Wow. We’re already a month+ into the new year. Which officially means we have to stop wishing people happy new year — yes, even if you haven’t seen them since November. Either way, I felt compelled to crown someone the undisputed champion of 2015. Not in the traditional sense, there was plenty of that already (we all know the Warriors / Steph took that cake, ate it and washed the whole thing down with champagne in the Cavs locker room). Rather, determine a winner using my own twisted system. Which, to be clear, is completely worthless, but did take into account a long list of subjective metrics — including, but not limited to: cultural impact, general shine, swag, shoe deals, new girlfriends, emojis used, memes generated, $$$ etc.
My 2015 champion could do no wrong. I mean, this dude even lived up to his heavenly nickname. And to be honest, I don’t like when people give themselves Godly nicknames, but he gets a pass.
He’s the man behind one of the most interesting new campaigns, experiences, shows, whatever you want to call it, that we’ve seen in a long damn time. Crowning him the champ was a major undertaking with serious global implications, so my guy Brandon (B-Wonder) Thornton and I dissected Drake’s masterful 2015.
No artist had a bigger year than Drake — he jumped from hip-hop guy to household name in a matter of months. Channeling his inner Matt Damon (The Martian not Jason Bourne), Drake turned a harsh, hater-filled environment, the music industry, into a prosperous home. Step into my DeLorean, chow down on this old Halloween candy, and let’s take a ride. Here’s how it all went down:
The bomb dropped on February 13, 2015 when Drake released an unexpected, album-quality mixtape, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. It took the world by storm. While fans anxiously awaited his album, Views From The 6, Drake leveraged Valentine's Day to bless them with something even better — fresh music for the baby-making season. Simultaneous to the release, fans created a site that allowed other fans to create memes resembling the mixtape’s iconic cover (you know you made one). These covers soon became part of everyday conversation and cultural vernacular.
Timing is everything. Two of Drake’s most important verses of the year were on two of the biggest hits of the year. On Makonnen’s “Tuesday” and Fetty Wap’s “My Way,” Drake added a verse to these songs that had every club-goer nodding their head. Not only did these verses make the good songs better, they let his fans know that he was still part of their culture, despite his private jet excursions and “battle of the bandz” at strip clubs across the country. On top of that, Drake stayed in the conversation with releases of his own. Whether it was remaking a classic like “Hotline Bling” or letting his main girl know that she is his “Right Hand,” Drake was consistently contributing to the culture with sounds people could vibe to. Be honest, you can’t help but bounce when “Hotline Bling” comes on.
Drake came with the heat first and last. His biggest moment of the year was actually engineered to bring him down. After being exposed by Nicki Minaj’s boyfriend, Meek Mill, for having a ghostwriter, Drake was supposed to be headed for the chopping block. Ahhhh, not so fast. While Meek Mill tried to tarnish Drake’s credibility with his Twitter fingers, Drake responded with something for the people — a diss track. Despite it’s title,Charged Up, the release wasn’t as strong as it could have been. But that wasn’t the point, Drake struck first.
While Drake had the world anxiously waiting for Meek Mill’s response, he struck again and released a second diss track, Back 2 Back. Now we know how major that was, it ended up winning him a grammy for best musical murder or something like that. While Meek Mill was trying to figure out what he was going to say, Drake was winning over the people by giving them what every music fan loves wanted — a real rap beef fueled by tracks, not Tweets.
Meek Mill finally responded, but his diss track was too late and too weak. Drake already won. In a battle that was supposed to end his career, Drake earned admiration and credibility in every sense of the word. He proved that he was untouchable and immediately entered rap music royalty.
To put the nail in Meek Mill’s coffin and celebrate his victory, Drake performed in front of his fans at his own OVO concert in Toronto wearing a “Free Meek Mill” t-shirt. As if that wasn’t enough, Drake performed his diss tracks in front of hundreds of fan-generated internet memes that documented his rap beef with Meek Mill. Once again Drake was at the center of the conversation, but this time, his fans were along for the ride too.
The hits kept coming. Just when the world thought Drake couldn’t get any bigger, he surprised fans again. Teaming with the hottest rapper and producer in the game, Future and Metroboomin’, The 6 God released What A Time To Be Alive. This collaboration mixtape was a celebration of greatness and further testament that Drake doesn’t need a studio album to keep his crown. What made the release even more special for fans is that it launched near the release of the highly anticipated OVO x Jordan Brand sneaker collaboration. Fittingly, the mixtape’s highlight was a song called Jumpman, which celebrated the brand’s prestige and broadened Drake’s influence once again.
All that was left to do was sit back and watch it unfold. After the surprise release of the project that only took six days to record, which had kids fighting over one of the biggest sneaker releases of the year, all Drake had to do was sit back and watch. The fans did the rest — praising Drake’s dominance with a plethora of inspiring memes. He single handedly had the internet going nuts, further validated his ass whoopin’ of Nicki Minaj’s little boyfriend, Meek Mill.
Because of all that beautifully orchestrated madness, we’ve decided to anoint The 6 God our 2015 grand champion. What a year, what a year.
Drake re-wrote the cultural conversation — not by creating another studio album, but by delivering a massive new experience. His carefully orchestrated campaign built a world for fans to play in, which included memes, instagram posts, Go Fund Me pages, festivals, Jordan releases, diss tracks, mixtapes, guest verses, stunts and news stories. As people who fancy ourselves creative, let’s learn from the 6 God. Here are some ways we can do to shake things up in 2016:
Drake doesn’t wait for his fans to come to him. He goes where the fans are and he never comes empty handed. Whether it’s co-signing a new artist or releasing a new club banger, Drake keeps it vibey and and always initiates the conversation.
From his initial mixtape drop at the beginning of the year to his diss track in the Meek Mill beef, Drake continues to enter the action with no prior announcement. He just shows up and shows out. With these surprising and unexpected tactics, he forces people to pay attention and creates a whole lot of FOMO if you’re not with it when the action begins.
Drake always seems to be in the right place, at the right time. He never misses a beat, whether it’s wishing fans a happy Valentine’s Day with new music to dance to, making good songs even better, or releasing the biggest collaboration project since “Watch The Throne.”
Drake understands better than anyone that his audience is his greatest weapon. He throws the alley-oop and lets them do the rest. Instead of forcing them to conform to an album by album model they will forget after they purchase, Drake has connected with them in a way that is bigger than music. Using memes and Soundcloud to allow fans be a part of the conversation and create content for him, Drake’s fans have essentially built his brand and his “godliness.”
That was long. And if you made it this far, that means you never give up. Which is a major key to success (I had to). Thanks for sticking around. Hit me with questions, comments, whatever.
Wishing you a very safe journey on the pathway to more success in 2016.
- Reid & Brandon