Hip-hop phenom [artist id=”2545682″]Drake[/artist] might only be 23 years old, but his roots in the rap world run quite deep. His debut album, Thank Me Later (which dropped this week) is the result of years of studying with a handful of masters, toiling in the mixtape circuit and traveling across North America in an effort to synthesize his unique style and build his credibility.
But who is connected to the man born Aubrey Graham? As you can see in his hip-hop family tree, there are quite a few branches in Drake’s musical story.
October’s Very Own
(Drake’s personal crew)
Noah “40” Shebib: Drake’s musical partner produced the bulk of Thank Me Later, and in the past, he served as the rapper’s road manager, engineer and lifeline as he ran up thousands of dollars on his credit card for the two to follow Lil Wayne on tour while they worked on So Far Gone.
Oliver El-Khatib: Oliver functions as Drizzy’s creative director, weighing in on the majority of decisions in the lyricist’s career outside the recording booth. He posts to the OVO blog frequently, highlighting the tastes of the collective, from fashion to music. Oliver introduced Drake to the music of tourmates Francis and the Lights.
Niko: One of Drake’s longtime friends from Toronto, Niko introduced the rapper to his own barber when the former “Degrassi” star needed a fresh look. The two are often together, and in his Thank Me Later album credits, Drizzy tells his friend he thought he was an only child until he met Niko, whom he calls “my closest confidant.”
(Kick-started Drake’s career)
Jas Prince: The son of legendary Houston hip-hop pioneer J. Prince, the younger Jas found Drake on MySpace and urged Lil Wayne to listen to the upstart artist.
Lil Wayne: The Cash Money Records superstar took Drake under his wing and offered the then-unknown rapper recording advice, telling his protégé to speak his own truth first and worry about making words rhyme later. Drizzy adhered to the wise words for his next project, his breakthrough mixtape, So Far Gone.
Homies From Day One
(Around before Drake’s big break)
Boi-1da: This Toronto producer manned the boards for Drake’s biggest hit, “Best I Ever Had.” Along with 40, Boi-1da was instrumental in helping to translate So Far Gone’s moody sound into a more polished musical landscape for Thank Me Later.
Trey Songz: The Virginia crooner was featured on Drake’s second mixtape, Comeback Season, and his very first video, the independently produced “Replacement Girl,” which garnered minor play on BET. The two formed a bond over music and quickly became friends, collaborating on So Far Gone and Trey’s Ready.
Young Money/ Cash Money
(Drake’s label home and recording family)
Birdman: While Lil Wayne says “like father, like son” when referring to the CM boss, Drizzy has been known to shout “like uncle, like nephew” in regards to the stunna.
Mack Maine: The president of Young Money, Mack helps oversee the crew’s business, which includes Drake, who appeared on the We Are Young Money compilation.
Nicki Minaj: YM’s other breakout star, this Queens femcee appeared with Drake on the cover of the May 2010 XXL magazine. In rhyme and in interviews, Drizzy is known to profess his love for his labelmate .
Cortez Bryant: Lil Wayne’s longtime manager, this New Orleans resident also manages Drake, in conjunction with one of Kanye West’s managers, Gee Roberson, who runs Hip-Hop Since 1978 with partner Kyambo Joshua.
(In addition to repping Toronto, Drake has an affinity for this Texas town)
Bun B: The UGK rapper is an unofficial mentor of sorts to Drizzy, collaborating with the upstart on his So Far Gone mixtape and his debut. Drake returned the favor, appearing on Bun’s upcoming album, Trill O.G., on a track called “Put It Down.”
J. Prince: The Rap-A-Lot Records founder is father to Jas Prince, who helped discover Drake, and he also serves as one of the executive producers on Thank Me Later.
(Helped shape Drake’s creative side)
Jay-Z: Drake went on the record on “Fear,” revealing how influential the Brooklyn MC is to his life. “I never died when ’Pac died, but I probably will when Hov does,” he rapped.
Kanye West: The producer’s 808s & Heartbreak helped serve as the template for Drake’s So Far Gone mixtape and Thank Me Later, as the Toronto rapper burrowed liberally from West’s vulnerable confessions paired with catchy choruses and melodic rhymes.
Gee Roberson: Drake profusely thanks Roberson, a member of his management camp and former Roc-A-Fella Records employee. Roberson, an executive at Atlantic Records, helped shape the young star’s career and is guiding his evolution to what presumably will be multimedia stardom, including music, movies and whatever other opportunities arise.
Which of Drake’s musical family members do you think is most influential? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Don’t miss the “Drake: Better Than Good Enough” documentary , airing Wednesday, June 23, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on MTV!