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2015: The Year in Drake

From the Meek Mill beef to the Serena smooch, here are the highlights of Aubrey Graham’s huge year

Drake; Year in Drake; 2015

SQUAMISH, BC - AUGUST 08: Rapper Drake performs onstage during Day 2 of Squamish Valley Music Festival on August 8, 2015 in Squamish, Canada. (Photo by Andrew Chin/Getty Images)

Andrew Chin/Getty

Meek Mill's feelings aside, 2015 was the year Drake killed the game. And for this rapper, the game is not to be taken lightly — Drake set out to win. Victory was had, as Drake headlined major festivals, racked up streams and album sales galore, resurged as a radio presence and became perhaps the most meme-able artist of all time.

After a quiet 2014 for Toronto's resident 6 God, Drake made sure to dole out more than enough material in 2015 to keep the Internet spinning in a perpetual Drizzy daze. The innumerable GIFs and parodies were enough to crown him king of Internet buzz, but Drake's mission was primarily musical: February's masterful If You're Reading This It's Too Late, a couple of impromptu diss tracks, and his hit single and video "Hotline Bling" all helped make him one of the year's most talked-about artists in the months leading up to the Adele takeover.

Figure in the Serena Williams romance rumors, a new Beats 1 show and that unforgettable Madonna kiss, and you've got a pretty impressive 12 months.

Year in Drake; If you're reading this it's too late; 2015

February 13th: Drake Surprise-Releases ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’

Drake redefined both the element of surprise and the art of going viral in 2015, starting with the out-of-nowhere midnight release of If You're Reading This It's Too Late. As the title suggests, with a certain level of condescension, Drake's full-length LP made everyone late to the ball, with fans and critics rushing to the scene. The album debuted at Number One on the Billboard 200 despite its nonexistent pre-release promotion, and was streamed 17.3 million times in its first week on Spotify, setting a new record.

Drake considers the gritty, 17-track record to be more of a retail mixtape rather than a full-fledged album. "By the standard I hold myself and 40 to, it's a bit broken," Drake told Fader of the Noah "40" Shebib–produced LP. "There's corners cut, in the sense of fluidity and song transition, and just things that we spend weeks and months on that make our albums what they are." Despite the humility he offered to the press, his raps suggest he's only playing it cool. On "No Tellin'" he sneers, "Please do not speak to me like I'm that Drake from four years ago/I'm at a higher place." Official album or not, the LP sold 624,000 copies in its first week and later, in August, became the first record of the year to go platinum.

Drake; Apple Music; 2015

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July 10th: OVO Sound Radio Debuts on Apple Music’s Beats 1

In the B.A. (Before Adele) months of 2015, Drake dominated every musical platform — streams, album sales, you name it — and radio was no exception. After his alleged $19 million deal with Apple Music, Drake was tapped to host OVO Sound Radio, a weekly show airing exclusively on Beats 1. The program debuted on July 10th and has been going strong ever since, becoming a key source for new sounds from the Drake camp, including the surprise Future collaboration What a Time to Be Alive.

Drake; meek mill; Year in Drake 2015

Andrew Chin/Getty

July 21st: Meek Mill Beef Ignites

These days, rap battles are won or lost in the Twitter-sphere rather than on the street, a reality that Drake knows well. Drizzy engaged in plenty of beef this year, but none was more epic than the now-notorious Meek Mill feud. Aggrieved by Drake's lack of promotion for his Dreams Worth More Than Money, on which Drake appears, Mill took to Twitter on July 21st: "Stop comparing drake to me too … He don't write his own raps! That's why he ain't tweet my album because we found out!" Mill painted Drake as a fraud and accused the rapper of enlisting ghostwriters, specifically Quentin Miller (who did in fact co-write on IYRTITL, but who also received writing credits in the liner notes). The hip-hop world weighed in, with OG Marco and Funkmaster Flex taking up for Mill, and Future, 40 and Lupe Fiasco going full-on Team Drake. Rick Ross stayed neutral, and Nicki Minaj kept relatively quiet, sticking up for boyfriend Mill over labelmate Drizzy in the end.

