On Oct. 24,
You’ve mentioned feeling like a guinea pig for the current state of the music industry.
I genuinely feel like the first one that really launched a career in this time period. I say it on my album, “They take the greats from the past and compare us/But I wonder if they’d ever survive in this era.” And that shit to me [is] everything. Not even the leaks-I’m just talking about how malicious and intrusive the Internet is, and how essential and necessary the Internet is in our lives, in our careers. Twitter is an opinion with no consequences because you can be anybody, you can hide from anybody, you don’t have to see anybody — but you can reach anybody. And that shit is crazy.
These sites that are driven on tearing artists down daily… I remember back in the day — there were like two or three individuals on the radio, and one publication that would attack rappers and artists. And if you didn’t make that, you were good. There wasn’t really that much else to fuck you over. Lord only knows what people got away with — I can’t imagine. I commend any artist thriving in this generation, because it’s difficult. You have to have thick skin and just care about your craft, and know that there’s a thousand positive people for every one negative person.
It’s crazy how fast it’s all moving. Artists from the past, they had a different grind. It was more pavement, hitting the streets. Maybe it was harder work, I’ll never know. But for this generation it’s very hard work, upkeep, to be successful.
Before you signed to Young Money/Cash Money/Universal, there was talk about whether you’d go major — without a major deal.
I’m happy with my choices. To go indie is a thing. But to put an album in the stores, you need a distribution label. And to me, automatically, that’s not indie, you’re still using assistance from a label, which is what we’re doing. If that’s indie, then being signed to Young Money is indie because I don’t even talk to Universal. They have no say in anything I do — when I release, when I push back, what videos I drop, what I have in my videos, who I am as an artist, what choices I make, what talk shows I do — nothing. And to be honest, my choices were solely based off the fact that Lil Wayne had put himself so far out there for me before anybody believed. My one goal in signing my deal was to make sure he could benefit from it. That was me being loyal. That’s why my deal is structured the way it is. If I could’ve found a way where he would’ve benefited off of an indie deal or we could have done something different, then yeah, maybe I would’ve done something different. But the way it’s worked out, I feel like he’s proud and he’s happy, and that’s all that matters to me.
I don’t want to do it like everybody else. That’s the only way to have any longevity. Shit is so fickle. You follow the path that Gee and Hip Hop [Since 1978] laid out for artists eight years ago, and they tell you this is the only way you can do it-no, it’s not. As much as I love and respect those guys, that’s not the only way you can do it. I’m proving that. I’m not going to say they don’t have genius ideas that assist with careers. I’m not going to say that you don’t potentially strain relationships because DJs don’t feel as connected to me because I release all my music through my website or whatever. Well, fuck it, that’s the way I like to do it. And I feel like our brand . . . it can only grow upward.
Can you talk a bit about your relationship with Lil Wayne?
That’s my brother. Over music, over everything. He’s responsible for everything that’s going on around me. But of course, it’s amazing. There’s a constant competitive vibe because that’s what rap is and we both love the same things in rap. In the back of my mind I’m always like, “I got to rap better than Wayne.” And I can’t say I know, but I feel like I put enough good music out there that he also feels like he’s . . . got to rap better than everybody. We play off each other, we make each other better. He said something in an interview that was so true that I respected him for it so much. They tried to corner him with question like, “Drake’s put out so much beastly music, do you feel like you created a monster?” And he’s like, ‘No, that’s my artist.” And he’s right. I’m his soldier. That’s all I ever want to be for Wayne.
You brought Stevie Wonder to this year’s OVO event.
Stevie’s one of the most incredible individuals as far as just obviously the music he’s made, but then you meet him . . . and the person that he is, and how he moves throughout his life — it’s amazing to watch. I can only pray one day that I’m still that joyous and still that funny. He was supposed to play two songs. I think he stayed out there for 35 minutes. Stevie helped with musical arrangements, and he produced with 40 a bit on the album. So I’m excited.
