The Canadian hip-hop artist (‘Best I Ever Had’) has built a huge following with a gift for melodies, powerful allies and savvy management.
By any modern measure of musical popularity — YouTube views, radio airplay, ring-tone ubiquity — the single “Best I Ever Had” by Toronto rapper Drake is not only a hit, it’s arguably 2009’s “Song of the Summer.” Since debuting on iTunes last month, the hip-hop lust track has sold 600,000 digital downloads and topped three separate pop charts. Even if you can’t summon to mind its rap-sung vocals or brassy syncopated beat, you’ve probably heard “Best I Ever Had” blaring out of a convertible somewhere.
Less than a year ago, Drake was basically a zero in the music world, unsigned and virtually unknown as a rhyme-sayer. But thanks to some out-of-the-box branding efforts by several of the best-connected marketing executives in the urban world and the institutional backing of his mentor, rap superstar Lil Wayne, Drake landed two songs in the Top 10 this month — “Best I Ever Had” as a solo artist and “Every Girl” as part of the rap group Young Money. He had already amassed a devoted fan base before he’d even landed a record deal.