9 Steps Drake Took to Transform From Degrassi's Wheelchair Jimmy Into Rap Legend Champagne Papi

How the musician became one of hip-hop's greatest

By Kendall Fisher Mar 17, 2017 11:00 AMTags
Drake, Boy Meets WorldZUMA Press / MEGA

Drake has embarked on his Boy Meets World Tour, selling out arenas across the globe over the last few months and bringing people from all different backgrounds and cultures together under one roof, singing along to his songs, and despite any language barrier, never missing a line.

This moment is only about to be catapulted to a new level when he drops his next album, More Life, on Saturday.

The release has been highly-anticipated following the massive success of his last album, Views, and further proves that Drizzy Drake is arguably one of the greatest rap legends of our time.

But how exactly did he get here? What steps did this child star from Toronto take to transform himself from Degrassi's Wheelchair Jimmy to world-renowned Champagne Papi?

Let us investigate…

Drake's Awesome Sporting Event Faces
George Pimentel/WireImage

Step One: Born a Legend, From Legends

There are a lot of people who make it big in the world without ever knowing one of both of their parents, and while Drake's dad may not have lived with him and his mother growing up, both Sandi and Dennis Graham had a major influence on his life, which he's detailed in his songs time and time again. His mom—a Jewish woman from Canada—has always supported his career, and he often raps about the influence she had on his desire to make it big. "Look What You've Done" is just one song in which he dedicates his career to her: "I get to make good on my promise/ It all worked out, girl/ We shoulda known."

Prince Williams/FilmMagic

His father, on the other hand, lived in Memphis, Tenn. Drake has rapped about the fact that Dennis wasn't able to visit him growing up and often missed child support payments, but as time went on, they finally re-connected. In "From Time" he raps: "It's just me and my old man getting back to basics/ We've been talking 'bout the future and time that we wasted/ When he put that bottle down, girl that n---a's amazing."

Now, both of his parents are heavily involved in his career. His father—whose made a name for himself with his thick mustache and retro-style—often attends concerts and after-parties alongside his son. His mother has remained by his side throughout it all, always showing her support during major milestones like his 30th birthday dinner.

Drake's Sulky Selfies

Step Two: Started From the Bottom

OK, so maybe Drake's start wasn't exactly the bottom—it's not like he was serving McDonald's in Toronto—but he did start out in what's usually deemed a doomed beginning: being a child actor. Drizzy starred as Jimmy Brooks on the hit Canadian teen series Degrassi. After being shot in the back during a school shooting, he was confined to a wheelchair and, thus, became known as Wheelchair Jimmy.

The show was a bit corny, albeit quite popular even in the United States, giving Drake at least a small, unexpected platform for kick-starting his music career. In fact, in one episode, he showcased his rapping skills, which proved to be pretty good even then!

Step Three: Listen to Yourself, You Don't Need Nobody Else

Drake knew he was the man by the age of 6 and that has never changed. Being a child star on a teen series wasn't exactly how anyone would picture a rapper kicking off his career, but the thing about Drake is, he doesn't care and he never has. During a behind-the-scenes look at his life beyond Degrassi, he promised viewers and fans he'd always loved music and was determined to pursue it.

In fact, he put out music with Trey Songz even before he was ever signed to a label, proving he was working on his rap career before he ever actually made any money from it.

Needless to say, he dove right into that dream and never stopped pursuing it. Based upon his childhood, he always knew people would doubt his rapping ability and call him privileged, like everything was handed to him "top of the ribbon, never worked to get it" (just listen to "Two Birds, One Stone"). But he did work and part of that work was ignoring the nay-sayers and breaking the glass ceiling of his child star history in order for people to take him seriously. "Should I listen to everybody or myself? Because myself just told myself, 'You the motherf--kin' man, you don't need no help."

Todd Williamson/WireImage.com

Step Four: But Definitely Still Answer When Wayne Calls Up Your Phone

Even with all the confidence in the world, no rapper can make it without joining a label, and Drake made a solid decision when he answered Lil Wayne's phone call in 2009 and took a flight to Houston the next morning. He wrote the So Far Gone mix-tape immediately after his return. Not only did this album result in him to signing with YMCMB, but it also gave us his first official 17 songs, including his first radio hit "Best I Ever Had," which became the song of summer that year.

