Aubrey Drake Graham is not the young man we once knew. Now 30 years old, he’s a powerful pop figure — a man whose personal life consistently makes headlines, especially in the wake of his recent pairing with J.Lo and musical affiliation with Taylor Swift.
In fact, Drake’s identity as a public figure has become largely shaped, for the better, by the women he’s surrounded by. Which is interesting when you stop to realize just how well-branded those women are, and how each, in their own way, has cultivated the type of image Drizzy seems to be gunning for — and then subsequently achieves.
When we first met Aubrey, he was the little-ish rapper that could. Fresh off of Degrassi, he cemented himself as a god among other, bigger gods — getting early cosigns from Kanye, Jay Z, and Lil Wayne, and going on to collaborate and befriend Nicki Minaj, with whom so many of us wished he was romantically linked.
As their careers developed alongside one another, Drake ran parallel to Nicki in terms of musical relevance: Their collaborations (“Make Me Proud,” “Truffle Butter,” and even “Only”) showcased their talent and creative stamina, and Drizzy proved himself to be a worthy artist who could keep up with his pal.
At the same time, his romantic endeavors began to follow a different type of dynamic, one defined more by romantic co-branding and photo ops. As Aubrey’s star continued to rise, he aligned himself with famouses while painting himself as a lightly tragic (and even thirsty) soul — both through his lyrics and his social media persona (shirtless selfies, ahoy). Which isn’t to say he’s been using these women. It’s more that through close proximity to them, he’s learned to evolve from some guy named Drake into Drake™.
Let’s start with Serena. While short-lived, Drake’s relationship with the tennis champion not only established him as a man who’s willing to show up for the woman he’s into (particularly during the US Open), but also brought him deeper into the fitness and athletic realms — a goal, since it was in 2015 that we saw him adopt “working out” and/or “being healthy” as part of his personal brand.
This past summer, as he began appearing in public with Rihanna, we saw Drake claim a bigger stake in the world of fashion, with both of their date-night outfits making news and Aubs wearing a piece from her forthcoming Fenty line. So a pattern emerged, with Drake branding himself again — this time, as an icon of luxury. Considering Rihanna's presence in fashion — as the designer of several capsule collections, not to mention a pioneer in the fine art of coziness — Drake took the opportunity to up his own understanding of style.
He learned other things from Rihanna, too. Back in June, Drake took a highly Instagrammable vacation that mirrored the type of trips we’ve come to associate with Rihanna, and even late last year he captured what seemed like a beautiful moment of Fenty-esque travel glow. Luxury, thy name is now Aubrey.
This set him up for his time spent with Jennifer Lopez. The queen of branding and rebranding (and then rebranding again), J.Lo has come to embody a refined type of excess, and so has Drake — as each of their Instagrams depict parallel existences illustrated by nights out, formalwear, and above all, work. In fact, since being linked to Jennifer, we’re seeing Drake’s social media focus turn more to recording — similar to the way Lopez posts about her Vegas residency. For J.Lo, hard work has been part of her narrative since she started in the 1990s. But while Drake’s always bragged about being the greatest, we’ve gotten fewer glimpses of the process that’s led to this greatness — until now.
The only question that remains is who Drake will sidle up to and learn from next, romantically or professionally. Could a collaboration with Lorde teach him well-articulated bluntness? Will Adele be the one to show Drake that he can just relax and stop trying to impress everybody? And more importantly, who was the person responsible for this?