Meet all the artists inside Drake's musical sphere
A guide to everyone, from the star's closest producers to artists who have benefited from his mighty co-sign
In order to become one of the biggest hip-hop moguls of the past decade, one must surround themselves with the best hit-makers and collaborators. This is exactly what Drake has done.
A major curator of both his sound and the people he works with, the Toronto star has cultivated an enormous circle of producers and artists to execute his musical vision. The result is a brand that is both incredibly unique to him and his hometown, having helped shape a distinct Toronto sound, but also extremely malleable, able to take on new sounds and voices to expand Drake's global reach.
He doesn't do it all alone. Below is a breakdown of some of Drake's closest allies. These people's names are synonymous with Drake's, and vice versa. This is Drake's musical sphere.
For all of our Decade of Drake coverage, go to cbc.ca/music/decadeofdrake.
Drake has become the face of the Toronto sound, a cold yet emotional blend of R&B and rap that mirrors the city's moody atmosphere and intense seasons. But behind this sound are some of Drake's closest collaborators: his producers. The technical architects of this signature sound, Drake has built a tight-knit team of skilled players but he has also occasionally expanded his roster to include and highlight producers outside of Toronto as well. Below are his most notable associates.
Noah '40' Shebib
Often noted as Drake's musical right-hand man, Noah "40" Shebib has been there since the artist's earliest days. Shebib first appeared on the 2007 mixtape Comeback Season, co-producing the track "The Presentation" alongside Scarborough artist Rich Kidd, but began taking on a larger role on 2009's So Far Gone sessions as producer and recording engineer. From there, Shebib has been on every Drake album and taking on multiple roles, from executive producer and engineer to mixer and songwriter. He also serves as one of three primary directors of Drake's OVO brand, which stands for October's Very Own.
An in-house producer for the OVO Sound record label, Toronto's Boi-1da got his start working on Drake's mixtape Room for Improvement. Since then, he's been behind some of Drake's biggest hits, including "Over," "Best I Ever Had," "Headlines" and "Controlla." He has also produced songs for Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, Eminem, Nicki Minaj and DJ Khaled.
Ajax, Ont., producer T-Minus teamed up with Boi-1da in 2007 on Drake and Trey Songz's "Replacement Girl." He's responsible for some of Drake's earliest hits, like "Moment 4 Life" featuring Nicki Minaj, "The Motto" featuring Lil Wayne and "HYFR," also featuring Lil Wayne. He has since produced tracks for Kendrick Lamar, T-Pain, T.I., Kelly Rowland and Lana Del Rey.
Before he formed the R&B group Dvsn with singer Daniel Daley, producer Anthony Paul Jefferies, a.k.a. Nineteen85, produced tracks for Drake and some of his closest friends including Nicki Minaj, OB O'Brien, Majid Jordan and P. Reign. On 2013's Nothing Was the Same, Nineteen85 helmed two of the album's standout tracks, "Hold On, We're Going Home" and "Too Much." Two years later, he started Dvsn, a group that is signed to Drake's OVO Sound. Nineteen85 now balances his two jobs: putting out Dvsn records while working behind the scenes on tracks for Mariah Carey, Travis Scott, Future and more.
While Atlanta producer Metro Boomin hasn't worked with Drake as much as the other names on this list, he was an essential player on Drake's 2015 team-up mixtape with Future, What a Time to Be Alive. (Metro Boomin has a deeper collaborative history with Future.) Serving as the executive producer of the project alongside 40, Metro Boomin had his hands on seven of the 11 tracks, including a sole producer credit on the breakout single "Jumpman."
Another Ontario DJ and producer who found his way into the OVO network is Fort Erie's Murda Beatz. While he got his start working with Atlanta trio Migos, Murda Beatz eventually crossed paths with Drake on a trio of tracks: Gucci Mane's "Back on the Road," French Montana's "No Shopping" and Views cut "With You." But his biggest contribution to Drake's discography came two years later when he helped produce the multi-platinum single "Nice For What."
While Toronto hit-maker Frank Dukes is nowhere to be found on Drake's latest album, Scorpion, the Grammy-nominated producer has worked on four other important releases: If You're Reading This It's Too Late, What a Time to Be Alive, Views and More Life. Dukes, who is now the go-to songwriter for artists like Selena Gomez, Camila Cabello and Taylor Swift, most famously had his hands on Drake's "0 to 100/The Catch Up" and 2015's initial Meek Mill diss track, "Charged Up."
Currently signed to OVO Sound as a producer, New Jersey artist Mike Zombie is best known for working on Drake's Nothing Was the Same hit, "Started From the Bottom." He has also produced songs for DJ Khaled and the Game. As an artist, he's released six projects including his 2013 debut mixtape, The End of the Beginning, and 2016's Benzi Ayo collaboration, Ea$tside Story.