Drake felt the fight need to be settled musically. "This is a discussion about music," he said, questioning Mill's strategy, "and no one's putting forth any music?" He then took the show-don't-tell approach, firing off two diss tracks, "Charged Up" and "Back to Back," airing both songs on OVO Sound Radio in July. "Wow, I'm honored that you think this is staged/I'm flattered, man/In fact, I'm amazed," Drake spits in "Charged Up," making his point pretty clear.

Weeks passed before Mill responded with "Wanna Know," a salty track full of patronizing questions that ultimately fell flat, while Drake's "Back to Back" became a bona fide hit. Drake kept the heat on, opening his annual OVO Sound Fest in Toronto with the two tracks while a Powerpoint presentation of Mill memes flashed in the background. (He also sported a "Free Meek Mill" shirt during soundcheck.) What a Time to Be Alive soon drowned out any attempt from Mill to play catch-up, as the joint LP featured enough beefy lyrics to squash the battle for now.

Drake; Hotline Bling Release; Year in Drake

SQUAMISH, BC - AUGUST 08: Rapper Drake performs onstage during Day 2 of Squamish Valley Music Festival on August 8, 2015 in Squamish, Canada. (Photo by Andrew Chin/Getty Images)

Andrew Chin/Getty

July 26th: ‘Hotline Bling’ Debuts

If there was any one song that solidified Drake's status as 2015's cultural giant it was "Hotline Bling." Drizzy aired the new single during his second episode as host of OVO Sound Radio. The swaggy song quickly climbed the charts, reaching Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 and giving Drake his highest-charting single to date. The hypnotic track features Drake reminiscing about the booty-call days with a past lover and samples Timmy Thomas' "Why Can't We Live Together." (Allegations that the song also sampled D.R.A.M.'s "Cha Cha" remain unconfirmed.)

Everyone seemed to catch the "Hotline" fever, including the many prominent artists who covered the song. Disclosure and Sam Smith, Alessia Cara and Katy B, Justin Bieber, Nick Jonas, Erykah Badu, and even Cleveland Cavaliers player Iman Shumpert dutifully paid tribute to the 6 God.  

Drake; Music Festival; year in Drake; 2015

WASHINGTON, DC- SEPTEMBER 26: Drake performs during the 2015 Landmark Music Festival at West Potomac Park on September 26, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)

Kris Connor/Getty

April 12th: Drake Kicks Off Festival Tear at Coachella

What could have easily been a studio year for Drake, seeing as he released two full-length LPs with a third on its way, found the rapper onstage more often than not. Don't be deceived by his laid-back "Hotline Bling" moves, Drake hustled in 2015. In addition to the Jungle Tour, his joint May/June run with Future, Drake headlined almost every major festival — Coachella (where he scored a controversial onstage kiss from Madonna), Governor's Ball, Austin City Limits, Atlanta's Music Midtown and the inaugural Landmark Music Festival — and hosted his own.

In August, during his sixth annual OVO Fest in his hometown of Toronto, Drake thrilled fans by bringing out special guests Future, Kanye West, Travi$ Scott and Pharrell Williams. When naming him the third-highest-paid rapper on the Cash Kings list (can't knock the 29-year-old for coming in behind Diddy and Jay Z), Forbes reported that, on average, Drizzy took in a modest $1 million per show.

Drake; Serena

TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 15, 2015 - Drake (hoodie and beard) sits courtside for Serena Williams (USA) vs Belinda Bencic (SUI) in semi final tennis action of Rogers Cup play at the Aviva Centre on AUGUST 15, 2015. Williams loses 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. Rick Madonik/Toronto Star (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Rick Madonik/Getty

August 23rd: Drake and Serena Williams Lock Lips

When Drake and tennis legend Serena Williams were caught kissing at a Cincinnati restaurant in August, gossip mongers swarmed to the scene. The incident sparked ongoing rumors about the nature of the relationship, including the totally unfounded claim that the pair were actually engaged.

