Ever since his epic debut with 2009’s So Far Gone, Drake has ascended from being the Jewish kid from Toronto trying to shake off his Degrassi ties to one of the greatest to ever do it in modern rap history. For almost a decade, the artist has managed to extend his influence beyond music and drive it deep into pop culture, where his mannerisms, sense of speech that dips into various cultural spheres worldwide (London, Jamaica, Memphis, etc.) and even his corny dance moves have become fully embedded in our everyday lives.
The “Nice for What” star has crafted the formula for keeping his finger on the pulse of cultural trends and figured out when to hop out of the shadows of his recording studio to pounce on said trends. It’s awe-inspiring how Drake knows just the right time to unleash a song that encapsulates a specific mood, a political topic or a shift in rap music’s climate. That perfection of timing is what makes him so invincible.
As the impounding Drake effect continues to subconsciously soak into our brains, here are 15 Drake-isms — words, phrases and sentences — from his songs that have graduated from standout album tracks and into the pop lexicon.
15. “Nice for What” (from 2018’s Scorpion)
“Nice for What” may just be less than a week old (Drake released the one-off track on April 6), but the simple phrase already holds weight for women everywhere. Why? Because we are fed up with the overbearing disregard that men generally have with our concerns. In the wake of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, women have been fearlessly reclaiming their time with equal pay, sexuality and more. So Drake put another battery in our back when he posed the question: “You gotta be nice for what to these n—as?” The impact of the tune speaks for itself: “Nice for What” gained more than 20 million U.S. streams and sold over 40,000 downloads in its first three days.
14. “I’m On One” (2011)
“I’m On One,” DJ Khaled’s 2011 single featuring Drake, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne, went from being a song title to a full-blown mood thanks to the Toronto guy’s confident delivery. According to Urban Dictionary, “I’m on one” means “trippin off of something; high off of drugs or drunk; overly happy for reasons no one else knows.” But once Drake gave it his stamp of approval, the phrase became a crucial goal for those aiming to get lit at parties.
13. “Hotline Bling” (Views, 2016)
As soon as Drake began hitting those dorky Dad dance moves in his now-iconic red bubble coat in the “Hotline Bling” video, it was evident the song was going to rock the pop culture world. The Grammy-winning tune is the epitome of sadboy vibes and is filled with a handful of lyrics that men (who have lost the love of their lives due to their silly mistakes) have turned into their personal mantras. From the opening line “You used to call me on my cell phone, late night when you need my love” to the remorseful pain behind “Started wearing less and going out more” and even the song title itself, “Hotline Bling” became a meme-worthy anthem for those who couldn’t get over their old flame.
12. “0 to 100” (2014)
Once in a while, Drake likes to get deep into his braggadocio pocket. This was the case for “0 to 100 / The Catch Up,” where the former half of the nearly five-minute-long song finds the rapper spitting bar after bar about why he’s the best in the game. His “don’t f— with me” attitude resonated with fans, who used the notion behind “0 to 100” to hype themselves up.
11. “Last name Ever, first name Greatest” (from 2009’s “Forever”)
Drake hopped on “Forever,” the lead single from the soundtrack to LeBron James’ 2009 More Than a Game documentary, almost a year before his anticipated debut album Thank Me Later was released. So for the then-new rapper on the block to brandish himself as the G.O.A.T. was a very bold move. Following the one-two punch of the killer opening line “Last name Ever, first name Greatest,” I’m pretty sure almost every kid in high school used it for their yearbook quote.
10. “God’s Plan” (from 2018’s Scorpion)
Numbers don’t lie: “God’s Plan,” which has been sitting atop the Billboard Hot 100 for 11 weeks and counting, was recently crowned Drake’s longest-leading No. 1 single. This record-breaking feat is a testament to the song’s relevance, capturing the hearts of those who have helped to raise its streaming numbers to over 50 million. Simply put, the song makes you feel good about your success, the supporters around you and life in general. And the now-inescapable lyric — “I only love my bed and my mama, I’m sorry” — is the perfect burn.
9. “I’m just saying you could do better” (from 2011’s “Marvin’s Room”)
“Marvin’s Room,” from 2011’s Take Care, found Drake dwelling in his peak misery. The poor guy was heartbroken beyond measure after his girlfriend Ericka Lee dumped him for another guy (a theme that quickly became central in his music). So a teary-eyed Aubrey decided to drunkenly stumble into Marvin’s Room — a.k.a Marvin Gaye’s old studio — and bother his ex-flame. Lee, who was featured on the voicemail, later sued Drake for not sharing co-writer royalties, which made this soap opera all the more salacious. The entire song, especially the gripping line “I’m just saying you could do better,” became a soundtrack for those needing solace for their crying-on-the-bathroom-floor breakup sessions.
8. I’m way up, I feel blessed” (from 2015’s “Blessings”)
The menacing production behind Big Sean’s 2015 single “Blessings” is the direct opposite of the tune’s overall gracious vibe. Drake’s elated lyrics on the hook set the tone as he, Sean Don and Kanye West reflect on their successful careers. The line “I’m way up, I feel blessed” was most likely inspired by dancehall artist and Drake’s friend Popcaan, who popularized “Way up!” in Jamaica. Drake’s take on the phrase later gave way to countless Instagram captions, the use of prayer hand emojis and the #blessed hashtag. Even Riley Curry (daughter of Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry) joined in on the trend, adorably singing the song during a post-game press conference.
