Is Drake Canada's next big thing? Rapper goes from Degrassi to Rihanna to mega-stardom

Is Drake Canada’s next big thing? Rapper goes from Degrassi to Rihanna to mega-stardom

By Chris Parry with file by Mariel Concepcion , Vancouver Sun

Aubrey Graham knew he’d made it when he joined the cast of DeGrassi: The Next Generation. Playing Jimmy Brooks, the basketball star consigned to a wheelchair after being shot by a classmate, he became a nationally recognized performer.

But, to paraphrase Crocodile Dundee; “That’s not making it… this is making it.”

Aubrey is now Drake, and the one-time piece of TV can-con has smoothly moved into the music world, where he is now officially the biggest unsigned name in the business.

That’s right – Drake doesn’t have a deal. But he will. Good god, will he ever.

In fact, the buzz on Drake is so hot right now, he’s been spotted making out with Rihanna, his shows are a who’s who of hip hop and recording company honchos, and his music is in such high demand that a Canadian company has taken to selling his old mixtapes – without permission, he says – on iTunes.

An unauthorized album, “The Girls Love Drake,” which features selections from Drake’s mixtape “So Far Gone” and other tracks, was released May 28 by a label called Canadian Money Entertainment and distributed by the Independent Online Distribution Alliance (IODA) on iTunes, Rhapsody and Amazon.

Drake’s camp, which is still trying to clear permissions for the samples on “So Far Gone” and his two other mixtapes in hopes of selling them in stores, said it didn’t authorize the release.

If it hadn’t been disqualified on the grounds that it wasn’t an official album, “The Girls Love Drake” would have debuted this week at No. 101 on the Billboard 200, No. 16 on the Digital Albums chart and No. 1 on the Heatseekers tally.

After finding the album on iTunes, Drake’s management sent a cease-and-desist notice to the retailer, which has since removed it. Drake’s manager, Al Branch, said he was having it removed from Rhapsody and Amazon as well.

“This is a straight bootleg, a scandal,” Branch told Billboard.com. “iTunes’ position is that they are a store and they stock everything. They have a waiver, and as long as people sign it and are responsible for the product they submit, then they go for it.”

Branch also said that Drake plans to file a lawsuit against Canadian Money Entertainment, which he said isn’t connected with Drake or Young Money, the Lil Wayne-owned label that Drake is affiliated with. Drake is the subject of a major-label bidding war.

Peter Greenwood, the founder of Canadian Money Entertainment, said the company has been releasing mixtapes for unsigned artists since 2003 and that it had no ill intentions in releasing “The Girls Love Drake.”

“‘The Girls Love Drake’ was just a combination of new and old songs that we had been promoting on the underground scene for the last six months, and so we wanted to get more exposure for it on the Net,” he said. “Breaking him in the States along with other Toronto artists has always been our goal. Drake is our hometown hero.”

Branch is concerned that Young Money or October’s Own, Drake’s label, could be sued because the samples on the mixtapes, which include beats from albums by David Banner, Goapele and Colun Munroe, haven’t legally been cleared for use. But Greenwood said that he was unaware of the legalities of selling a mixtape on iTunes.

“There were tracks produced for other artists that Drake rapped over that were not cleared. While some songs were original, this was meant to be an underground project and not a major release,” he said. “We tried to get the project out through a new platform on the digital level, but we were stopped before we could get started because mixtapes are not allowed on that level.”

Greenwood said he will continue to promote his mixtapes using the traditional, offline route, and that if a lawsuit does indeed come his way, he will deal with it head on.

As for Rihanna, Drake says he’s currently writing some tunes for the A-list R&B star, and that, “Me and Rihanna are just, you know, me and Rihanna. We’re cool and she’s great, man.”

With files by Mariel Concepcion from Reuters

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