Immersing yourself in Drake’s catalog is more than a little like jumping into bed with the guy for one of those torrid affairs he likes to emote about in the endless tear-stained diary that is his discography. His charms are hard to resist — a man of many talents, a man for all seasons, a man who chews up the entire hip-hop landscape and spits it back out in his own image — but after a while, if you’ve still got your bearings about you, you learn to keep your distance from the dude and just let him simmer.
The sing-songy Toronto rapper has proven he can do it all: from simp to pimp, from gentleman to jerk-off, from gracious mama’s boy to gratuitous party monster, all while slowly but surely nudging rap’s center toward his own burning core of solipsistic longing. That elasticity is a big part of the reason Drake finds himself on top of the world this week upon the release of third LP Nothing Was The Same – as far as you can describe a headspace this bleak as “on top of the world.”
He’s almost certainly the biggest star in rap and R&B right now. After only four years in the spotlight, his aesthetic is buried deep in urban radio’s DNA, his king-making powers second only to his myth-making powers. He’s compiled so many enjoyable and/or important songs in so little time that it only seemed right to mark the occasion by taking a long look at his body of work. Below, immerse yourself in his 100 greatest songs, but be prepared to go a little crazy in the process.
I knew before going in that Drake was kind of an asshole, but after skimming through so many passive-aggression tracts and pressing play on so much synth-drenched navel-gazing, I’m still kind of stunned at the depths of his self-obsession. If this is the face of Generation Y, maybe we ought to take a long look in the mirror. Then again, that’s one of our favorite hobbies, which might be what keeps us coming back to this dude.
100. “The Resistance” (From Thank Me Later, 2010)
Persona: Caspar Milquetoast
Relevant Drakeism: “What am I afraid of? This is supposed to be what dreams are made of”
“The Resistance” is not a fun song to listen to, but it’s an essential component of Drake’s story: at his most sniveling, complaining about his success before he even takes a moment to enjoy it.
99. “Fall For Your Type” (Jamie Foxx feat. Drake; from Best Night Of My Life, 2010)
Persona: Sober And Sarcastic
Relevant Drakeism: “Girl, quit playing you just drunk, you just saying shit/ Oh you dance, dance like how, like ballet and shit?”
An early sign of Drake’s versatility: After surging into the limelight singing hooks for A-List rappers, he tacked on a rap verse for an A-List R&B singer.
98. “What Up?” (Pimp C feat. Drake and Bun B; from The Naked Soul Of Sweet Jones, 2013)
Persona: World’s Happiest UGK Stan
Relevant Drakeism: “I’m an honorary resident of UGK town/ I’m on my way”
Given the Houston fixation Drake is always so eager to remind us about, appearing on a track with Bun B and the late Pimp C must be like a trip to one of those rock ‘n’ roll fantasy camps.
97. “No New Friends” (DJ Khaled feat. Drake, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne; from Suffering From Success, 2013)
Persona: Paranoid Papi
Relevant Drakeism: “That’s luxury dawg/ Day one niggas, man, ya’ll stuck with me dawg”
The “I’m On One” gang (Drake, 40, Khaled, Weezy and Rozay) is back, but whereas that track is a world-stomping masterpiece, “No New Friends” — more a warning to enemies than a celebration of old pals — is insular and paranoid and kind of a drag. That a song this dark could be a hit is further evidence of Drake’s complete saturation of rap radio.
96. “Own It” (From Nothing Was The Same, 2013)
Persona: Woo Tang Forever
Relevant Drakeism: “Next time we fuck, I don’t wanna fuck, I wanna make love/ Next time we talk, I don’t wanna just talk, I wanna trust”
Pretty sure this is secretly from some long-lost So Far Gone companion piece where Drake sing-raps over Hail To The Thief B-sides. Not mad about it, just sayin’.
95. “Brand New” (From So Far Gone, 2009)
Persona: Aubrey, Annoyed
Relevant Drakeism: “You’re up on a pedestal/ Are we moving too fast?/ Feels like I’m in crazy competition with the past”
Drake will not be compared to previous boyfriends. Those other men were practice, got it?
94. “Money To Blow” (Birdman feat. Drake and Lil Wayne)
Persona: Young Money, Literally
Relevant Drakeism: “I’m on my Disney shit, Goofy flow/ On records, I’m Captain Hook, and my new car is Rufio”
When Lil Wayne predicted Young Money would be all right if they put Drake on every hook, he wasn’t wrong.
93. “Champion” (Nicki Minaj feat. Nas, Drake and Young Jeezy; from Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, 2012)
Persona: Graham Champion
Relevant Drakeism: “I made a couple stars outta basic chicks/ Nowadays blow the candles out, don’t even make a wish”
You might not notice Drake’s verse tucked in there between Nicki’s sweet cooing, Jeezy’s hoarse wheezing, and Nas clawing his way back to fighting form, but if you do crane your ear this direction you’ll find boilerplate Drizzy, rapping about his success over an ominous keyboard swirl that makes world domination sound anything but fun.
92. “Versace (Remix)” (Migos feat. Drake; online promo, 2013)
Persona: Born In Toronto, Adopted By Atlanta
Relevant Drakeism: “I’m all on the low, take a famous girl out where there’s no paparazzi/ I’m tryna give Halle Berry a baby and no one can stop me”
Completely unnecessary but wildly enjoyable, which is more than you can say about most remixes.
