We’re three weeks into October and Drake has been busy. The Toronto rapper was featured on Lil Baby and Gunna’s “Never Recover,” appeared in French Montana’s “No Stylist” video, made a splash in the visual for Bad Bunny’s “MIA,” lent a guest verse to Quavo’s “Flip The Switch,” appeared on Lebron James’s HBO series The Shop to defend his ongoing beef with Kanye/Pusha T (and reentered headlines when Pusha responded) and walked his dog in Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode” video. He’s inescapable.
On Monday, Drake officially broke the record for most the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 songs in a single year, passing the Beatles’ 1964 record in the process. October’s Very Own owned every single week this October, and hit this achievement two days away from his birthday on the 24th. Drake is the king of the pop world, and all before his 32nd year.
His success is impressive, but living through his record-setting year often feels like we’re surviving an endless Aubreygeddon. With every song and video, released in a constant stream, his undeniable voice and practiced headshot-ready smirk hangs over the industry like a phantom. It won’t always be this, but for now it feels like it will last forever. The bars are occasionally stale, the flows keep getting recycled, the albums suffer from some bloat. Nevertheless, Drake has never been bigger commercially.
Drake is so dominant right now that at his current level he only has two competitors: pop music’s past and the record breakers of the future. Both are faceless concepts, and streaming has rendered breaking records into an abstract pursuit, so there’s a reason Pusha T’s continued campaign to outmaneuver Graham at every juncture is likely the most captivating moment in a record-breaking year for the Toronto MC. In a post-“The Story of Adidon” world, Drake’s vulnerability lead him to create some of Scorpion’s biggest tracks in “In My Feelings,” “Nonstop,” “Mob Ties” out of sheer ego. The biggest rapper alive got metaphorically punched in the face and was forced to recoup. It’s working out for him.
A moment like that, though, will probably never happen again. Drake isn’t invulnerable, but he isn’t likely to make the same mistake twice.
“One of my biggest concerns in my career is just to figure out how to exit gracefully,” Drake explained. “I watch people overstay their welcome and I just don’t ever want to be that guy that’s addicted to the feeling of victory, addicted to the emotion of people digesting something that they love and get to the point where I’m feeding them something and they’re just like, ‘Yeah.'”
Drake, like the Beatles, is an era-defining artist in a way that will likely never be duplicated quite the same way. One day, another foundational shift will occur, and another artist will have a moment of music industry dominance has pronounced as this one. That time isn’t now. Drake’s reign has no end in sight.