7. “Running through the 6 with my woes!” (from 2015’s “Know Yourself”)
It’s no secret that Drake loves to represent Toronto any chance he gets, and If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late highlight “Know Yourself” was a proper ode to his hometown. But it had people who weren’t from the city questioning what the heck a “woe” was. Despite what Urban Dictionary says, the term is in reference to close friends — not your sorrows. “Woe is my crew. It stands for ‘working on excellence.’ It’s just my whole brand and my whole movement and my way of life for everyone,” fellow Toronto rapper and OVO Sound affiliate Devontée explained to Noisey in 2014. “I want everyone to work on excellence. So, all my friends are my Woes and I feel anybody working on excellence in life is a Woe in life as well.” Drake’s ability to make the masses adopt his local slang is yet another example of his cultural power.
6. “Trigger fingers turn to Twitter fingers” (from 2015’s “Back to Back”)
Drake typically prefers to send rappers veiled subliminal disses in his songs, but with “Back to Back” he unapologetically let the lyrical choppers sing. Directly aimed at his then-nemesis Meek Mill, Drake didn’t back down with his endless shots: “Is that a world tour or your girl’s tour?” “Trigger fingers turn to Twitter fingers,” “You gettin’ bodied by a singin’ n—a,” the cover art displaying the Toronto Blue Jays defeating the Philadelphia Phillies, etc. Upon its release, “Back to Back” quickly sparked a flood of memes that shook social media’s core. There was a point where you couldn’t open Twitter or Instagram without seeing doctored images of a failed Meek Mill. Even Drake capitalized on the moment, performing “Back to Back” and fellow Meek diss “Charged Up” in front of a PowerPoint presentation filled with said memes at OVO Fest 2015. Drake has since retired “Back to Back” (he’s over the beef), but no one could ever forget the madness he incited with a single track.
5. “Bitch, you wasn’t with me shootin’ in the gym!” (from 2012’s “Stay Schemin’”)
A few years before Drizzy came at Meek Mill’s neck, he had his target aimed at another rapper: Common. On Rick Ross’ 2012 single “Stay Schemin’” featuring Drake and French Montana, the Toronto guy took over the track with one of his best verses to date. After Common dissed him in 2011’s “Sweet,” Drake fired back with ominous lines like “Back when if a n—a reached it was for the weapon/ Nowadays n—as reach just to sell they record.” But it was his head nod to Kobe Bryant that became the song’s highlight. The basketball legend was previously met with divorce papers from his wife Vanessa Bryant after 10 years of marriage, and Drake was on his side. The rapper’s epic line “Bitch, you wasn’t with me shootin’ in the gym!” blossomed into more than a response to the popularized drama — it became an expression for men everywhere who were waiting for the right moment to call out their ladies for not supporting them through hard times.
4. “Sweatpants, hair tied, chillin’ with no makeup on” (from 2009’s “Best I Ever Had”)
Drake has been a sappy advocate for the ladies since day one of his career, which was jump-started by the Grammy-nominated lead single from his So Far Gone EP: “Best I Ever Had.” The romantic tune was dedicated to Drake’s former girlfriend Nebby, but the song ultimately made girls everywhere feel adored. The standout lyric “Sweatpants, hair tied, chillin’ with no makeup on/ That’s when you’re the prettiest/ I hope that you don’t take it wrong,” was met with a flood of “awws” crooned across the globe. It turned into a maxim for women who preferred a fresh face over lots of makeup and popped up in tweets, Instagram captions and even branded on clothing.
3. “Started from the bottom, now we here” (from 2013’s “Started From the Bottom”)
“Started From the Bottom” was Drake’s version of the classic rags-to-hip-hop-riches story, where he reflected on his growth as both an artist and person. But while he arguably didn’t actually start from the bottom (this is the same guy who was one of the main stars of Degrassi, c’mon), the song resonated with many of those who came from humble beginnings. “Started” grew into an anthem about success that fans chanted at parties and wrote in their Twitter bios. It was a kick-in-the-tush reminder to continue to follow your dreams and to make sure your crew is right there with you.
2. “No New Friends” (2013)
As he usually does, Drake stole the show on DJ Khaled’s “No New Friends” single (which also featured Rick Ross and Lil Wayne) thanks to that memorable hook. The slogan became the standard for groups of “day one” friends who were each other’s ride-or-dies and weren’t looking for a new member to interfere with their bond. But is making new friends really that bad? It’s a safer bet to try to stray away from fair-weather friends, yet one of the joys of life is meeting new people and birthing genuine connections with them. The closed circle mindset can come across a bit Mean Girls-ish, swapping “You can’t sit with us!” with #NoNewFriends. Nevertheless, Drake once again introduced the culture to an irrevocable phrase that still gets mileage five years later.
1. “YOLO” (from 2011’s “The Motto”)
You couldn’t go anywhere — the club, college, the park, Twitter, the train, your local 7-11 — without hearing someone shout “YOLO!” back in 2011. Blame Drake for the youth culture staple, as he popularized the phrase with his catchy “The Motto” single. While he didn’t invent it, the rapper was the reason why “YOLO” skyrocketed into the cultural stratosphere. Once he got hold of it, “YOLO” — or “You Only Live Once” — became way more than just an acronym. It was a complete lifestyle, with people using the literal motto to define their carefree and sometimes reckless “f— it” attitude with a shrug. “YOLO” was branded on every piece of merchandise imaginable, was cited as the central excuse for high school pranks, was an overused Twitter hashtag and inspired many tattoos — including Zac Efron. “Rap, Hip Hop and music in general has always been about being young and feeling young and kind of feeling a little rebellious and feeling like, ‘Let’s live to the fullest,’” Drake later told British radio DJ Tim Westwood about the phrase. “That’s what music has always done for me. It has caused that energy to surge through me. I think that’s all YOLO is.”