Drake Opens Up For The First Time About Ghostwriting & Forcefully Defends His Pen (Audio)
In 2016, Drake does not often do interviews. The Canadian MC/singer was guarded upon his 2008-2009 entrance into the music industry. With the best-selling Hip-Hop album of 2016 in VIEWS, that wall has apparently only heightened. Drake typically addresses his life through lyrics, occasionally social media, and a few limited spots. To his millions of fans, it only adds to the charms and mastery of the Young Money Entertainment/Cash Money Records superstar.
DJ Semtex is one person who has access to Drizzy. The UK DJ veteran was an early supporter, as Lil Wayne cosigned the talent in 2008. Having been a pre-So Far Gone supporter, Drake sat with Semtex for Episode 38 of OVO Sound Radio on Beats 1. The complete transcript of that conversation also appears at his very own Nation Of Billions website.
In the lengthy conversation from this month, Drake recalled getting $10,000 to write verses for Dr. Dre during the Detox days. The Grammy-winning artist also recalls getting dismissed for missing an Aftermath session. As many believe Jay Z’s most recent talk is the latest in a saga of a back-and-forth subliminal exchanges between he and Drake, the OVO co-founder discusses his surprise to learn that “Pop Style” featured on two bars from the Roc Nation boss.
For many though, this conversation may be the clearest address (from one side, anyway) of 2015’s battle/beef between Drake and Meek Mill.
Semtex asked Drake about Quentin Miller, the Atlanta, Georgia MC that Meek Mill would “out” as Drake’s ghostwriter in the summer of 2015. In discussing Quentin, Drake started discussing the former “R.I.C.O.” collaborator who suddenly dissed him. “Meek Mill, at the time due to some issue with Nicki [Minaj or] whatever, decided to create a narrative that I don’t write my own music because that was what was convenient at the time and he caught wind of it.” The “it” was Quentin Miller, an emerging artist who was outed on social media by the Philadelphia MC. “It’s unfortunate too, because Quentin was being managed by DJ Drama and Don Cannon, who ended up really fucking his shit up because they were just like really messy with the shit, unnecessarily,” Drake says of The Aphilliates DJs and producers, with longstanding ties to Meek Mill. “[So Meek Mill] decided to create this narrative that I don’t write my own music. The reason why I never felt like necessarily pressured to sit down and defend myself right away or go do an interview is just because I mean anybody that was in those [studio] rooms, that worked on that project, or anybody that’s been in any room with me, period, knows first of all knows that I am one of the best writers, period. That is what I do, that is what I’m known for, I go and write for other people, I write my biggest songs, my biggest hits, the massive majority of my catalogue has all been written solely by me, which is a big feat because music is a collaborative process.” The artist with five solo #1 projects (and another with Future) owns his accomplishments. “At that given time with those isolated records, they just wouldn’t be what they were if it wasn’t for me, if it wasn’t for my pen, my contributions to that, and not taking away from him, we did great work together in a very small space. Yeah it really just kind of blossomed into this thing where I became the poster-child for ghostwriting.”
Drake admits that because of his 2015 conflict, the Hip-Hop industry is much more concerned with writing. Kendrick Lamar, Ice Cube, Lupe Fiasco, and Andre 3000 have all spoken about it publicly. “[It is] a huge conversation now in music and if I was like a evil spirit, if I had a different agenda, I could sit here and tell you how this shit really works. I could sit here and tell you 10, 20 people who are worse than me, that literally take everything as it’s just a verbatim process,” says the VIEWS creator.
Drake continues, distancing himself from the witch-hunt approach Meek took. “I’m not like that, when my peers get a record, I’m happy it’s great, [and it] doesn’t matter where it comes from, I don’t care. But for me, it was a big deal [when he accused me of using ghostwriters] because it just wasn’t the truth, you know, but like I said if I have to be the poster-child for it. If you choose to… after finding out about that situation… discredit my entire catalog, or my career, you were gonna discredit me anyway, so you may as well just go for it.” The target adds that he felt no need to explain himself, “When it came to that whole writing situation I never felt the urge to defend myself because if you ask about any of the biggest Drake records ever, I’ve done them all. And if you ask about those Quentin Miller sessions I was there, I was working. There would be no second half of ‘Know Yourself,’ and the bars wouldn’t be as good if it wasn’t for me, on any of those songs.” The artist apparently feels that he felt conspired against. “It really made me realize how deep this shit really goes, because there were like these references from our sessions when we’d worked together. [There were] no context to those references at all, but they existed, you know. That taught me a valuable lesson as well, which is just like, ‘Man, I can’t trust anybody, you can’t leave this studio with nothing.’ Like I said, it was really DJ Drama that got a call from somebody higher up. At that time, he just didn’t have the backbone to say no to this person and he was like, ‘Yo, my man’s getting roasted, you gotta give him some ammo, we gotta keep Drake down,’ and that is when I realized how deep this shit really is.” DJ Drama would work closely with Meek Mill in the late 2000s, when both were artists at T.I.’s Grand Hustle Records. Notably, Don Cannon has worked closely with Pusha T, who is another artist that Drake has diss history with. Like Meek, the veteran DJ is also a Philly native. “That whole situation… it was what it was and I can sit here now and you can interview Meek and you can ask him if it was worth it and I bet he’ll tell you no!”