91. “Diced Pineapples” (Rick Ross feat. Wale and Drake; from God Forgives, I Don’t, 2012)
Persona: Aubrey, Absorbing Her Wrath
Relevant Drakeism: “Call me crazy — shit, at least you’re calling/ Feels better when you let it out, don’t it girl?”
In Drake’s world, every woman scorned is makeup sex waiting to happen.
90. “We In This Bitch 1.5″ (DJ Drama feat. Drake & Future; promotional single, 2012)
Persona: Drake By Numbers
Relevant Drakeism: “Day dream at night time I think too much/ Then I hit the nightclub till its daytime and I drink too much”
Reference to a prominent Southern city? Check. Reference to treasured childhood entertainment? Check. Wringing his hands over which kind of woman to emotionally abuse? Check. Anybody looking for a primer on Drake’s lyrical tics, look no further.
89. “The Language” (From Nothing Was The Same, 2013)
Persona: The Moody Casanova
Relevant Drakeism: “Hate when they get too attached to me/ I got to get on the bus and get back on the road/ Get what I can out the country/ And then I just get on the jet and go back to the cold”
Who cares about the rest of the song; an uncredited Birdman is here to flex and mean-mug his way through the outro, and Birdman was born for that.
88. “Every Girl” (Lil Wayne feat. Drake; from We Are Young Money, 2009)
Persona: The Sexual Glutton
Relevant Drakeism: “And what are all your names, again? We drunk, remind us/ Are any of y’all into girls like I am? Lesbi-honest”
Drake and Weezy would try to spin it that way.
87. “A Night Off” feat. Lloyd (From So Far Gone, 2009)
Persona: The Guy Who Knows What You Need Better Than You Do
Relevant Drakeism: “No you ain’t explaining how you want it done/ Just be quiet I’ll do fine without your help girl”
Drake has gone to the trouble of pulling himself away from the studio, the least you could do is let him give you the privilege of having his way with you.
86. “In The Morning” (J. Cole Feat. Drake; from Cole World: The Sideline Story, 2011)
Persona: Skyrockets In Flight, Well Before The Afternoon
Relevant Drakeism: “I’ll be right here in the same bed that you left me in/ I love thick women ’cause my aunt, she rode equestrian”
I have to believe Drake does songs with J. Cole just to make himself look that much more impressive.
85. “Practice” (From Take Care, 2011)
Persona: The Dude Who Can Turn Even “Back That Azz Up” Into A Morbid Dirge
Relevant Drakeism: “Let a real nigga make it right, you deserve that much/ Let me put something in your life”
On one hand, “Practice” seems like the opposite of slut-shaming. On the other hand, reducing all previous sexual encounters to “practice for me” shows where Drake’s respect really lies.
84. “Stuntin'” (Lil Wayne feat. Drake; from Dedication 3 Gangsta Grillz, 2008)
Persona: The New Protege
Relevant Drakeism: “I’m on my elite shit, you could tell I’m real/ ‘Cause I’m gettin’ hood love and I ain’t even talkin’ street shit”
This was Drake’s grand introduction — on 2008’s biggest stage imaginable, a Lil Wayne mixtape — back when he seemed like just another anonymous steed in the Young Money stable.
83. “Karaoke” (From Thank Me Later, 2010)
Persona: A Human Soft Batch Cookie
Relevant Drakeism: “I hope you don’t get known for nothin’ crazy/ Cause no man ever wants to hear those stories ’bout his lady”
The proto-“Hold On We’re Going Home” plays like a whiney bedtime phone call to an ex but with pillowy synths instead of actual pillows. But “Karaoke” is actually the softest hammer-drop of his career; by placing it second on his debut album, he established early on that no there was no limit to how gentle he would go.
82. “Replacement Girl” Feat. Trey Songz (From Comeback Season, 2007)
Persona: A Guy Wearing A Leather Baseball Cap And A Too-Short Necktie
Relevant Drakeism: “I done come all way from the Days Inn and all the hotels that I stayed in/ I took my lifestyle from mediocre to good and now I say it’s sittin’ at amazing”
All the way back in 2007, that signature Drake aesthetic was already coming to fruition, even if he hadn’t settled into the whole Cosby sweaters thing yet.
81. “Free Spirit” Feat. Rick Ross (Online promo, 2011)
Persona: Possessive Papi
Relevant Drakeism: Tat my name on you so I know it’s real/ Tat my fuckin name on you so I know it’s real/ I know it hurts, but I ain’t tryna hear it/ ‘Cause when I’m not around, I still be there in spirit”
In which Drake and Rick Ross dream of branding their women like cattle. Moving on…
80. “Cece’s Interlude” (From Thank Me Later, 2010)
Persona: Grass Is Always Greener Graham
Relevant Drakeism: “I wish I wasn’t famous/ I wish I was still in school/ So that I could have you in my dorm room/ How I’d put it on you”
[Insert passionate guitar solo here.]
79. “Show Me a Good Time” (From Thank Me Later, 2010)
Persona: The Generous Lover, If By Generous You Mean He Passes His Women Off To Lil Wayne When He’s Finished With Them
Relevant Drakeism: “I live for the nights that I won’t remember/ With the people that I won’t forget”
I would question whether Drake will genuinely remember the women he describes here except he airs them all out in a song eventually, so…
78. “Still Got It” (Tyga feat. Drake; from Careless World: Rise of the Last King, 2011)
Persona: Kellz Jr.
Relevant Drakeism: “And maybe you could call in sick/ And bring it to the crib and get all this (all this)”
Basically the Kidz Bop version of R. Kelly’s “Echo,” which, much to my surprise, ain’t a bad thing to be.
