He’s been listening, Twitter.
In November 2011, Barack Obama was still president, Beyoncé was pregnant with Blue Ivy, and Drake’s second album, Take Care, was expected to drop on the 15th. The world was watching 6 God, waiting to see if the Canadian former child actor’s success with his first album Thank Me Later was just a fluke or something he could replicate. Everything was going according to plan. And then the album leaked, nine days before the release date.
The record was suddenly available on YouTube and on various file sharing sites. On Twitter, users scrambled to use their 140 characters to dissect the body of work, like music critics working pro bono. Then, Drake hopped on Twitter and addressed it himself—directly telling his then 3.9 million followers, “I am not sure if the album leaked. But if it did thank god it doesn’t happen a month early anymore… Listen, enjoy it, buy it if you like it…and take care until next time.” And in typical Drake fashion, he hopped right off Twitter after that. He didn’t favorite his fans’ responses to the tweet or retweet their praises. He let his fans and haters dissect the album some more.
Days later, he would give an interview where he would elaborate on the way he viewed Twitter and Tumblr. “I hate what Tumblr has become, it reminds me of those cliquey girls in high-school that defined what was cool, but in five years, when you all graduate, that shit doesn’t matter,” he told The Source. “I remember the day my mom was getting surgery and someone came on Twitter and they were like, ‘Yo, Drake, I hope your mom dies,'” he shared. “It’s basically like when you used to sit there as a kid and want to know what everyone is thinking. That’s your superpower. [Twitter is] knowing what everyone is thinking.”
Boom. Drake views Twitter as a focus group. Understanding Drake has been accomplished. Everything about Drake—and about More Life—makes sense now, right?
Drake in 2011 walked around in cardigans and plaid polo shirts under V-neck sweaters. He was less cool and less sexy and less smooth. He almost never used social media. He tweeted—but let’s not get it wrong, he was no Kanye West—and when he did tweet, he was pretending to be married to Nicki Minaj or telling various celebrity women that he was proud of them. This was not the Drake you know from his Instagram thirst traps. This was the average-ish dude that your sister let hang around but you never had to worry about.
But this was pre-Apple Music Drake. Turns out Drake was spending those years closely studying the Internet and how it reacted to him and his work.
With releases like early 2015’s surprise If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and the random drops of songs on his blog, October’s Very Own, it became possible that you could wake up at 7 a.m. and find out that while you were sleeping, Drake had dropped three songs full of lyrics your friends would be captioning their Instagram pictures to later that day. Most importantly, Drake began to show he knew how to laugh at himself. He began posting memes of himself in 2013 on his Instagram that were circulating on Twitter and the Internet. The deal Drake made for a reported $19 million with Apple Music in late 2015 can be seen as the point where he finally harnessed its mysterious power.
So when the Apple Music deal and the OVO Sound Radio show came and he found himself embroiled in a feud with rapper Meek Mill, no longer was Twitter Drake’s focus group. The culture and the power dynamic had shifted and it had become Drake’s biggest ally. This wasn’t just Drake vs. Meek but Drake and the Internet vs. Meek.
Drake’s utilization of the internet as his ally against Meek was a departure from 2015’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, on which Drake talks about hating the Internet and Twitter and his life being so popping that he can’t spend his time on it. From “Energy” to “Know Yourself” to “6 Man” and even “Jungle,” that anti-web vibe was all over his verses.
There comes a time, of course, when the Internet has had enough, and after Drake dropped Views, it seemed like many were finally ready to take Drake to task for 2015’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late‘s internet/Twitter-hating verses. If they weren’t dissing Views, its Grammy nomination, and its million-year wait, fans online were calling him corny or accusing him of “selling out” or jumping on him for his new slang and appreciation for UK-style grime sounds or proclaiming they were simply tired of his shit. And the memes? They weren’t something he could post on his Instagram and laugh off.
The boy is back now, though, and on a Saturday right in the middle of March Madness. He knows fans would have waited for More Life for another three months if necessary, too. And that too-cool-for-the-internet attitude? Nowhere to be found. On More Life, Drake insists he saw it all.
The claims that he appropriated and culture-vultured Jamaican culture? He didn’t back down; instead he dropped an album full of that island flavor, subtly expounding on the fact that his native Toronto’s slang and culture have a lot of West Indian and Caribbean influence. The constant claims that he “sold out” or got too “corporate”? Apple music co-signee Taylor Swift is nowhere to be found, even though some expected she would appear on the album. Meek Mill? There’s a Meek Mill diss in the first three minutes. American fans’ hatred of UK grime and the renewed accusations of him “wave riding” it? He features several grime artists, suggesting he’s more concerned about capturing the worldly feel of the Internet than staying local.
Before Sunday, Drake hadn’t tweeted since November of last year. He returned to the timeline on Sunday. But Saturday’s More Life drop was Drake’s official return to the timeline, and he formally called out his greatest ally: the Internet. It was Drake finally realizing how long the Internet will wait for him and how much it loves (and loves meme-ifying) him.