Started From the Bottom, Now He’s Here: Drake’s Rise to Fame

There are few people around the world who haven’t heard of Drake. The Toronto-born rapper is known for his hit songs like “Hotline Bling,” “One Dance,” and “Started from the Bottom.” However, the music star actually started his career as an actor under a different name, Aubrey Graham.

Drake and Rihanna / Drake / Kanye West and Drake / Drake
Source: Getty Images

Drake went from starring on Degrassi to launching a music career in 2006, but the road to the top hasn’t been easy. Between love life woes and public feuds, Drake has made waves in the headlines, not always for good things. Keep reading to discover how Drake went from Toronto to the world stage.

What Is Drake’s Real Name?

Aubrey Drake Graham was born in 1986 in Toronto, Ontario, to Dennis and Sandra Graham. Drake was surrounded by music from his earliest years because his father worked as a drummer alongside country musician Jerry Lee. Dennis performed at Club Bluenote in Toronto, where he met Sandra.

A photo of Drake as a young boy.
Source: Twitter

However, when Drake was five, his parents divorced, and he remained in Toronto with his mother. Meanwhile, his father returned to Memphis, Tennessee, where he was originally from, leaving his family behind. He made sure to see Drake often, but Dennis found himself incarcerated, preventing him from seeing his son until adulthood.

They Didn’t Have Much

Without his father, Drake’s mother raised him as a single parent. Sandra worked as an English teacher and florist to make ends meet and did her best. Drake and his mother lived in an affluent neighborhood but didn’t have much money. He said their home wasn’t big, but it was what they could afford.

A photo of Drake and his parents.
Source: Facebook

While attending Forest Hill Collegiate Institute, Drake showed an affinity for the arts. He started acting in school productions and later transferred to Vaughan Road Academy. The school was in a multicultural neighborhood, and Drake described it as “not by any means the easiest school to go to.”

He Dropped Out

Drake didn’t have an easy time at Vaughan Road Academy. He was often bullied for his racial and religious background because he was half-black, half-white, and Jewish. Drake tried to stay focused on his studies and extracurriculars, but his busy class schedule made it hard to get into acting.

A young Drake is eating an ice cream.
Source: Twitter

He wanted to pursue acting as a full-time career, so he dropped out of school at age 15. Drake luckily had good connections and was introduced to his friend’s father, an acting agent. The agent saw Drake’s potential and started searching for roles, quickly finding the perfect part for Drake.

Degrassi Days

The agent got Drake a role on the Canadian teen drama Degrassi: The Next Generation, where he portrayed Jimmy Brooks, a basketball star who was paralyzed after being shot by a classmate. He reportedly hated the role because of its tokenism, as Drake was one of the only black characters.

A screengrab of Drake in Degrassi.
Source: YouTube

Drake felt the character hurt his standing as a rapper when he started to branch into music. Show writer James Hurst said Drake threatened legal action to change the storyline but ultimately agreed to it. Although he wasn’t a fan of the storyline, Drake was praised for his performance.

He Wanted to Be a Rapper

While Drake was starring on Degrassi, he was also branching into music. Series creators Stephen Stohn and Linda Schuyler said Drake would arrive late on set after spending nights in the recording studio. It was frustrating because they needed to stick to a filming schedule.

Drake is in the recording studio.
Source: YouTube

To prevent delays in filming, Drake struck up a deal with the set’s security guards to gain entry to the set after recording so he could sleep in his dressing room. It allowed him to be on time for shooting without missing recording sessions.

Getting Into Music

Jay-Z and Clipse musically inspired Drake, so he started working on his debut mixtape in 2006. The self-released mixtape titled Room for Improvement featured Trey Songz and Lupe Fiasco. Drake described it as “pretty straightforward, radio-friendly, and not much content to it.”

The album cover art for Room for Improvement.
Source: Amazon

The mixtape didn’t sell many copies, but it didn’t stop him from working on more music. In 2007, he released his second mixtape titled Comeback Season, which featured the single “Replacement Girl” with Trey Songz. The song made Drake the first unsigned rapper to have his music video on BET.

Making Moves

Drake’s song “Replacement Girl” sampled “Man of the Year” by Brisco, Flo Rida, and Lil Wayne. He kept Lil Wayne’s verse and adjoined his verse to the song’s earlier half. As the song became popular, Lil Wayne decided to invite Drake to Houston to join his Tha Carter III tour.

Drake and Lil Wayne perform together.
Source: YouTube

Spending time on tour with Lil Wayne gave Drake plenty of exposure. The rappers recorded several songs together, including “Ransom,” “Forever,” and a remix to “Brand New.” He was gaining traction in the music industry and knew it was time to stop acting.

Almost Took a Day Job

At the beginning of his music career, Drake was still acting on Degrassi. However, the producers overhauled the cast in 2008 and eliminated his character. Although he had achieved some music success, he wasn’t making much money as a rapper.

Drake is playing basketball in a wheelchair in a still from Degrassi.
Source: YouTube

Drake decided to look for a job in a restaurant or something similar to support himself. However, his music career quickly took off before he had to take an hourly job. Within a year, Drake was rubbing elbows with people who helped him become the musician he is today.