77. “Enough Said” (Aaliyah feat. Drake; promotional single, 2012)
Persona: Patrick Swayze In Ghost
Relevant Drakeism: “Went from my nigga serving it by the tele to venues in Manchester/ Just swerving with Balotelli the fuck are you trying to tell me?”
Once you know about that tattoo, Drake as Aaliyah’s grave-robber is almost as creepy as R. Kelly as her cradle-robber.
76. “Uptown” feat. Bun B and Lil Wayne (From So Far Gone, 2009)
Persona: The Dude Who Wants You To Believe He Always Knew He Would Be Famous But Still Kind Of Can’t Believe It
Relevant Drakeism: “Now I run the game, you stupid mother suckeyes/ I see all this money through my Ohio State Buckeyes”
Plenty of howlers here even without that egregious suckeyes/Buckeyes rhyme, but that beat + that hook = It’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK.
75. “Connect” (From Nothing Was The Same, 2013)
Persona: Busy Drizzy
Relevant Drakeism: “I remember when my schedule was as flexible as she is/ She’d call and tell me ‘Be here ‘fore the sun up’/ I’d be dressed before we hung up”
Drake’s persona throughout Nothing Was The Same is deplorable more often than not, but his lament about the difficulties of maintaining real human intimacy in the face of a celebrity lifestyle is at least a little bit sympathetic.
74. “Hate Sleeping Alone” (Bonus track from Take Care, 2011)
Persona: Not That Picky
Relevant Drakeism: “I say I’d rather be with you but you are not around/ So I’mma call somebody up and see if they be down”
Drake desperately wants you next to him in bed, and by “you” he means “any willing partner.” A true romantic, that guy.
73. “The Calm” (From So Far Gone, 2009)
Persona: Heartbreak Drake, The Hardest One To Tame
Relevant Drakeism: “What they viewing as bragging is the way that I maintain/ The shit I write while staring out the window of a plane/ Is the single-handed reason I remain/ Me”
One of the purest distillations of Drake’s diaristic approach and 40’s moody swoon.
72. “Up All Night” feat. Nicki Minaj (From Thank Me Later, 2010)
Persona: The Guy Who Has So Much Money He Doesn’t Have To Care What Anybody Else Thinks
Relevant Drakeism: “I been up all night, whole crew’s in here/ Cause I don’t know who I’m about to lose this year”
Is Drake saying he doesn’t know who he’s going to lose this year because of some kind of violence, or is he just worried he’s going to alienate them like he eventually alienated his duet partner Ms. Minaj? As for the music, shit bangs.
71. “Wu-Tang Forever” (From Nothing Was The Same, 2013)
Persona: Shaolin Overshadow Boxer
Relevant Drakeism: “It ain’t about who did it first/ It’s about who did it right”
As Aubrey unfurls history’s softest power trip, the Wu-Tang fixation that bubbles underneath Nothing Was The Same from start to finish comes to the surface here — and by “the surface” I mean the surface of a shimmering pool in which Drake admires his reflection.
70. “Fireworks” feat. Alicia Keys (From Thank Me Later, 2010)
Persona: The Guy Who Still Feels Kind Of Bewildered About Getting So Famous So Fast (And About Getting Dumped By Rihanna)
Relevant Drakeism: “I’m just such a gentleman/ You should give it up for me/ Look at how I’m placing all my napkins and my cutlery”
Getting Alicia Keys to sing the hook on your breakup song about Rihanna is ballsy. Opening your official debut album with your breakup song about Rihanna is the Humblebrag of Humblebrags.
68-69. “Let’s Call It Off” + “Little Bit” (From So Far Gone, 2009)
Persona: The Rapper With Indie Cred
Relevant Drakeism: “I’m just a little bit in love with you”
Serious question: Would the indie press be taking Drake as seriously now if he hadn’t sampled/covered Peter Bjorn and John and Lykke Li (and thereby put himself on every Hype Machine contributor’s radar) back in ’09? Or would poptimism have rendered him a blog darling anyway?
67. “Ignant Shit” (From So Far Gone, 2009)
Persona: Freestyle Fellow
Relevant Drakeism: “Coolest kid out baby, word to Chuck Inglish/ Count my own money, see the paper cut fingers/ My song is your girlfriend’s waking up ringer”
Only Drake would brag about the papercuts he gets from counting all his money. Also, this song makes me wistful for Lil Wayne’s glory days, when he could jump on anybody else’s beat (in this case’s Jay-Z’s “Ignorant Shit”) and lay claim to it.
66. “Jodeci Freestyle” feat. J. Cole (Online promo, 2013)
Persona: Triumph, The Insult Comic Dawg
Relevant Drakeism: “26, on my third GQ cover/ Your shit sound like you do covers/ Of all my old shit, oh shit”
So many burns that Drake would be on fire at this point in NBA Jam, which is exactly the kind of anachronistic reference Drake traffics in.
65. “Round Of Applause” (Waka Flocka Flame feat. Drake; from Triple F Life: Friends, Fans & Family, 2012)
Persona: The Not-So-Mysterious Benefactor
Relevant Drakeism: “I just throw a couple bills, and she’ll have a pair of heels”
Drake has more than a few strip club tracks in his catalog, but “Round Of Applause” is at once his meanest and the only one where he seems to be having any fun. Credit Waka for that.
