He may have “started from the bottom” (as his song goes), but as Drake debuts his latest album Views, he’s approaching the summit of hip-hop — musically and financially.
In cover art for the eagerly awaited new album that he shared online, the Toronto rapper is perched near the top of the CN Tower — a symbol, perhaps, of the pop culture heights the Degrassi: The Next Generation actor-turned-hip-hop-star has achieved since bursting onto the scene in 2009.
Last fall, Aubrey Drake Graham placed third— just behind Sean (Diddy) Combs and Shawn (Jay Z) Carter — on the Forbes Cash Kings list, the financial magazine’s tally of the world’s highest-paid rap acts. Forbes says Drake’s achievement came largely from releasing the surprise album If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, through touring and from endorsements for Sprite and Nike.
“That’s pretty much my objective every year,” Drake told Forbes in 2013, referring to landing on the prestigious Forbes ranking.
“Other than making good music.”
For Drake and other hip-hop moguls, success increasingly means doing things beyond simply making music. Unapologetic boasting about wealth or touting a life of luxury has long been a current running through many rappers’ lyrics. Drake, incidentally, is signed to Lil Wayne’s Young Money Entertainment — a division of a label itself called Cash Money Records.
The Canadian performer once said he wanted to make $25 million by the age of 25. Now 29 — and turning 30 on October 24 — Drake earned more than $39 million US in 2015, according to Forbes. His total net worth is $75 million US, states the website Celebrity Net Worth, so his earnings are well outpacing his age.
Drake, the brand
The self-described “6 God” isn’t resting on his laurels, either.
In addition to Views, which will stream exclusively on Apple Music (aservice he helped launch last June) for a week following its April 29 release, and his recently announced Summer Sixteen Tour, Drake is also staging his seventh annual OVO Fest concert in Toronto on July 29.
He co-founded a record label called OVO Sound in 2012, oversees his OVO clothing stores and was seen giving away Views swag in person atsurprise pop-up stores in several cities.
Drake has also collaborated with Canada Goose on winter coats and on the Toronto restaurant Fring’s with celebrity chef Susur Lee, andintroduced a new alcohol brand called Virginia Black Decadent American Whiskey.
The global brand ambassador for the Toronto Raptors opened the exclusive, high-endSher Club inside the NBA team’s Air Canada Centre home stadium in 2015.
He’s also an investor in the tech startup Omni, which helps users organize and store their own personal items.
And that’s just the stuff we know about.
“When you’re ascendent in music, you want to carefully consider what your opportunities are to make money,” said Jordan Jacobs, a former entertainment lawyer and music manager who now runs a culture-sharing website called milq.
“You can’t make quite as much as you used to be able to as a musician.”
Artists’ revenue from album sales and downloads has dropped asstreaming has increasingly become the preferred way consumers get their tunes.
“But,” Jacobs cautioned, “you want to be careful about over-extending yourself and diluting the brand.”
In other words, associating his image with a company just for the paycheque rather than because it’s a real product or service that he would use.
So far, Jacobs believes Drake and his team have “been pretty smart about doing it in a way that’s pretty authentic both for them and their audience.”
Keeping his edge
Toronto rapper and music journalist Addi (Mindbender) Stewart, who has followed Drake’s career since the start, is keen to hear the new album and feeling hopeful Drake hasn’t lost his lyrical edge as his career has skyrocketed.
Now, for instance, when Drake mentions Barack Obama, as he does in the recently released single Summer Sixteen, he knows the U.S. President might hear it — and that level of scrutiny can give a rapper pause, said Stewart.
“It happens to the best of them,” he continued.
“Once you reach a certain stratosphere — and you start selling a million [albums] in the first week — when you sit down to write a song, you might hesitate.”
Drake will likely pause, Stewart noted, “but I hope it does not take the fire out of his flow.”