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Artist to Watch 2009: Drake

Canadian actor-turned-rapper scores hit single, $2 million deal

August 7, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Twenty-two-year-old biracial Canadian actor-rapper Drake has just negotiated a monster of a record deal, giving him total control over the music he'll record for Lil Wayne's Young Money label. "They'll say this is the worst deal in music history as far as the label goes," he tells Rolling Stone. "Probably one of the best deals for me at the moment."

Drake (born Aubrey Drake Graham) got his start on Degrassi: The Next Generation playing a paraplegic teen for seven seasons. When he decided to break into rap, he first reached out to mixtape DJ Smallz, who helped him put out his first project Room for Improvement. A year later, he released a second mixtape that featured a major coup for an unknown: Weezy himself. Wayne took Drake under his wing, and the rest is soon to be chart history.

"Best I Ever Had," Drake's first breakout hit from his So Far Gone mixtape, blends a tender chorus with some dirty-dog bragging, and its video doesn't skimp on sex. But Drake, who sings his own hooks, cites some unlikely artists as inspiration — he says he's been listening to a lot of Passion Pit, David Bowie and Bob Dylan. "I think you should really listen to some Dylan so you're not afraid to be honest," he says. "When I listen back to my raps I just hear myself being that vulnerable. I still get shy around women, I'm not fully comfortable in the position that I've been blessed with but I think that's what makes me me."

Read Christian Hoard's full story in the new issue,
on stands now.

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