64. “Worst Behavior” (From Nothing Was The Same, 2013)
Persona: Wheelchair Jimmy’s All Grown Up
Relevant Drakeism: “My mom would probably hear that and be mortified/ This ain’t the son that used to take the Acura at 5 a.m. to go and shoot Degrassi up on Morningside”
Let’s turn this one over to our own Claire Lobenfeld: “Glad Drake named the song where he takes almost an entire Mase verse from a Biggie song to compare himself to Pac ‘Worst Behaviour’ ‘cos…”
63. “November 18th” (From So Far Gone, 2009)
Persona: Lean, But Not Mean
Relevant Drakeism: “So tonight I’ll just fuck you like we’re in Houston/ Taking everything slow, so slow, so slow”
In case you were wondering how Drake feels about H-Town… and you, babe.
62. “Fear” (From So Far Gone, 2009)
Relevant Drakeism: “And know I pop bottles ’cause I bottle my emotions/ At least I put it out in the open”
“Fear” is one of many, many Drake songs that feel like they might fade into the background until some production flourish grabs your attention, then the hook plunges into you and it’s all over.
61. “Pop That” (French Montana feat. Drake, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne; from Excuse My French, 2013)
Persona: Champagne Papi
Relevant Drakeism: “I’m about being single, seeing double, making triple/ I hope you pussy niggas hating never make a nickel”
Just plain unruly.
60. “Make Me Proud” feat. Nicki Minaj (From Take Care, 2011)
Persona: Condescending Pat
Relevant Drakeism: “I’m so I’m so I’m so I’m so I’m so proud of you”
Faux feminism at its smoothest.
59. “Lust For Life” (From So Far Gone, 2009)
Persona: Aubrey Graham, Aspiring Rap Star
Relevant Drakeism: “The game got these old hand prints on it/ But I’mma be the one to pour cement on it/ And start over”
As the first song on Drake’s breakout mixtape, “Lust For Life” is pretty fucking prescient, from its sound to its subject matter to its careful balance of crippling self-doubt and even more crippling self-confidence.
58. “The Zone” (The Weeknd feat. Drake; from Thursday, 2011)
Persona: Abel Tesfaye’s Conscience
Relevant Drakeism: “Whoa, all these broken hearts on that pole/ Man, if pole dancing’s an art, you know how many fuckin’ artists I know?”
Drake will never let you forget how much he loves the strip club, but he’ll also never let you forget how much of a gentleman he is at the strip club.
57. “Forever” feat. Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Eminem (From Music Inspired By The Film More Than A Game, 2009)
Persona: Last Name Ever, First Name Greatest
Relevant Drakeism: “In your city faded off the brown, Nino/ She insist she got more class, we know/ Swimming in the money, come and find me, Nemo/ If I was at the club you know I balled, chemo”
Around the time Kanye, Lil Wayne and Eminem jumped on a track with him, it was becoming pretty clear that even if Drake didn’t last forever, he wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. “Forever” is boilerplate blockbuster rap, but when you get four guys this good together, it’s gonna be at least half-decent. And it is, that hashtag head-slapper about Finding Nemo notwithstanding.
56. “Good Girls Go Bad” (The Game feat. Drake; from The R.E.D. Album, 2011)
Persona: Nostalgic Don Juan
Relevant Drakeism: “I’ll be the king to your Queen Latifah/ I love your ass like Milhouse love Lisa/ I love your ass like the Ninja Turtles love pizza”
Only Drake would believe that string of childhood TV references qualifies as a pickup line, but Drake is also one of the only people who might be able to pull that off.
55. “Amen” (Meek Mill feat. Drake; from Dreamchasers 2 & Dreams and Nightmares, 2012)
Persona: The Badger To Meek Mill’s Skinny Pete
Relevant Drakeism: “Ain’t no telling when I go, so there ain’t shit that I’mma wait for/ I’m the type to say a prayer, then go get what I just prayed for”
Drake is such a shape-shifter that he’ll reenact his Bar Mitzvah in a video the same year he guests on a gospel-tinged sex romp.
54. “Sooner Than Later” (From So Far Gone, 2009)
Persona: Faux-Confident Longing
Relevant Drakeism: “What good is all the cash if it doesn’t buy time?/ And what good is being famous if I’m never on your mind?”
In 2009, you could be forgiven for thinking of Drake as an R&B singer who happened to rap from time to time. His bars were so clunky back then, but ballads like “Sooner Than Later” were so effortlessly smooth so early on.
53. “Thank Me Now” (From Thank Me Later, 2010)
Persona: The Victor, Lapping It Up
Relevant Drakeism: “I guess a hit doesn’t add up to a career for you niggas/ I must have been hard to watch/ What a year for you niggas”
Thank Me Later wasn’t Drake’s proudest moment — he’d be apologizing for falling off by the time “Headlines” dropped less than a year later — but the guy did have every reason to brag. By the time “Thank Me Now” dropped, Aubrey and his right-hand man 40 had infiltrated urban radio and created an archetype that hundreds would scramble to replicate.
52. “Poetic Justice” (Kendrick Lamar feat. Drake; from good kid, m.A.A.d. city, 2012)
Persona: William Drakespeare
Relevant Drakeism: “I mean I write poems in these songs, dedicated to the fun sex/ Your natural hair and your soft skin, and your big ass in that sundress (ooh!)”
Not exactly a sonnet, but it’ll do.
51. “Trust Issues” (Online promo, 2011)
Persona: Doubtful Drizzy
Relevant Drakeism: “But still, let them girls in and tell ‘em all/ Leave their cell phones on the table where we see them”
“I’m On One,” deflated.