You’ve had an incredible run on the Billboard charts in a very short time.
It’s crazy. Flattering. It’s never really been a numbers game to me, but to hear that lets me know, “Damn, OK. Maybe I have been working hard.” I plan on keeping it going. I like sitting at the top. It’s a good feeling. More than anything though, I love having a record that people love. That’s a drug, for real. I don’t do drugs, I might smoke weed or drink, but I don’t do drugs — but that’s a drug. To have the songs that people love, to have that one record that crushes the club when it comes on, people go off to . . . I love it. That’s why I work. It’s my views of life, my idea of fun, my idea of a party, my idea of a hook. It’s a rush. I don’t want it to end.
And yet, in the past you’ve said you’re not in the business of trying to figure out singles.
That’s my least favorite shit. It’s hard to touch all bases with a single. Especially your single. For example, with Khaled’s “I’m on One,” the reason I was able to tap into that hook and that emotion was because it wasn’t for me. When it’s not for you, there’s no pressure. But when it’s yours, you overthink. Overthinking I fall victim to a lot. You have to be strategic — unfortunately — with the songs you release.
But you’re clearly good at picking singles.
I guess I dwell on it for so long that I eventually make a good decision. But I wouldn’t put out another single if it were up to me, because that’s how “So Far Gone” worked: I put the whole project out. It was a huge body of work, like 18 songs. “Take Care” is 17 songs, could be 18. I’d just let people pick what they want to hear. That’s what I like to do.
You’ve been nominated for six Grammy Awards in the past two years, but have yet to win.
I’ve always been fascinated with the Grammys, so I don’t mean disrespect when I say this, but I’ve kind of given up on them. If I ever get one, or when I get one, I’ll be ecstatic, because that’s a recurring dream I’ve had since I was a kid: That my mother’s still alive and that I’m onstage accepting a Grammy, and I get to thank her on that stage. But it’s tough. They can never really break their mold.
Forget last year, because when I read up on the young lady that won, she did some incredible things. And if we’re talking numbers, nobody’s really achieved what Justin Bieber achieved as far as the earnings and just worldwide . . . he deserved it as well. But the one that really got to me was when I lost to “D.O.A.” for “Best I Ever Had.” That one to me was, like, really? Not to say that Jay-Z isn’t the most incredible rapper and that “D.O.A.” wasn’t a good song. I just felt like they had an option to give me a Grammy for a mixtape, and they just didn’t do it [laughs]. Because it goes against the grain of everything that is traditional.
I don’t measure my success anymore by the Grammys. I can’t because I’ll just end up crushed. And, not to be offensive, I just feel it’s political. Would I love to win a Grammy? Sure. Will I win one after that comment? Probably not.
Is 1 million the first week what you’re shooting for?
That’s the golden number for anyone. I doubt that’ll happen. That’s some Lil Wayne, Eminem iconic shit. I don’t know if I’m there yet. Whoever goes out and buys it, I’m happy. I’d rather have great reviews than numbers. I’d rather walk out of my house and hear seven cars playing it than hear that I did 900,000.
Have the relationships in the Young Money camp changed in any way since Lil Wayne was released from jail on Nov. 4, 2010?
Things didn’t really change. Everybody’s sparked off their own shit, so we just see each other a lot less, talk a lot less. Tyga’s on his shit right now, on tour. Nicki is larger than life. She’s on some next-level, pop icon status. And Wayne’s doing his thing, finished “Carter IV,” and I think he’s just waiting to see what we do now. He came home and put a lot of work in and deserves to have a rest and live some life and get remotivated.
I had a lot of those moments this year that made me work harder — like “Carter IV,” “Watch the Throne,” Cole dropping, hearing Rick Ross‘ album. Nicki did a verse for my album that’s so good. I hope she lets me work on her album, too. Because I have some great ideas. You put out a project and it goes incredibly well, and you just sort of wait till someone else does something that makes you want to go back in, and go hard.