While Meek enjoyed his first solo #1 album during the height of the conflict in summer 2015, many speculate that his slow reply to Drake’s two subsequent diss records wounded his public image.
Asked what he thinks of Meek Mill’s current state (which also includes a recent public breakup with Nicki Minaj), Drake weighs in. “It’s just a pattern in my career. There’s just this one-sided switch that happens with people. I don’t know, you can ask me about a bunch of people in this interview and you can literally ask me what my problem is with them, and I’ll tell you I don’t have one.” While Meek Mill detailed his frustrations with Drake in 2015 for misleading him on “R.I.C.O.,” Drake appears to deny any validity to that. He sees it as a calculated move. “When somebody makes a decision to say alright ‘everybody’s supporting this guy, maybe I should be the guy to go against him,’ or they just have a series of events that gets them aggravated enough to do that…that’s what happens. You know, and unfortunately, [it is] on display for the world…that was a terrible impulsive decision because [Meek Mill was not] ready [to battle], and in my mind, I study the game. And not only that, but I’m a very calculated thinker and I’m sitting here thinking [that Meek Mill is] ready for it.” Drake says he was literally ready for whatever. “I didn’t know who was gonna be on a diss track with him, or what he had ready, I thought that this was like three months in the making and I’m just getting blind-sided. And then when I dropped ‘Charged Up’ just to see…. just to kinda see what the preparation level was, I realized, I was like, ‘Wow, you’re not ready.’ this was just emotions about something.”
Drake adds that another Rap artist, who he says is both “a true champion” and “not one of my friends” urged to him create an 80-bar attacking reply to Meek Mill, and end the MC’s career. Pressed, Drake does not reveal the artist’s name.
Here, Drake discusses his second diss, “Back To Back.” In making the diss, Drake also made a hit in the Top 30. The artist held himself to a certain standard during the writing and recording. “I don’t have real hatred for [Meek Mill], the key was like… first of all my biggest focus the entire time was I cannot disrespect Nicki Minaj or use Nicki Minaj in any way other than to lift her up, that’s just not in my character.” He adds, “I didn’t go the route of calling him a bunch of terrible names, I just used wit, I just used wit and good writing, ironically enough… great writing, to just win that situation.”
Even without what he calls “hatred,” Drake is assured that he bested his opponent. “It hurt and I wanted it to hurt, I really did, because it wasn’t just like… man, I can take a lot of things, a lot of criticism, a lot of negativity, people say terrible things about me, and that’s fine. That is just unfortunately this very sad generation that we live in where people get off on bullying people on the Internet. So I can take all that, but man, you really tried to spin the entire narrative of my career… but [also] like end my life and take food from my family and really try and end it all and you didn’t even do it through music, you just talked or tweeted, it was like sickening to me. I had to really get revenge on that situation.” As he defended an ambush attack, and believes he won, Drake wants the statistics to show his true ability. “I’ve always said the problem with Rap is we never have a trophy at the end of the year, or any stats to prove, but finally I had a clear win. That was the only part about it that felt good, ah I finally got to compete when I was doubted and win.”
Last year, The Game also dissed Meek Mill in a series of records that accused the Maybach Music Group/Atlantic Records artist of cooperating with police. In a strange turn of events, Beanie Sigel also joined the battle, switching sides in the public eye from Meek’s defense to Game’s ally.
Last week, Drake won Grammy Awards for “Hotline Bling” in the “Best Rap Performance” and “Best Rap/Sung Performance” categories. He has three Grammy trophies in total.
DJ Semtex’s “More Talk” interview with Drake at Nation Of Billions full transcript is available, in addition to the audio above. Elsewhere in the interview, Drake’s More Life playlist is discussed, as well as OVO’s current organization, and extensive list of far-reaching artists, affiliates, and collaborators.