50. “Tony Montana (Remix)” (Future Feat. Drake; from Pluto, 2012)
Persona: The Cougar Hunter
Relevant Drakeism: “I swear young women are lost these days while older women dig me/ Fucking women that knew Biggie so it really ain’t no biggie”
If you’re gonna get weird, might as well do it on a Future song.
49. “Come Thru” (Bonus track from Nothing Was The Same, 2013)
Persona: The Guy Who Would Absolutely Love To Catch Up With You But Has Such A Busy Schedule What With All The Strippers In The Recording Studio
Relevant Drakeism: “Girl, you know we got things to do/ So get your ass in the car and come through”
Lyrically, “Come Thru” is Drake at his laziest — comparing the rap game to the crack game, really? — but musically, it’s a gliding reminder of his gift for melody.
48. “Houstatlantavegas” (From So Far Gone, 2009)
Persona: The Stripper’s Advocate
Relevant Drakeism: “Ass low, ass low, I always request you/ You go get fucked up and we just show up at your rescue”
In the tenderest strip-club anthem of all time, Aubrey Graham implores you to invest your dollar bills in these fine young women and their bright futures.
47. “Cameras/ Good Ones Go” (From Take Care, 2011)
Relevant Drakeism: “Don’t listen to the lies, I swear they all lies/ I know I could be your knight in shining Armor All tires”
It might look like Drake cares, but only on camera. Off camera, he’s desperate to pin down one of his high school crushes before they all move on.
46. “We’ll Be Fine” feat. Birdman (From Take Care, 2011)
Persona: Party-Time Papi
Relevant Drakeism: “The fam here, the drink here, the girls here/ Well fuck, let’s get it then”
Drake can handle a celebratory let’s-cut-loose song like this fine, but I repeat: Birdman was born for this.
45. “Miss Me” feat. Lil Wayne (From Thank Me Later, 2010)
Persona: Mo’ Meta-Morphosis Blues
Relevant Drakeisms: “Bills everywhere, trill everything/ And Drake just stand for Do Right And Kill Everything”
Sometimes I think this song exists for the sole purpose of Drake proving he can get Bun B to drop by and say what’s up on a track. Then I think it exists just so he can propose to Nicki Minaj on record. Then I think it’s so he can quietly surpass Lil Wayne. The fact that he accomplishes all those things in the span of under five minutes is impressive enough to counteract the somewhat schizoid nature of the “Miss Me”‘s lyrics and production. It’s kind of a jumble, but there are so many intriguing elements in there that I don’t really mind — which, come to think of it, sums up Drake’s career splendidly.
44. “From Time” feat. Jhené Aiko (From Nothing Was The Same, 2013)
Persona: The Vindictive Antihero
Relevant Drakeism: “The one that I needed was Courtney from Hooters on Peachtree/ I’ve always been feelin’ like she was the piece to complete me”
When it turns out all the family talk is just a ploy to get the girl back, you realize this might be a follow-up call the morning after the “Marvins Room” drunk dial. And when you realize the whole passive-aggressive ex-boyfriend thing might not be for dramatic effect, and he’s actually putting real people on blast, you might feel a little squirmy. But a Jhené Aiko chorus sure goes a long way toward smoothing out such matters of conscience.
43. “Shut It Down” feat. The-Dream (From Thank Me Later, 2010)
Persona: M.C. Hummer
Relevant Drakeism: “Baby you finer than your fine cousin/ And your cousin fine, but she ain’t got my heart beatin’ double-time”
Drake can’t out-dream The-Dream, but it sure is fun watching him try.
42. “Successful” feat. Trey Songz and Lil Wayne (From So Far Gone, 2009)
Persona: The American Dream (Canadian Edition)
Relevant Drakeism: “And life change for us every single week, so/ It’s good, but I know this ain’t the peak though”
He wanted it, he got it. Not sure it feels like he wished it would, though.
41. “Moment 4 Life” (Nicki Minaj feat. Drake; from Pink Friday, 2010)
Persona: Prospective Spouse
Relevant Drakeism: “Fuck it, me and Nicki Nick gettin’ married today/ And now you bitches that be hatin’ can catch the bouquet”
I have no idea if Drake ever actually dated Nicki Minaj, but I am certain Drake wants me to think he dated Nick Minaj.
40. “Fuckin’ Problems” (ASAP Rocky feat. Drake, 2 Chainz, and Kendrick Lamar)
Persona: The Unrepentant Sex Addict
Relevant Drakeism: “Then just drop down and get your eagle on/ Or we can stare up at the stars and put the Beatles on”
One of those rare moments when Drake actually seems to be enjoying his success.
39. “5AM In Toronto” (Online promo, 2013)
Persona: Drake Featuring Drake
Relevant Drakeism: “Some nobody started feelin’ himself/ A couple somebodies started killin’ themself/ A couple albums dropped, those are still on the shelf/ I bet them shits would have popped if I was willing to help”
Bridges burned: Most of them. Prisoners taken: Zero.
38. “Lord Knows” feat. Rick Ross (From Take Care, 2011)
Persona: Looking For The Right Way To Do The Wrong Things
Relevant Drakeism: “I’m hearing all of the jokes, I know that they trying to push me/ I know that showin’ emotion don’t ever mean I’m a pussy”
This is low-key one of Drake’s most impressive pure rap performances, a series of boasts that shows off both his skills and his self-awareness (even if Rick Ross does render Drake’s entire verse forgettable with one brilliant line about a trip to the sauna).
