In this excerpt curtesy of Fader’s 100th issue Drake discusses how colloboration is essential to making quality music:
“Music at times can be a collaborative process, you know? Who came up with this, who came up with that—for me, it’s like, I know that it takes me to execute every single thing that I’ve done up until this point. And I’m not ashamed.”
You could call it his emotional imagination. But in fact it’s something more specific: a gift for understanding his fans and intuitively knowing how to activate, and lay claim to, their feelings. Drake is an interpreter, in other words, of the people he is trying to reach—an artist who can write lyrics that wide swaths of listeners will want to take ownership of and hooks that we will all want to sing to ourselves as we walk down the street.
When I ask Drake about how he gets audiences to identify with him in this way, especially now that his life is so extraordinary and strange, he sits up and lays out the elemental chemistry of his music.
“We may be worlds apart in the sense of, you know, where you’re from, where I’m from, what I’m doing, what you’re doing—but what are we talking about?” he says. “We’re talking about very simple human emotions. We’re talking about love, sometimes. We’re talking about triumph, we’re talking about failure, we’re talking about nerves. We’re talking about fear. We’re talking about doubt. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing—you gotta at least hear what I’m saying to you. And I pray that it helps.”
At this he interrupts himself. “Not even ‘helps,’” he says. ‘“Helps’ is a weird word. I don’t ever want to think I’m ‘helping.’ It’s not about helping. It’s more like, even though we’re not carrying on a dialogue, I hear you, you know? And when I make an album, all I want you to know is I hear you.”
You can tell he’s thinking this through as he says it, and as he goes on, it feels kind of like watching someone earnestly arrive at a mission statement on the fly: “Like, I get everything,” he says. “I know everything. I know everything that’s being said about you. I know everything that’s being said about me. I’m very in tune with this life. Much like, I assume, most of my listeners are.”
In this light, listening to Drake’s songs—loving them, internalizing them, feeling #chargedup when you feel like taking a swing at somebody and #worstbehaviour when you’re amped at a party—is a collaborative process between artist and fan. Drake writes songs that encourage that intimacy, and in so doing he consistently finds words for yearnings and aspirations shared by his wildly diverse fanbase. In making hits, he is gifting his listeners those words so that they might express themselves—online, at school, at work, in their own heads—with the benefit of his verve.
On some level, Drake’s ability to do this comes down to his ear for catchy, evocative phrases that are vague enough to be used across many contexts, but specific enough to still feel vivid and personal. But he’s also just good at reading his moment—figuring out what his fans want at any given time and delivering it on schedule.
This sense of timing turned out to be a crucial weapon for Drake this summer when he was pulled into the battle with Meek Mill. Though Drake initially seemed to ignore the surprise attack, it quickly turned into a two-week long demonstration of his skills as an entertainer and his ability to execute on them. In more dramatic fashion than ever, Drake flexed his showmanship, and made fluent use of all the communication channels that are open between him and his fans.