In the mushrooming multiverse that is Aubrey Drake Graham, the Toronto rap kingpin’s guest verses and obscure one-offs can just as beloved as his platinum-certified megahits. That’s why some of his Internet-only loosies have logged millions of YouTube views, and his early, pre-So Far Gone material is better known than some major-label albums released during that era. As a result, it is quite possible that even casual Drizzy listeners will have heard some of these fan favorites. Blame it on the man being the biggest rap star of the decade thus far.
Most Drake fans don't realize how much of an impact the soulful hip-hop scene of the mid-2000s, and underground acts like Little Brother and Slum Village, had on his early sound. "[Phonte of Little Brother] knows he's one of the biggest influences on my career," Drake told the Village Voice in 2011. On this standout track from his Comeback Season mixtape, Drake trades verses with Phonte over a 9th Wonder loop of Anita Baker's "Sweet Love." Then Drake summarily cuts off the track: "I can't really drop the rest of this 'cause I ain't paid 9th for the beat yet." The full version of "Think Good Thoughts," including a third verse from onetime Slum Village member Elzhi – was posted on his October's Very Own blog in 2009.
The debut album from Toronto vocalist and producer Slakah the Beatchild, Soul Movement Vol.1, includes three tracks with Drake. The pair met through another Toronto hip-hopper, Promise, and Slakah subsequently contributed to Drake's first two mixtapes, 2006's Room for Improvement and 2007's Comeback Season. Their final collaboration, "Enjoy Ya Self" is a neo-soul wonder with flickering acoustic guitar and a too-smooth rhythm. Drake rhymes, "Jealousy is something I haven't felt for years/There's nobody around for me to be jealous of." Slakah would later say, "As far as his talent, it was only a matter of time before he got a Grammy."
This bellicose, Juno Award-nominated riff on Big Tymers' "I'm Still Fly" marks the beginning of Drake's love/hate relationship with a Toronto rap scene that seems both proud and slightly jealous of his success. Big Page got upset when Drake, whose star was rising with his So Far Gone mixtape, dropped a freestyle version before the official single dropped. "People automatically assumed the song was his, and that was when the tension began to grow between us," Big Page told The Globe and Mail.
"Street Cred," one of two Drake features on Gucci Mane's DJ Drama-hosted mixtape The Cold War: Guccimerica, spotlights what now seems like a dream lineup: Mr. Zone 6 busting lines with Drizzy and Killer Mike. It finds Drake boasting impetuously, "I'm killing shit, I'm killing shit/Shout out to the niggas I just made a couple million with." Gucci announces, "Gucci, Drizzy Drake and Gucci," so Mike's closing verse sounds like a tacked-on afterthought. Still, the Big Beast drops the hottest verse of the three as he brags, "When I grab a microphone/I flame on like Waka Flocka."
Leaked to the web in December 2009, "Killer" arrived at a transitional moment in an L.A. rap scene still dominated by flag-waving gangbangers, with blog favorites such as Kendrick Lamar and Odd Future still relatively unknown. Drake flexes hard on this one as he brags, "Just look at what I done alone/You would swear we planted trees the way the money's grown/We been busy like some bees, no honeycomb/And you could probably feel the breeze when the money's blown." "It was a record we did and it was originally made for his album [Thank Me Later]," Nipsey Hussle told Vlad TV in 2013. "Killer" was subsequently included on the compilation Nip Hussle The Great: Vol. 1.
Weeks after his chorus for Rick Ross' "Aston Martin Music" appeared on the latter's Teflon Don, Drake dropped a solo edition of this quintessential yacht-rap anthem. The resulting "Paris Morton Music" is both a tribute to the music video model and a sterling example of Drake's growth into one of the premier rap crooners of the 2010s. "I talk slicker than a pimp from Augusta," he raps over a beat from J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, but what stands out is his anxious singing voice, "full of Marvin Gaye shit" and regret, "going through a midlife crisis." "Paris Morton Music" hasn't appeared on any official release, but it's become one of Drake's most beloved tracks. Three years later, he made a sequel, "Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2," for Nothing Was the Same.
K-Os' effortless blend of hip-hop beats, pop vocals and Caribbean cadences has made him one of the most influential Northern rap artists ever. Yet despite critical acclaim for albums like 2006's Atlantis: Hymns for Disco, he never broke through to the American mainstream. Still, you can hear clear similarities between K-Os and the Canadian rapper who truly cracked the U.S. market. "His father's American, and so he understands, he gets American culture," K-Os said in 2010. "It's an amazing thing to watch, and I hope people in our country take notes on how he's doing it." Drake and K-Os made several tracks together in late 2009, including the soulful blues of "Faith," but they've never been officially released.
