The owl is the perfect symbol for Aubrey Graham. Nocturnal, unassuming, but a born predator, Drake is used to shifting the culture, while his rivals and idols rest. Some of the most memorable highlights of the NWTS-era came from unexpected SoundCloud releases delivered at absurd hours. “5AM In Toronto” dropped on an early March morning and featured Drizzy bearing his fangs with a sense of honed defiance. Then on one late and prolific June night he upped the ante, by releasing four songs that helped set the tone for his upcoming album: a remix of the surging Migos anthem “Versace,” the swaggering “Jodeci Freestyle” featuring J. Cole, the eerily beautiful “The Motion” with Sampha, and “Over Here” that positioned PARTYNEXTDOOR as OVO’s first ascendant son. All of the tracks built upon the same goal, proving rap’s prince was ready to not only wage war, but also to win each battle decisively.
SONGS RELEASED BEFORE THE ALBUM
Standout Line: “Give these niggas the look, the verse, and even the hook / That's why every song sound like Drake featurin' Drake”
Fun Fact: “5AM In Toronto” was the second installment of what would evolve into the “AM/PM series.” In 2010, Drake dropped the inaugural state of the OVO Union, “9AM In Dallas,” ahead of his debut album, Thank Me Later.
Standout Line: “This year I'm eatin' your food / And my table got so many plates on it”
Fun Fact: In a 2015 Billboard interview, Quavo briefly discussed how the Atlanta group felt about Drake’s remix. “C'mon, Drizzy know he bit the flow. Drizzy got on 'Versace,' right? Then when I came on there I did 'Versace / Versace / Medusa head on me like I'm illuminati.' My boy Drizzy Drake got them bars from me. We together though. We ain't trippin' on boss.”
Standout Line: “The girl that I wanna save is like a danger to my health / Try being with somebody that wanna be somebody else”
Fun Fact: “The Motion” introduced Drake’s fans to the soulful stylings of Sampha who would later be sampled on “Too Much.”
Standout Line: “It's like every time I plot a return I seem to shift the game / See I can still talk keys without pitchin' cane”
Fun Fact: One of the most controversial lyrics on “Jodeci Freestyle” came during Cole’s verse when he rapped, “I'm artistic, you niggas is autistic, retarded.” The Fayetteville MC and Drake later apologized for the tone-deaf lyric.
Standout Line: “All my young boys ‘round me saying, ‘Get money and fuck these hoes’ / Where we learn these values? I do not know what to tell you”
Fun Fact: On June 13, Rihanna posted a curious photo on Instagram of a man in a speedo with the name “Beyoncé” written across his buttocks. The caption read, “Boys love,” which some took as a not so subtle jab.