“Before I ever got the chance to meet him, Kanye West shaped a lot of what I do, as far as music goes,” Drake told MTV News back in May 2009. “I’d even go as far as to say he’s the most influential person, as far as a musician, that I’d ever had in my life.”
Over the next seven years, that influence has morphed and taken on new shapes: a relationship, both friendly and working, and a rivalry, both cordial and real.
The latest chapter of the Drake and Kanye story came Tuesday, in the form of “Pop Style,” Aubrey’s new single, which features both ’Ye and, briefly and meme-ably, Jay Z. But many ebbs and flows in their relationship preceded it.
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Long before “Pop Style,” on 2007’s Comeback Season, released just six weeks after Graduation, Drake rapped over that album’s “Barry Bonds.” A year later, he’d rap over Kanye’s “Swagger Like Us” beat. But the starkest early example of an influence came a few months later, with 2009’s So Far Gone.
The 2009 release arrived just three months after Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreak, an album that, at the time, was jarring for many — in its use of Auto-Tune and singing, in its deviation from Kanye’s previous sound, in its dark ambiance — but whose impact has become undeniable. An early marker of that impact was So Far Gone, Drake’s breakout opus, mixing rapping, singing, self-assuredness and emotional rawness. Included was the standout “Say What’s Real,” a four-minute lyrical outpouring over 808s’ “Say You Will.”
The tape’s hit, though, was “Best I Ever Had,” and its video, directed by Kanye, was the first taste of the working relationship between these two. And it fell short.