Drake Signs With Lil Wayne’s Young Money Label

'It's just a great day,' Drake says of deal; his material will be distributed by Universal Republic.

Mixtapes are a movement. For some, giving away music could mean much more than trying to sell their tunes — but Drake played the game right. He started giving away his mixtape So Far Gone earlier this year, and the word of mouth spread with fans, his peers and record-company executives: a recent New York concert found [Warner Music exec] Lyor Cohen in the crowd, standing among screaming fans, along with Kanye West and Talib Kweli.

Well, the wait is over: After weeks of speculation, Drake has chosen to go with the home team and sign with Lil Wayne’s Young Money Records, according to a source close to the situation. The deal breaks down as a joint venture between Young Money and Cash Money, with Universal Republic distributing. Drake’s management was adamant that he should be viewed as an independent artist, although Universal will distribute the project.

“Today is a definitely a comfortable day for me, having my team now that’s been in place for a couple of years. It’s just a great day,” Drake told MTV News recently in New York. “It’s something new, but it feels familiar.”

Drizzy is excited about having a corporate push to help with the momentum he’s gained independently.

“Independent is a funny term,” he told MTV News on the set of his video for “Best I Ever Had.” “I can go independent, but you need distribution, period. You need somebody to distribute your record and you need that army that a label has to really push the record.”

So Far Gone became this year’s most talked-about mixtape because, in effect, Drake combines the best of both worlds by being a strong singer and rapper. His singing talent is prominent on the tracks “HoustonAtlantaVegas,” “Little Bit” and “A Night Off”; his rapping on songs like “Uptown” and “Ignorant Sh–” is as sharp as a broken bottle in a barroom brawl. He rhymes are just as strong: “The game needs change and I’m the muthaf—-n’ cashier” (from “Successful”); “Account’s in the minus, yet I’m rolling round the f—ing city like your highness” (“Say What’s Real”).

His popularity has gotten so strong that Drake performed — along with Weezy and the Young Money crew — in a prime slot at the BET Awards on Sunday night.

Drake’s official debut LP, Thank Me Later, is currently in production and due later this year, with Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Jay-Z listed as possible collaborators. This summer, look for Drake on tour with Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy and Soulja Boy Tell’em as part of the Young Money Presents: America’s Most Wanted Music Festival .