The Omnipotent 6 God
How Drake Turned Himself into a Living Meme and Dominated 2015
About a minute into “Jungle” — the penultimate track on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, the mixtape-album he released in February — Drake chastises a lover for spending too much time on Facebook. “F*** what they talking about on your Timeline,” he croons. “That’s cutting all into my time with you.”
It’s a sentiment that feels more than a little ironic, given that the Toronto rapper just had arguably the most successful year of his career largely thanks to social media. More than any artist of his generation, Drake has mastered the rhythms and idiosyncrasies of Internet culture. He’s learned not only how to set blogs and Twitter ablaze with his every action — be it major or minor, candid or carefully constructed — but also exactly how often to make himself seen or heard to remain a fixture in the ever-quickening news cycle without exhausting his audience.
For proof, just look at everything the guy has accomplished in 2015. In February, he launched the aforementioned If You’re Reading This on iTunes on a random Thursday night with no prior warning — it was instantly the most talked-about subject on the web for weeks, became the first album to go platinum in 2015, and firmly established Drake’s nickname for Toronto, “The 6,” in the public consciousness.
Then, in July, after getting accused of using a ghostwriter by Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill via Twitter, Drake responded with two dis songs: moody warm-up entitled “Charged Up,” whose accompanying cover art prompted Instagram users to spam Meek’s posts with battery emojis, followed by “Back to Back,” a triumphant, eviscerating banger that simultaneously knocked Meek on his feet and became one of the summer’s biggest hits. To put the finishing blow on what was already a rather one-sided beef, Drake took to the stage at his annual OVO Festival and performed both songs while a PowerPoint loaded with Meek Mill memes flashed behind him.
Drake followed that up in September with his second album of the year, a surprise collaboration with Atlanta’s Future called What A Time To Be Alive, with a bejeweled cover that caused Instagrammers to once again spam Meek Mill—this time with diamond emojis.
Finally, in October, Drake delivered his shrewdest move of all: the video for his incontrovertibly addictive single “Hotline Bling,” which seemed wholly designed and built for consumption online. For five glorious minutes, wearing bizarre turtleneck sweaters against a glowing neon backdrop, Drake dances like a drunk uncle at a Bar Mitzvah. He shimmies his head to and fro. He swings his arms like Carlton on The Fresh Prince. He staggers across the screen with all the grace of a duckling learning to waddle.
“Hotline Bling” broke the Internet. Every moment of the video was turned into a thousand gifs, and every one of those gifs became tens of thousands of memes. Donald Trump spoofed it on Saturday Night Live. Thomas Mulcair followed suit on This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Dozens of NFL players busted out Drake’s moves on the field. Adele pledged to remix the song. It was a watershed cultural moment in what was already a watershed year for the 28-year-old.
This is to say nothing of all of his limelight-worthy undertakings outside of music: dating Serena Williams as she nearly completed a calendar-year Grand Slam; opening a Toronto restaurant called Fring’s with celebrity chef Susur Lee; designing and debuting the Raptors’ new third jerseys. A month rarely passed this year without Drake being involved in something of note, but those things were invariably so diverse or interesting or just plain hilarious that it almost never felt like overkill.
Now, with just a few weeks left in 2015, Drake’s left us with one last mystery to solve. In early November, he posted a billboard over Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway that simply read “The 6 God Is Watching.” It’s led some to speculate that he plans to launch his long-anticipated fourth studio album (and his third release in the last 11 months), Views from the 6, before the year is out. As of press time, there’s yet to be any confirmation on that front, but the one sure thing Drake has proven this year is that he won’t leave us hanging for long without making another splash.
F*** what we’re talking about on our Timelines? Sorry, Drake, but thanks to you, you’re the only thing that’s ever on there.