However, there have been convincing clues that Drizzy and Serena have shared some sort of involvement, namely Drake's prominent appearances at her WTP tournament in Cincinnati, the US Open and her show at New York's Fashion Week. Williams returned the favor, showing up at the opening of Drake's new Toronto restaurant, Fring's. Once again, the Internet gushed with Drake chatter, but after Serena's semifinal loss at the US Open, Twitter erupted in a more hostile tone, spewing forth the hashtag #blamedrake, a reference to the rapper's presence at the final match.

Drake; Future; 2015; Year in Drake

INGLEWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 08: Musicians Drake (L) and Future (R) perform onstage during REAL 92.3's 'The Real Show" at The Forum on November 8, 2015 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

Scott Dudelson/Getty

September 20th: Drake and Future Unveil ‘What a Time to Be Alive’

Drake rolled out yet another surprise when he and tour buddy Future dropped the quickie-but-goody joint effort What a Time to Be Alive in late September. The superstar MCs banged out the 11-track mixtape in a six-day studio session with the help of Future producer Metro Boomin, who is behind most of the tracks. The spontaneous collab, including two solo cuts, Future's "Jersey" and Drake's "30 for 30 Freestyle," sold 375,000 copies in its debut iTunes-only week, the third-highest-selling debut week of 2015. Drake announced the project on OVO Sound Radio: "It's a little soundtrack for people that need it right now." Apparently, the people agreed.

Drake; Beyonce; year in Drake 2015

Tibrina Hobson/Getty

October 3rd: Drake Drops Beyonce Collaboration ‘Can I’

Drake made the Internet his best friend in 2015, but he didn't make it out of the year without a pesky leak. In May, an unfinished version of "Can I", a collaboration with Beyoncé, found its way to the Web via an unknown source. Drake naturally took the incident in stride, keeping quiet for several months before airing the full, polished version of the track on an episode of OVO Sound Radio in October.

The song marks the first time the two superstars have collaborated since 2013's "Mine," which appears on Beyoncé's self-titled album. "Can I" catches Drake in a vulnerable state, as he sings, "Can I have an honest moment with you right now?" while Queen Bey echoes gracefully, "Can I?" The track has yet to be officially released but is rumored to appear on Drake's upcoming Views From the 6.

Drake; Hotline Bling; Year in Drake; 2015

October 19th: ‘Hotline Bling’ Video Goes Viral

Drake reached a new level of cultural saturation when he unveiled his clip for "Hotline Bling," centered on his own lovably goofy dance moves. It took what felt like milliseconds for millions of memes, GIFs and parodies to flood the web, creating a surprisingly unifying trend. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump found common ground, both appearing in spoofs (Sanders on Ellen, Trump on SNL), while Star Trek and Star Wars riffs also turned up.

Toronto's Director X helmed the clip, featuring abstract monochrome sets with a refreshingly retro feel and Drake's endearing "dance like no one's watching" boogie. "You can't choreograph that," X told Rolling Stone, "That's just a man dancing."

On the day of its release, the video was mentioned more than 324,000 times on Twitter, and the hashtag #hotlinebling popped up more than 146,000 times on Instagram. Every online publication ranging from Vogue to Time chimed in with Drake-related stories. Amid the online frenzy, the single shot to Number Two on the Billboard 100 on October 23rd.

Drake; new album; tease; 2015; Year in Drake; Views from the 6

Drake sits court-ide during Drake night at the NBA basketball game between the Toronto Raptors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015, in Toronto. (Darren Calabrase/The Canadian Press via AP)

Darren Calabrese/AP

November 20th: ‘Views From the 6’ Teaser Appears on Vine

After months of Drake-dominated social media, it felt fitting to see the rapper tease his much-awaited Views From the 6 album with a six-second clip on Vine. Though he told Fader that the release would be imminent, there have been no other signs of his elusive third full-length of 2015. Drake is admittedly taking his time on the record, hunkering down with 40 in Toronto. "If I want to make the album I want to make, I have to go find him," he said. "I have to go sit with him, and we have to really put in effort." An official release date has yet to emerge, but speculation suggests a January release.

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