In order for Drake to succeed in the U.S. at first, he needed to receive co-signs and the approval of some of hip hop's biggest names. As he earned the respect of artists like Lil Wayne and Kanye West, Drake became their peer and, soon, a frequent collaborator. Below are names of rap and R&B stars who have become intertwined with Drake — people with whom Drake has made some of his best music.
The R&B singer was one of the first American artists to link up with Drake, teaming up with the Toronto up-and-comer in 2007 for the single "Replacement Girl" and in 2009 for "Successful." In fact, Trey Songz could've signed Drake before Lil Wayne scooped him up for his own label, but in a 2018 interview with Big Boy TV he admitted, "I couldn't do what needed to be done for him."
Lil Wayne is one of Drake's closest allies in the music industry. The New Orleans rapper first hopped on Drake's 2007 Comeback Season mixtape on the track "Man of the Year" and, two years later, Drake signed to Lil Wayne's Young Money label. Since then, the two have traded verses on each other's tracks numerous times including on 2011's "HYFR" and 2012's "The Motto."
Alongside Lil Wayne, rapper Rick Ross was one of the earliest stars to give Drake a co-sign, reaching out to collaborate soon after the release of 2009's So Far Gone. In a 2010 interview with XXL, Drake talked about the value of Rick Ross's stamp of approval: "For anyone that doesn't believe in me, your favourite rappers do. They call me for hooks, features and all that. [Rick] Ross, Jeezy ... for the people that don't believe, the people that you do believe in got love for me. That's all that matters." The two have worked together on tracks like "Stay Schemin," DJ Khaled's "I'm on One," and most recently, "Money in the Grave" and "Gold Roses."
New York rapper Nicki Minaj signed to Young Money the same year as Drake, and their careers have been entwined ever since. Whether it's lending features on each other's records ("Moment 4 Life," "Make Me Proud," "Only," "No Frauds") or taking sides on feuds (Drake famously beefed with Meek Mill, who at the time was Minaj's boyfriend), Drake and Minaj have had a roller-coaster friendship over the years.
Chicago rapper Kanye West and Drake have had a tumultuous friendship, but they've produced equal amounts of beef and work over the years. Back in 2009, West directed the music video for Drake's breakout single, "Best I Ever Had." That same year, they jumped on the track "Forever" together alongside Lil Wayne and Eminem. Some of their other collaborations may not be as obvious — West is listed as a producer on 2010's Thank Me Later; Drake is credited as a writer on 2016's The Life of Pablo — but the two always find a way to get into the studio together. It's unclear if Drake is calling up West these days, but something tells us they're not done making music together just yet.
Drake and Rihanna's relationship dates all the way back to 2005 when Drake was onset for Rihanna's "Pon De Replay" music video, which was shot in Toronto. While the details of their romance have been difficult to parse through, their musical partnership has been upfront and successful with four hits together, including "Take Care" and "Work."
Rapper 2 Chainz first teamed up with Drake in 2012 on "No Lie" from the Georgia artist's debut album. That same year, the two went on the Club Paradise tour together with Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky. Since then, the two have appeared on a number of songs together including "Big Amount," "All Me," "F--king Problems" and "Bigger Than You."
In 2015, Drake appeared on Future's track "Where Ya At." That session ended up going so well that the two hit the studio again that year to record their collaborative mixtape, What a Time to Be Alive. That release became both Drake and Future's second to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 that year. To keep the momentum up, the two joined forces for the Summer Sixteen tour the following year.
Artists Drake has co-signed
Once Drake earned his status as one of hip hop's top stars, he began using that power and influence to bring up newer artists. (Some might also argue that it's more of a transference, where he uses artists to stay on top of musical trends.)
Through shouting out singers and rappers that he likes and hopping on early remixes of tracks, Drake has mastered the art of co-signing artists. Here are the artists he has lent a helping hand to.
The Weeknd (2011)
Drake's first big co-sign was Scarborough R&B artist the Weeknd. After posting his first tracks on the OctobersVeryOwn blog, Drake invited the singer, real name Abel Tesfaye, to perform at the 2011 OVO Fest. Many thought Tesfaye would sign to the OVO label, but instead he created his own imprint called XO in 2012, planting the seeds of what would become an ongoing rivalry between the two stars. Their friendship remains on and off, with the pair teaming up over the years for collaborations on Drake's 2011 album, Take Care, and the Weeknd's 2013 release, Kiss Land.