"I Get Lonely Too" is all that remains from Drake's planned R&B mixtape It's Never Enough. Drake and longtime producer Noah "40" Shebib strip down TLC's "Fan Mail" to its bare essentials – a throbbing bass that beats like a heart, a melancholy keyboard arpeggio – while Drake is at his most sensitive and affecting. If officially released, "I Get Lonely Too" could have easily been a huge pop hit. "It's cool to do R&B, I love it," Drake said of his since-abandoned project in 2010. "But it's just hard for me to always commit to it."
Tank's a king of the sumptuous bedroom jams that thrive on adult R&B radio, so Drake fans may have missed this cut from the former's 2010 album Now or Never. "We got on the phone and he was like, 'I'm a big fan. Sex Love & Pain is one of my favorite albums,'" said Tank during a 2014 interview on Hot 97. The resulting "Celebration" is a paean to private after-parties, sex education and "fireworks between your thighs." "Even though I like being in your past," Drake raps in the bed-rocking tempo, "You've got a bright future behind you."
Shortly before the release of Take Care, Drake leaked this loosie on his October's Very Own site. "Dropping this for our boy Avery … this was his favorite shit during the recording process," wrote Drake, shouting out the Toronto rapper who later became known as P Reign. Over a dreamlike "40"-produced track, Drake sounds alienated from his friends and family as he sifts through the growing pains of superstardom – from beefing with other rappers to feeling awkward at Fashion Week in New York. "She like, 'Why you even give a fuck, you not even here/Well out there, there ain't nothing for me/I think I need to come home," he raps. Drake's longing for his Canadian youth has become a persistent theme in his music.
By 2013, Drake had entered his "worst behavior" phase. This promo leak for his Nothing Was the Same album was accompanied by a grimy MTV Jams-styled camcorder video where he stalked the streets with a blunt in one hand, a Styrofoam cup in the other and his entourage surrounding him. Gossipy speculation abounds on the subject of his verses, with Chris Brown and Rihanna ("I mean, where you think she at when she ain't with you?") and the Weeknd ("I show love, never get the same outta niggas") among the potential targets. "I made Forbes' list, niggas/Fuck your list/Everything's looking gorgeous," he raps.
On "Girls Love Beyoncé," Drake and R&B songwriting veteran James Fauntleroy pay homage to the superstar over the soft pulse of a "40" beat. The duo harmonizes the chorus from Destiny's Child "Say My Name," while Drake unfurls his most seductive lines. "All my boys around me saying get money and fuck these hoes/Where we learn these values, I do not know what to tell you," he raps. "I need some who will help me think of someone besides myself."
"I'm 26 and on my third GQ cover," begins Drake on his reunion with J Cole. On the Bink!-produced cut, the new leaders of the new cool trade ear-pleasing lyrical blows, with Drake charging, "Before you come to my city, just know yourself." An insensitive line from Cole gave this song a bit of social media backlash. "I'm artistic, you niggas is autistic, retarded," he rapped. Weeks later, J Cole apologized. "I should have known better," he wrote in an open letter on his Dreamville website. "I feel real shame. You have every right to be angry.
Soulja Boy may be years removed from his late Aughts peak as the teenaged ringtone king, but he continues to nurture a surprisingly durable, mixtape-fueled underground following. So when Drake heard the original version of "We Made It" from Soulja's 2013 project The King, he clamored to add his increasingly famed "cosign" to the track. "Soulja, bruh, what the fuck? This shit's crazy,'" Soulja Boy remembered Drake telling him. Released on King Soulja 2 and featuring snippets from Danny McBride's classic stoner fest Eastbound & Down, the track isn't much more than the duo poppin' bands and chanting, "Nigga we made it!"
Unlike a few of his "cosigns" of viral hits, Drake's "Sweeterman" is probably better than the original. (Migos' "Versace," Future's "Tony Montana" and ILoveMakonnen's "Tuesday" were all arguably better without Drake chiming in). While Toronto vocalist Ramriddlz' performance sloshes around Auto-Tuned horndog dreams like "she want my banana," Drake's vocal posits the track more firmly in the late night wooziness of OVO-styled R&B. "It's just, literally, I've recognized the potential and the greatness in this piece, and I want to take my stab at it too," Drake said to The Fader. As for Ramriddlz, he said, "It's crazy to always be asked about Drake, but I'm grateful."