Since then, he's surpassed Jay Z on Billboard's hip-hop chart for most No.1 hits, broke Michael Jackson's record for the most nominations at the American Music Awards, earned over 1 billion streams with Views and simultaneously turned "One Dance" into the most-streamed song on Spotify.

But the question remains: Why? Why did we start listening to this former-child-start-turned-rapper from Toronto in the first place? Why do we love him now? Why is he arguably the most popular rapper of our generation?

This leads us to our next point...

Step Five: He's Emotionally Relevant

Some people give him a hard time for being emotional—"true say, I been goin' hard, but then again they think I'm soft"—but in reality, we connect with Drake because we connect with his feelings. He's never been too proud to really show the world his emotions in his music, whether it's about his parents or his many loves. We appreciate that we can relate to him when he raps about texting—"three dots, you thinking of a reaction still"—or hitting his "tees with Febreze" or getting in fights at the Cheesecake Factory (we all love to go there).

He hasn't become the best rapper alive because he's predictable, only rapping about the money and the cars and the fame—he raps about real things with real emotions that real people can relate to.  

Step Six: Rep Your City and Take No New Friends

If there's one thing we know about Drake, it's that he reps the six 'til the day he dies. This is, of course, because it's the city that raised him and the city he met all of his closest friends—friends that he's maintained even through all the fame. In fact, other than YMCMB, Drake reps October's Very Own (aka OVO), a Canadian record label he runs with those day-one friends.

The fact that he maintains childhood relationships is another reason we love him so much. It's something we can relate to and something that gives him a sense of realness in an industry that is often portrayed as a facade with fake relationships and fake love.

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Step Seven: Except for a Few New Friends

Not only has Drake maintained his closest friends all these years, but he's also helped kickstart the careers of several now-famous musicians.

For example, Kendrick Lamar opened for him during one of his first tours. He discovered The Weeknd and featured him on hit songs like "Crew Love" and "The Ride" off Take Care. He even hopped on remixes with rising artists like Migos and Fetty Wap, bringing new listeners to their music and giving them a little boost to help take them to the next level of their career.

Rihanna and Drake: Romance Rewind
Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Step Seven: And a Few Famous Love Interests

From his public relationship with Rihanna to his romance with Jennifer Lopez to whatever went on (is still going on?) with Nicki Minaj, Drake's love life has made for some great music with some great story lines.

Songs like "Too Good" and "Make Me Proud" became even bigger bangers with the addition of a romantic interest between Champagne Papi and his lady-of-the-moment. Not to mention, they bring a whole slew of new listeners to his music—thank you to Rihanna Navy!

Music aside, moments the rapper has shared with these women give yet another reason to relate to him. For example, he spilled his heart out for Rihanna at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards and confessed he's always been in love with her despite the fact that she's shut him down (like when she dodged a kiss from him immediately after said speech). We love that he's vulnerable and his openness always has us dissecting his songs to figure out who his lyrics are directed toward.

Step Eight: Don't Take Yourself Too Seriously

Drake does something a little different than most rappers—he's not too proud to get weird.

Whether he's becoming a meme from "Hotline Bling" or taking over Saturday Night Live, he's able to step away from the "I'm too hard for this" stigma attached to rappers and not take himself too seriously. Thus, you guessed it, this gives us yet another reason to find him relatable, becoming even bigger fans and buying even more of his music.


Step Nine: Do Right and Kill Everything

Finally, we couldn't end this post with Drake's motherf--kin motto (and no, not YOLO). In case you've been hiding under a Drake-less rock somewhere, other than it being his middle name, D.R.A.K.E. stands for Do Right And Kill Everything.

The No. 1 thing that Drake has done right in his successful career is simply staying true to himself. If you go back and watch his behind-the-scenes interview at the top of this post and compare it to a recent appearance on The Ellen Show or an interview with GQ, Drake today is the same Drake he was a decade ago.

He's still in touch with his emotions, and he's still vulnerable. He's still dedicating his music to his parents, and his still repping the six. He's still with his day-one friends, and he's still helping support growing artists. He's still a little weird, and he's not afraid to admit that he's still a child star from Toronto.

He's still finding success after success with his albums, and he's still one of the greatest rappers of our time.

We can't wait to see what More Life has in store!