Q&A: Drake On Battle Rappers, A$AP Rocky, And His Five-Figure Bet With Nelly


When I spoke with Drake last Friday, it turned out I was just missing the chance to fully discuss his album Take Care, which leaked over the weekend. But this left lots of time to dig into other topics, from his Canadian perspective on racial identity to his relationships with Stevie Wonder and A$AP Rocky.

You and I have similar backgrounds, a black dad and a white, Jewish mom. Do those issues of race and identity play out differently in Canada compared to the US?

Well, Canada’s like a cultural melting pot, especially Toronto. America, I come here sometimes and I witness, like, real segregation. Like when you go to LA and it’s like, “This area’s Mexican, and this area’s white.” That’s crazy to me because in Toronto we have cultural areas—”OK, this is Little India, this is Chinatown, this is where there the Greek people are”—but it’s not segregated. It’s not like you can’t go there and participate in the culture. So it’s a bit different. I think Canada’s very accepting. But at the same time I get a lot of love everywhere in the world for just being diverse, instead of just being straight out [one thing]. I’m all mixed up and people embrace that.

When you identify yourself this way do you ever get questioned on it, like, “Why do you call yourself ‘mixed’?” or, “What’s wrong with just being black?”

I mean, I’m so light that people are like “you’re white.” That’s what I get more than anything, people saying “you’re white, you’re not black.” But I mean those are whatever, those are just silly jokes. That’s like “the light-skinned complex.” That’s a very American thing as well, light skin and dark skin, like I don’t even notice that. Girls will be like “oh I’ve seen you talk to dark-skinned girls, that’s so good.” And I’m like “why? I talk to any girl!” I talk to anybody, you know?

Tell me about working with Stevie Wonder.

We had met and exchanged numbers a while ago so I called him when I was in LA, and he came to the studio I was working at, named Marvin’s Room. So he came and I had this song looped up named “Doing It Wrong,” and it was just playing and Stevie said “40 [Drake’s producing partner], turn the music up,” and he was just vibing, being Stevie Wonder, sort of got quiet. And then he just went in the booth and brought life to this record, added all these musical pieces. He’s just, likem a dear friend of mine and a great person. I love working with him, and we’ll definitely work more in the future.

Has he given you any particular advice?

Well Stevie is less of, like, I always feel like individuals who give advice… Stevie Wonder is such a human. He’s such a, like, human being, he’s such a great, funny, real person, that he just makes me laugh and make me feel comfortable. Tells me great stories, ones that I really can’t tell [laughing], but he tells me good stories and leads me in the right direction. He doesn’t preach to me or try to make me feel like I’m some young’un that he needs to advise, he just treats me like an equal, like a human being. And I love people that do that, I respect that.

What drew you to A$AP Rocky, and what advice have you given him about stepping up to be the the three million dollar man?

I like his fascination with Houston culture; I’ve always been fascinated by the same thing. I like that it’s less about just him and more about his crew, which is how I live my life. Drake is not one person; Drake is all of us, you know? I like that a lot. And then when I met him he was just so cordial. Like he brought me a bottle of Cristal to where I was DJing at, which was very classy of him. He invited me to his show and even came to the back door and made sure we were good; he’s just a very great person. He’s a very talented guy, and there’s not really much advice to give somebody like that. If he ever asks me about anything I’d be more than happy to have a conversation with him, but he’s a good person and he’s already on the right path. Much like Kendrick Lamar as well, another guy who’s just a great person, good heart, good team around him. I like people like that.

You’ve talked a lot about your admiration for Phonte. How come another collaboration with him still hasn’t happened?

With me and Tay, I kinda dropped the ball on a feature he needed me to do, just being 100% honest. I really wanted to do a record with him, and we actually did do a record for my album, and then something happened with the producer and the beat, and it started getting funny so I had to scrap the record. And then he was like, “Well, can you do this feature for me,” and at the time I was trying to find my sound and trying to figure out what this album was going to be about, and I kind of let it slip through the cracks. That was my fault, and I do apologize to Phonte for that. But I still want to make it happen; I talked to 9th Wonder about trying to make it happen, we’ll get it eventually. He knows he’s one of the biggest influences on my career.

You said you get inspiration from watching battles. What makes the the battle scene inspiring for you?

I’m a huge fan of the battle scene. I’ve always been a fan of Hollow Da Don. Obviously The-Saurus is nasty; Iron Solomon is nasty. I always watch the URL TV battles even though I was really mad at the last one they did because the sound was so bad. But yeah, it gets me excited in the studio, to watch these rappers, to see them rap for a whole different cause. I rap to make albums; I rap to make radio records. But these guys prep for these competitions where my heart would be beating out of my chest if I ever stepped to another guy and I had to battle him [for] three rounds, long-ass rounds with so many raps to remember. So I get very inspired by that, seeing other people doing the same thing but doing it so differently.

Did you really make a five-figure bet with Nelly on the Hollow Da Don vs. Hitman Holla battle?

Yeah I did. I bet on Hollow because, well I’ll always bet on Hollow, he’s nasty. I like Hitman Holla but Hollow’s just more consistent, and obviously Hollow Da Don won the battle.

So did Nelly pay up on that?

No, Nelly hasn’t paid me up. But he will though! [laughing] Nelly will pay up. He’s a man of his word.