37. “Girls Love Beyoncé” feat. James Fauntelroy (Online promo, 2013)
Persona: The Resolute Retro R&B Devotee
Relevant Drakeism: “These days it’s hard to meet women/ Feel like my love life is finished/ I’ve been avoiding commitment/ That’s why I’m in this position”
“Girls Love Beyoncé” was probably always destined to be an internet throwaway, but thank God we live in an age when there’s an internet to throw stuff like this away.
36. “It’s Good” (Lil Wayne feat. Jadakiss and Drake; from The Carter IV, 2011)
Persona: The Good Soldier
Relevant Drakeism: “Rikers Island on this flow/ 8 months for that pistol/ But at least they had some bad bitches workin’ in that shit hole”
Drake has rarely sounded as fired up as he is here, remembering the time when Lil Wayne was locked up.
35. “Club Paradise” (Online promo, 2011)
Persona: The Guy Who Knows Strippers By Their Real Names
Relevant Drakeism: “You think I’m so caught up in where I am right now/ But believe I remember it all”
This glimmering journal entry is a clear precursor to the sound of Take Care and a clear favorite of Drake’s given that he named his 2012 tour after it. It’s easy to see why.
34. “The Ride” (From Take Care, 2011)
Persona: The Winner
Relevant Drakeism: “My sophomore, I was all for it, they all saw it/ My junior and senior will only get meaner”
Over a loop of spliced-up Abel Tesfaye falsetto, Drake unloads with gusto about how good it is to be on top — and how lonely.
33. “Mr. Wrong” (Mary J. Blige feat. Drake; from My Life II… The Journey Continues (Act 1), 2011)
Persona: Aubrey, Always A Regret
Key Drakeism: “She loves it/ She stares at me like ‘Who does this?’/ And we hold hands while I pray that she’s not the type to hold grudges”
32. “Shot For Me” (From Take Care, 2011)
Persona: Kind To Be Cruel
Relevant Drakeism: “I’m the man, yeah I said it/ Bitch, I’m the man, don’t you forget it”
Absolutely vicious in the silkiest possible manner.
31. “She Will” (Lil Wayne feat. Drake; from The Carter IV, 2011)
Persona: The Lap-Dance Creeper
Relevant Drakeism: “She started to pop it for a nigga and looked back and told me, ‘Baby it’s real’/ I said, “I don’t doubt you for a second, I squeeze it and I can tell how it feel'”
Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
30. “Tuscan Leather” (From Nothing Was The Same, 2013)
Persona: The Returning King
Relevant Drakeism: “This is nothing for the radio/ But they’ll still play it though/ ‘Cause it’s that new Drizzy Drake/ That’s just the way it go”
In an attempt to fill the existential void that success can’t seem to fix, Nothing Was The Same is largely about luxuriating in the gauche trappings of that success as a “fuck you” gesture. So “Tuscan Leather” is an appropriate way to set the stage: a story of fantasy fulfillment, loaded with boasts, riding three interconnected segments where most rappers would settle for one (“How much time is this nigga spending on a intro?”), flaunting an “I Have Nothing” sample that flips Whitney Houston into a character from Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, Drake shoving his wins in haters’ faces with a ferocity that suggests he still feels like a loser.
29. “Under Ground Kings” (From Take Care, 2011)
Persona: Mild-Mannered Acura Driver
Relevant Drakeism: “These niggas got them diamonds glowing in their mouths/ And they rockin’ furs like it’s snowing in the South/ And every pretty girl tell me that’s the shit that she like/ So why am I in class if this is who I’m trying to be like?”
Drake’s discography sometimes feels like one long origin story, but “Under Ground Kings” is among his most vivid anecdotal flashbacks, in which, per Tom, “Drake tries to navigate the opposed polarities of rap-stardom largesse and self-doubt so crippling that you know it’s actually true.”
28. “HYFR (Hell Ya Fucking Right)” feat. Lil Wayne (From Take Care, 2011)
Persona: The Guy Who Never Learns To Stop Messing With The Wrong Women
Relevant Drakeism: “She asked what have I learned since getting richer/ I learned working with the negatives could make for better pictures/ I learned Hennessy and enemies is one hell of a mixture/ Even though it’s fucked up, girl I’m still fucking with ya”
Does this song exist exclusively so Drake can show off the verbal acrobatics in the first verse? Or is it also so he can sound like an angel compared to Lil Wayne?
27. “The Motion” feat. Sampha (Online promo, 2013)
Persona: The Disaffected Loyalist
Relevant Drakeism: “Seem like everybody calling ’cause they want me on their song/ It’s like every time I touch it I could never do no wrong”
If there’s one thing Drake values, it’s loyalty to your friends. So if there’s one thing he despises, it’s other rappers using him to up their profile then moving along. With Sampha in tow, that sentiment takes on a deep shade of melancholy.
26. “Furthest Thing” (From Nothing Was The Same, 2013)
Persona: Aubrey On The Low
Relevant Drakeism: “Y’all niggas party too much, man/ I just chill and record”
On the low, this might be the best non-single on Nothing Was The Same, although it’s good enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if Drake ended up releasing it as a single.
25. “No Lie” (2 Chainz feat. Drake; from Based On A T.R.U. Story, 2012)
Persona: The Honest Asshole
Relevant Drakeism: “She could have a Grammy, I’d still treat her ass like a nominee/ Just need to know what that pussy like, so one time is fine with me”
By the time Take Care had rendered him the biggest star in rap, Drake wasn’t bothering to play nice anymore. He spent most of 2012 releasing songs like “No Lie” that brushed his nagging conscience aside and basked in smugness.
