in the morning and my heart is light, man. It’s not heavy. I don’t have skeletons in the closet on their way out. This is my real age, my real name, my real past, and I’m good with that."
As he speaks, he gesticulates as if onstage, then adds:
"No—I’m grateful for that."