On his buzz track and tour’s namesake “Summer Sixteen,” Drake offered a very cryptic message. “Looking for revenge,” he spit, “All Summer Sixteen, playing dirty not clean.” The revenge in question was more or less a battle cry to take the crown from numerous big-name acts who were passing it around during the first half of 2016, like frequent collaborators Kanye West and Rihanna. But while plenty of rappers boast about owning the game, a run through the numbers proves that Drake made good on his promise to take over the summer of 2016.
With the pop-leaning “Hotline Bling” teeing up his 2016, Drake turned into a full-on pop titan (with street cred) this year thanks to his fourth studio album Views, which dropped on April 29, 2016, via Young Money/Cash Money/Republic. The 20-track set was met with tepid critical reception, but the self-appointed “6 God” found his footing with four singles: “One Dance” featuring Wizkid and Kyla, “Pop Style” (a version with Jay Z and Kanye West was initially released though both contributors did not make the final cut), “Controlla” and “Too Good” with Rihanna, each catering to various aspects of the Drake aesthetic.
While “One Dance: was the behemoth of the four, hitting No. 1 on the Hot 100 for 10 weeks, the other three singles both found their way to the Top 20 while breaking the Top 5 in Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs. “Too Good” also hit the top of the Rhythmic Songs chart.
Drake’s fanbase, in all of its Degrassi-meets-meme culture-meets-YMCMB leftovers-meets-Saturday Night Live greatness, was well covered. Views has sold over 1.4 million copies in the U.S. to date, according to Nielsen Music, and as of the sales period ending Sept. 8, Views is the best-selling album released in 2016. Its streaming numbers are even more groundbreaking. In August, Views broke the billion-mark record for on-demand audio streams.
Its run at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 hasn’t been matched in years. Views has the most weeks at No. 1 for an album by an artist (as opposed to a soundtrack) since Adele’s 21 ruled for 24 weeks in 2011 and 2012. The last male artist to spend more than 12 weeks at No. 1 was Billy Ray Cyrus, with his Some Gave All album (17 weeks) back in 1992.
In the midst of this success, Drake also managed to squeeze in another beef. The Apple Music premiere of his “4PM In Calabasas” found Drake allegedly taking aim at the likes of Diddy and Joe Budden. While Budden attempted a nefarious battle — fist clenched like the Arthur cartoon meme — Drake calculatedly fired a few shots on his Summer Sixteen tour then deaded it. He then found a major key in the DJ Khaled collaboration “For Free,” engaged in a baby beef with Hot 97’s Funkmaster Flex but kept all the attention on his 47-date Summer Sixteen tour, which has seen special appearances from Rihanna and Lil Wayne (multiple times) as well as NBA fan favorites like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry. The tour was anything but an antiquated rap concert; rather, it borrowed several pages from Kanye West’s book of turning a show into art. Floating orbs everywhere, background dancers, pyro and an assist from Future, the production was a reminder that he is his own hype man.
Few hip-hop artists have managed to successfully penetrate the mainstream and maintain credibility. Despite his Degrassi beginnings and being challenged for his songwriting, he continues to make and break records all while sating rap fans and pop fiends. And after much deliberation (and an overzealous MTV Video Music Award Video Vanguard Award speech to Rihanna), it seems he got the girl. From Wheelchair Jimmy to music’s new Teflon Don, Drake vowed to commandeer 2016. The verdict? Mission accomplished.