24. “The Real Her” feat. Lil Wayne and Andre 3000 (From Take Care, 2011)
Persona: Maybe He’s Amazed
Relevant Drakeism: “You got your guards up, I do too, there’s things we might discover/ ‘Cause you got a past and I do too, we’re perfect for each other”
Drake prefers a woman with some miles on her, just like him.
23. “What’s My Name?” (Rihanna feat. Drake; from Loud, 2010)
Persona: DJ Quickie
Relevant Drakeism: “You just waiting on a traffic jam to finish, girl/ The things that we could do in 20 minutes, girl”
Twenty minutes was about how long Drake’s relationship with Rihanna lasted, right? (#burn)
22. “Find Your Love” (From Thank Me Later, 2010)
Persona: The Demanding Dreamboat
Relevant Drakeism: “I’m more than just an option/ Refuse to be forgotten”
Before Kanye decided Drake was a threat to the throne, he gifted Drake this beautiful midtempo R&B ballad, a song that sounds somewhat out of place on Thank Me Later and in Drake’s discography in general, except for the resentful approach to a woman who spurned him.
21. “Light Up” feat. Jay-Z (From Thank Me Later, 2010)
Persona: Young And Jaded
Relevant Drakeism: “And if you pillow-talkin’ with the women that are screwin’ you/ Just know that she gon’ tell another nigga when she through with you”
The level of sonic/lyrical synchronicity here is dazzling. “Light Up” sounds like twilight, and not like certain Drake songs sound like Twilight. The chorus here is a top-10 Drake hook, Jay-Z’s world-weary guest spot is not 100 percent on auto-pilot (there’s some serious self-awareness in a line like “I’m not as cool with niggas as I once was/ I once was cool as the Fonz was”) and 40’s creeping production is note-perfect, all the way to those “Foxy Lady” guitar trills in the fade-out.
20. “Doing It Wrong” (From Take Care, 2011)
Persona: Letting Her Down Gently
Relevant Drakeisms: “We live in the generation of not being in love/ And not being together/ But we sure make it feel like we’re together/ ‘Cause we’re scared to see each other with somebody else”
Stevie Wonder’s harmonica solo FTW.
19. “Fancy” feat. T.I. and Swizz Beats (From Thank Me Later, 2010)
Persona: Finally, A Guy Who Appreciates You For You
Relevant Drakeism: “Intelligent too, ooh, you my sweetheart/ I’ve always liked my women book- and street-smart”
Whispered: “You crazy for this one, 40!”
18. “Too Much” feat. Sampha (From Nothing Was The Same, 2013)
Persona: The Life Coach
Relevant Drakeism: “I did not sign up for this/ My uncle used to have all these things on his bucket list/ And now he’s actin’ like ‘Oh well, that’s life I guess’/ Nah, fuck that shit!/ Listen man, you can still do what you wanna do/ You gotta trust that shit”
From Toronto to Memphis to Houston, Drake has some family business to get off his chest. Thanks to Sampha and 40, it’s a sublime bloodletting.
17. “The Motto” Feat. Lil Wayne (Bonus track from Take Care, 2011)
Persona: Marco YOLO
Relevant Drakeism: “How you feel, how you feel, how you feel?/ 25, sittin’ on 25 mil”
Drake usually takes a few attempts to master a new format, but hyphy he nailed on the first try. “The Motto” is ridiculously silly genius-stupidity that spawned one notorious catchphrase, millions of terrible T-shirts, billions of cliched tweets, and innumerable bad decisions.
16. “Stay Schemin'” (Rick Ross feat. Drake and French Montana; from Rich Forever, 2012)
Persona: The Aspiring Hardass
Relevant Drakeism: “Might look light, but we heavy though/ You think Drake would pull some shit like that? You never know…”
Who knew all it took to unleash Drake’s ferocious side was a few barbs from Common of all people?
15. “Hold On, We’re Going Home” feat. Majid Jordan (From Nothing Was The Same, 2013)
Persona: Young Garnier Fructis
Relevant Drakeism: “I got my eyes on you/ You’re everything that I see/ I want your hot love and emotion, endlessly”
This sopping sponge is brought to you by a guy who once appeared on the same song with Waka Flocka Flame. Wrap your hot love and emotion around that.
14. “Crew Love” feat. The Weeknd (From Take Care, 2011)
Persona: The Generous Friend
Relevant Drakeism: “Seeing my family have it all took the place of that desire for diplomas on the wall”
“Crew Love” is basically a Weeknd song that Drake jacked for his own album, but it’s the best Weeknd song ever, and Drake is at his most likable.
13. “Pound Cake / Paris Morton Music 2″ feat. Jay-Z (From Nothing Was The Same, 2013)
Persona: The G.(L.)O.A.T.
Relevant Drakeism: “My high school reunion might be worth an appearance/ Make everybody have to go through security clearance”
In case anybody wondered whether Boi-1da was crucial to “the Drake sound,” I present to you the gloriously ghostly production that haunts the first four minutes of Nothing Was The Same’s epic closer. And in case anybody wondered whether a Jay-Z verse was anything more than a status symbol, I present to you this lyrical sleepwalk. Drake? He stays busy being Drake. They should put a couple more mirrors in here so he can stare at himself.
12. “Over” (From Thank Me Later, 2010)
Persona: The Human Humblebrag
Relevant Drakeism: “I know way too many people here right now that I didn’t know last year/ Who the fuck are y’all?”
