When Drake makes music, he makes it for driving around Toronto at night.
From his first mix tape to his recently released album Nothing Was The Same, his songs are made for Toronto’s roadways — though now the Grammy-winning rapper needs security detail to drive.
“I used to get in my car, get on the highway and drive and it would be nighttime and I would be looking at this city and if the music matched that scenery, then it was right for me,” he explained to Jian Ghomeshi on CBC’s Q on Thursday.
It’s a testament to his unreserved love for his hometown.
“I always knew there were things here that the world would catch on to,” he said in the rare interview. “Even the area code always looked cool to me.”
It looked so good, he got it tattooed on the side of his torso.
While Drake explained his dedication to Toronto, he also addressed his often-mocked upbringing, growing up as Aubrey Graham in the tony midtown Forest Hill neighbourhood.
He said there were parts of his biography that critics overlook, like his time spent on Weston Road with his single mother.
He also revealed he was not even considering a career in rap until his late teens. In high school, he took a trip to Yonge Street record store Play De Record to buy equipment to become a DJ. And he famously appeared on the show Degrassi: The Next Generation acting as Jimmy Brooks, an athletic student who turns to music after being paralyzed in a shooting.
But whatever Drake did, he said he would not forget where he grew up.
“My Toronto — that I grew up in — was always what I wanted to put on the forefront if I ever got the chance,” he said. “I remember a time in Toronto rap where it was kind of not cool to be patriotic. You wanted to sound as far away from Toronto as possible. There was an extreme obsession with American culture where all superstars were and all the rap was.”
For years running, Drake shows that patriotism with an annual two-day music festival called the OVO Festival, which hosts the same U.S. rap superstars he listened to growing up, like Jay Z and Lil Wayne.
Now, after years of being an unofficial ambassador for the city’s rap scene, he is an ambassador in an official position — a brand ambassador for the Toronto Raptors.
“I've always been so proud of this city. It's the most open minded place you could possibly come from,” he said, pointing out Toronto's unique Caribbean influence.
“I really want you to hear that album and know that this city is what inspired it. If you like that album, you should come here, come check out the city.”