Jhené Aiko (2011)
California R&B singer Jhené Aiko first tried to break into the music industry as a teenager contributing to movie soundtracks and performing with B2K, but then took a break to attend school. When she returned in 2011, her debut mixtape featured a number of featured guests including Miguel, Kanye West and Drake. That wouldn't be the last time the two would collaborate, though. In 2013, Aiko, who had just signed to Def Jam imprint Artium Records, appeared on Drake's album Nothing Was the Same. A year later, Drake gave Aiko one of her biggest platforms yet: a spot alongside him on Saturday Night Live as they performed their track "From Time" together.
By 2013, Atlanta trio Migos was already two mixtapes into its career, but with the group's single "Versace," the up-and-comers Takeoff, Offset and Quavo finally cracked into the Billboard Hot 100. Part of that bump into the mainstream, reaching the No. 99 spot on the charts where "Versace" peaked, came from a remix of the track featuring Drake who moulded his flow to match Migos's speedy cadence. It's a chameleonic skill of Drake's to fit himself into songs and styles with ease, and "Versace" is one of the earliest and greatest examples of that. Drake and Migos teamed up once again in 2018 on the single "Walk It Talk It," and they also hit the road together that same year on the Aubrey & the Three Migos tour.
G Herbo and Lil Bibby (2013)
Sometimes a Drake co-sign may not lead to a collaboration, but even a quick Instagram post can lead to an artist's profile blowing up overnight. This was the case when Drake shared "Kill Shit," a track by Chicago rappers G Herbo (who also goes by Lil Herb) and Lil Bibby. "Drake scared me," Bibby told XXL, after Drake called the duo's music "the future." Feeling the pressure to live up to Drake's claims, Bibby added, "I really had to come with more shit."
Months after R&B singer Tinashe dropped "2 On," the lead single off her debut album, Aquarius, OVO Sound signee OB O'Brien posted an unofficial remix of the track on SoundCloud featuring Drake. Drake later on invited Tinashe onstage to perform the song together in Houston and at the 2014 OVO Fest in Toronto. A year later, Drake polished his guest verse on an official recording called "3 On" featuring Tinashe and California rapper Schoolboy Q. "2 On" peaked at No. 24 on the Billboard Hot 100, but OVO's co-sign definitely helped draw more attention to the burgeoning R&B star.
California artist ILoveMakonnen got his big break with 2014's "Tuesday," a Drake remix of a song he had put out called "Club Goin' Up on a Tuesday." A few months after the song blew up, peaking at the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 12, ILoveMakonnen signed to Drake's OVO Sound label. Two years later, though, he left OVO Sound. No clear reason was stated for the split, but in interviews that same year, ILoveMakonnen was very vocal about his frustrations with record delays.
When asked by The Fader if he still kept in touch with Drake, he replied: "Here and there. By the time this comes out, I'll probably see him six more times or no more times. I don't know. I just wish everybody well in all that they do and I just go on and live my life and try to uplift motherf--kers. At the end of the day I'm tired of uplifting people. I just gotta uplift myself now because everything else is a waste of time."
Dej Loaf (2014)
Much like what happened to G Herbo and Lil Bibby, Detroit rapper Dej Loaf earned viral recognition after Drake quoted the lyrics, "Love wearing all black, you should see my closet," from her song "Try Me" in an Instagram post. "He had the city turnt up for me, it was crazy," she recalled to Complex. "I don't even know how he found out about it."
Imagine Drake covering your first song ever. That's what happened for Mississauga native Ramriddlz, whose song "Sweeterman" was remixed — although the track played more like a full-on cover — by Drake and aired on OVO Sound Radio shortly after its release in 2015. In an interview with Montreality, Ramriddlz said Drake's 2013 release, Nothing Was the Same, actually inspired the track. "So it's cool that he appreciated my song and f--ked with it, that was cool," he added. When asked about the remix by the Fader, Drake said: "It's just, literally, I've recognized the potential and the greatness in this piece, and I want to take my stab at it too."
Drake's global reach helps give artists an international platform that they may not have gotten otherwise. Nigerian singer Wizkid has been releasing music since 2001, but in 2016 his profile was given a huge boost thanks to his feature on Drake's song "One Dance." The song off Views, which also features vocals by British singer Kyla, went to No. 1 in 15 countries including the U.S., the U.K. and Canada. A year later, Wizkid signed a multi-album deal with RCA Records and released a second Drake collaboration, "Come Closer."
Lil Baby (2018)
Atlanta trap artist Lil Baby came up under the guidance of fellow Georgia stars Young Thug and Gunna, but teaming up with Drake on the 2018 single "Yes Indeed" helped land him on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song, which premiered on OVO Sound Radio, peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and a few days later, his debut album Harder Than Ever debuted at No. 3 on the U.S. Billboard 200.