Before that “no new friends” rule went into effect, Drake reveled in all his new friends over one of Boi-1da’s most triumphant productions, a beat so momentous that my wife and I had the instrumental played as the recessional at our wedding.
11. “Over My Dead Body” (From Take Care, 2011)
Persona: Aubrey, Ascendant
Relevant Drakeism: “I think I killed everybody in the game last year, man/ Fuck it I was on, though/ And I thought I found the girl of my dreams at a strip club/ Mm-mm, fuck it I was wrong, though”
This is how you do an album intro when you’re about to take over the world: Everything shimmers, from the pianos to the uncredited Chantal Kreviazuk vocal to Drake’s rising star.
10. “Best I Ever Had” (From So Far Gone, 2009)
Persona: The Sensitive Sex God
Relevant Drakeism: “Sweatpants, hair tie, chillin’ with no makeup on/ That’s when you’re the prettiest, I hope that you don’t take it wrong”
Like a lot of people, this is the first Drake song I ever heard, and it instantly sold me. Aubrey, 40, and Boi-1da knew what they were doing. Never figured I’d go to a Drake concert two years later, he wouldn’t perform “Best I Ever Had” and I wouldn’t even mind due to the abundance of stellar setlist material. In retrospect, though, I still should have minded.
9. “Look What You’ve Done” (From Take Care, 2011)
Persona: The Good Son
Relevant Drakeism: “Is this shit real, should I pinch you? After all the things that we been through”
Ladies and gentlemen, Sean Fennessey.
8. “Unforgettable” feat. Young Jeezy (From Thank Me Later, 2010)
Persona: Young Selfie
Relevant Drakeism: “I know that niggas would kill for this lifestyle/ I’m looking forward to the memories of right now”
Jeezy absolutely owns this song, but shout out to Drake for encapsulating discontented, nostalgia-obsessed 21st Century existence. A dark horse in the race for Drake’s greatest duet.
7. “All Me” feat. 2 Chainz and Big Sean (Bonus track from Nothing Was The Same, 2013)
Persona: Who is Aubrey Galt?
Relevant Drakeism: “Should I listen to everybody or myself? ‘Cause myself just told myself ‘You the motherfuckin’ man, you don’t need no help'”
As if “Started From The Bottom” wasn’t sufficiently preposterous, here’s Drake claiming he did it all entirely by himself. We let him get away with this type of bullshit ’cause his latest shit is like a greatest hits, goddamn.
6. “Headlines” (From Take Care, 2011)
Persona: The New Drake, Same As The Old Drake
Relevant Drakeism: “Listen to you expressin’ all them feelings/ Soap opera rappers, all these niggas sound like all my children/ And that’s who you thinkin’ is about to come and make a killing?/ I guess it really is just me, myself and all my millions”
“Headlines” was the first single from Take Care and therefore a statement of purpose, and it absolutely corrected the fall-off that was Thank Me Later.
5. “Dreams Money Can Buy” (Online promo, 2011)
Persona: M.C. Life Is But A Dream
Relevant Drakeism: “I throw my dollars up high/ And they land on the stage you dance on/ We got company coming over/ Would it kill you to put some pants on?”
That Jai Paul sample. That woozy 40 sonic swirl. That shade Drake throws about his favorite rappers falling off, conflated with conspicuously Watch The Throne-style luxury brand namedrops. That moment when he breaks from his rap cadence to start singing about a girl with a fat ass. The realization that Drake’s throwaway tracks surpass most performers’ life’s work.
4. “Take Care” feat. Rihanna (From Take Care, 2011)
Persona: The Port In A Storm
Relevant Drakeism: “What’s a life with no fun, please don’t be so ashamed/ I’ve had mine, you’ve had yours, we both know”
A tribute to Drake’s delegation skills: Jamie xx, Rihanna, and 40 all play a bigger role in this sensitive seduction, but it’s Drake’s vision through and through. That fragile guitar sample is everything.
3. “Started From The Bottom” (From Nothing Was The Same, 2013)
Persona: Rap Game Homer
Relevant Drakeism: “No new niggas, nigga/ We don’t do that/ Fuck a fake friend/ Where your real friends at?”
There’s no denying a song that successfully revises Drake’s backstory almost as radically as Rick Ross glossed over his, and there’s definitely no denying a song that’s had me reflexively sputtering “Now we here!” in every possible capacity (sporting events, car trips, ascending staircases) throughout 2013. It’s one of those tracks that sticks with you; how crazy to think Drake’s affectation here felt forced and unfamiliar when it first dropped.
2. “I’m On One” (DJ Khaled feat. Drake, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne; from We The Best Forever, 2011)
Persona: Mr. Toronto
Relevant Drakeism: “I’m just feelin’ like the throne is for the takin’/ Watch me take it”
Who would have thought Drake and 40 could create such a monster? “I’m On One” is the sound of glorious conquest, a hit fit for kings. I almost can’t believe it isn’t No. 1 on this list, but in Drake’s world — much like his fellow egotist Walter White’s world — there’s no such thing as happy endings for ruthless conquerors.
1. “Marvins Room” (From Take Care, 2011)
Persona: Drunk-Dial Drizzy
Relevant Drakeism: “Fuck that nigga that you love so bad/ I know you still think about the times we had”
Started from the bottom, now we here! Still feels like the bottom, though, doesn’t it? “So muted it sounds like the fumes from music that’s already evaporated,” you say? “Keeps surfacing, offering more small revelations,” you say? “Nothing less than a redefinition of manhood,” you say? I’m just saying, maybe Drake can’t do better.