Travis Scott (2018)
Houston rapper Travis Scott has been associated with a lot of big-name artists over the years, first signing to Kanye West's GOOD Music in 2012 and then signing to T.I.'s Grand Hustle imprint a year later. And while he has found some success with songs like Kodak Black's "Zeze" and Lil Wayne's "Let it Fly," his collab with Drake, 2018's "Sicko Mode," solidified him as a chart-topping force. The track marked Scott's first No. 1 hit and has now gone seven times platinum in the U.S. With Drake's track record of skyrocketing tracks to the top of the charts, it's no wonder Scott was bouncing off the walls with excitement when he first received Drake's verse.
BlocBoy JB (2018)
Memphis artist BlocBoy JB had a few viral hits under his belt by the time he caught the attention of Drake. But when the two teamed up on the new track "Look Alive," it launched the rapper's career into the mainstream, securing a No. 6 debut on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In an interview with XXL, BlocBoy JB recalled his initial conversations with Drake over Instagram: "He said 'You're my favourite rapper.' I was like 'Damn, I'm your favourite rapper, that's crazy!'"
In 2012, Drake, Oliver El-Khatib and 40 officially formed OVO Sound, a music label extension of their already established October's Very Own brand. The label operates as a subsidiary of, and distributes records through, Warner Records. Upon OVO Sound's launch, Drake and 40 signed Boi-1da, T-Minus and Mike Zombie as its in-house producers. In the seven years it's been up and running, they've gone on to sign mostly local hip-hop and R&B artists who help uphold and expand upon its signature Toronto sound.
Mississauga singer-songwriter, rapper and producer Jahron Anthony Brathwaite, a.k.a. PartyNextDoor, was the first artist to sign to OVO. In addition to putting out his own music, including two successful albums in 2014 and 2016, Brathwaite has written and produced songs for Drake, Usher, Calvin Harris and, most famously, Rihanna on the Drake-featured smash hit "Work."
Perhaps best known for co-starring in Drake's "Started From the Bottom" music video — he's one of the guys goofing off at Shoppers Drug Mart — OB OBrien is one of OVO Sound's least active signees. The label's official website only has two songs listed, 2014's "Schemin' Up" and "Hazelton Trump," but he was credited as a producer on "8 Out of 10" off of Drake's 2018 album, Scorpion.
Off the strength of its 2012 EP, Afterhours, Drake signed Toronto R&B duo Majid Jordan to OVO Sound. The following year, Majid Al Maskati and Jordan Ullman were tapped to help write, produce and perform on "Hold On, We're Going Home," a song that would go on to reach the top 10 charts in Canada, the U.S. and a number of other countries. Majid Jordan has released two albums, and the duo has worked with other artists like Khalid, ZHU and fellow OVO signees Dvsn.
OVO Sound's Apple Music show has become a primary platform for Drake and his associates to boost the profile of artists they like, but also newly signed talent. This was the case in 2015 when Drake premiered Brampton artist Roy Woods' song "Drama." Less than a month later, Woods released his debut EP, Exis, via the OVO Sound label, solidifying his relationship with the OVO family. In 2017, he released his debut album, Say Less.
As previously noted, R&B act Dvsn is made up of singer Daniel Daley and one of Drake's frequently used producers, Nineteen85. Formed in 2015, the group made its debut on OVO Sound Radio with its single, "Too Deep." Dvsn served as Drake's opening act on both his Summer Sixteen tour and Boy Meets World tour. They've released two albums and most recently linked up with another one of Drake's friends, Future, for the song "No Cryin."
Baka Not Nice
Travis Savoury, better known by his moniker Baka Not Nice, started his career off as a member of Drake's security team. He eventually found himself on Drake's records, though, such as the end of Nothing Was the Same's "From Time" and providing backing vocals on More Life's "Gyalchester." In 2014, he was arrested and later pled guilty to assaulting a woman and an unrelated weapons charge. He was incarcerated for 11 months. Three years later, Baka Not Nice signed a deal with OVO Sound in front of a live audience in New York City. In a speech, Drake said: "When [he] got out of jail there was a lot of different paths he could've took and he decided to focus on music."
One of OVO Sound's newer signees, Plaza started off singing in rock bands in the early 2010s, but turned to R&B when he went solo with his 2016 EP, One. A year after that, Oliver El-Khatib announced Plaza as a "member of the OVO Sound family" on an episode of OVO Sound Radio where El-Khatib also premiered Plaza's followup EP, Shadow.
Jamaican dancehall artist Popcaan has been putting out music since 2010, and while his profile was on the rise thanks to collaborations with Pusha T, Jamie xx and Gorillaz, Drake was eager to fast-track that success by signing him to OVO Sound. At the end of 2018, the Toronto mogul made the official announcement at a live show: "This is something we've worked on for a very long time. I just wanna let everybody know, finally. Officially, 2019 Popcaan is signed to OVO." (Currently, Popcaan's name is not listed among the label's roster online.)