Focusing on Music

In 2009, he released his third mixtape, So Far Gone, under his own label October’s Very Own (OVO). It was made available for free download through the OVO blog and featured Lil Wayne, Trey Songz, and others. He had no idea it would be such a hit.

Drake onstage at the 2009 BET Awards.
Photo by John Shearer/WireImage/Getty Images

Within two hours, the album was downloaded over 2,000 times. The singles “Best I Ever Had” and “Successful” became mainstream hits, both gaining gold certification. It prompted the rerelease of the mixtape as an EP. The album debuted at number six on the Billboard 200.

Bidding Wars

As Drake became more well-known in the industry, he was the subject of a bidding war from various labels. Some reports say it was “one of the biggest bidding wars ever.” Although many wanted him, he signed with Young Money Entertainment on June 29, 2009.

Drake attends an event.
Photo by Frederick Breedon/WireImage/Getty Images

The confirmation of his recording contract was confirmed following a planned lawsuit from Young Money, in conjunction with Drake, against an unauthorized fake album titled The Girls Love Drake, released on iTunes. Drake then joined the rest of the label’s roster on the America’s Most Wanted Tour.

He Was Robbed

As Drake rose to fame, he gained more attention, but it wasn’t always from the right people. On May 31, 2009, he was robbed at gunpoint in Toronto, being forced to give up his gold and diamond necklace, a watch, and $2,000.

Drake poses for a portrait.
Photo by Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty Images

Two people were initially charged for the robbery, but the charges were later dropped. Paul Lelutiu and Soccerties Cotterell were sentenced to time served for conspiracy to commit armed robbery. They were in jail for about six months, but Drake’s items were never recovered.

An All-Out Brawl

Because Drake was surrounded by some of the biggest names in the music industry, he encountered many famous musicians, including Chris Brown. The two had an ongoing rivalry because Drake was infatuated with Brown’s ex-girlfriend, Rihanna. The tension came to a head in 2012 in a nightclub.

Drake and Chris Brown pose for a photo.
Photo by Shareif Ziyadat/FilmMagic/Getty Images

While partying at an NYC nightclub, Drake and Brown got into a bottle-throwing bar fight, resulting in Brown’s face being injured. Members of Brown and Drake’s entourages were also injured during the brawl, which started over Brown sending a bottle of champagne to Drake’s table.

He Said, He Said

A club promoter from the scene claimed the brawl started when Brown sent the bottle to Drake, but others said the drama started with Drake screaming at Brown from his side of the VIP section. Regardless of who started it, the two fled the scene before cops arrived.

The club floor after the fight between Drake and Chris Brown.
Source: YouTube

Drake and Brown denied any wrongdoing, but Drake’s team tried to pin the issues on Meek Mill. That sparked a completely different rivalry. Neither of them faced any charges, but they had nothing nice to say about each other in the press until they resolved their issues in 2014.

She’s Not That into Him

Drake and Brown’s rivalry began in 2009 when Drake took Rihanna on a date shortly after her very public break up with Brown. However, Rihanna claimed she and Drake were “just friends.” He had stronger feelings for the singer and wrote about it in his 2010 song, “Fireworks.”

Rihanna and Drake attend Drake's after party.
Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage/Getty Images

He played the victim in their relationship, later telling The New York Times that Rihanna broke his heart. Drake claimed she used him the way he had used many other women in his life. He said she showed him quality time and then disappeared.

They Made Up

Although Drake was hurt by Rihanna, the two reunited in 2010 to collaborate on the song “What’s My Name?” The single soared to the top of the Billboard charts, reigniting rumors about their relationship. Their sexual performance of the song at the 2011 Grammys further fueled the rumors.

Drake and Rihanna perform onstage during The 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards.
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Later that year, Drake said he only made the song “Fireworks” because he was hurt. He admitted that Rihanna didn’t mean to hurt him and would “never put that on her.” Drake felt bad for making her seem like the “bad guy” in the situation.

An Odd Declaration of Love

Drake continued to praise Rihanna over the years, and the two were thought to be on and off. However, Rihanna denied ever dating Drake, saying Brown was her last “official” boyfriend. The comment didn’t seem to hurt their relationship because they collaborated on another song after.

A billboard congratulating Rihanna from Drake.
Source: Twitter

Clearly, Drake’s feelings for Rihanna never went away because, in 2016, he rented a billboard for her. The sign congratulated the singer ahead of the 2016 MTV VMAs, where she was honored with the Video Vanguard Award. If that wasn’t enough, he stole her spotlight.

He Stole the Spotlight

At the 2016 VMAs, Drake presented the special award to Rihanna. As she waited to accept the award, Drake used the time to give a fawning speech about her, making the moment all about him. He also tried to kiss her, but she awkwardly dodged it in front of everyone.

Drake presents Rihanna with an award during the MTV Video Music Awards.
Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Rihanna later opened up about the moment, saying, “Waiting through the speech was probably the most uncomfortable part.” She added that she is no longer friends with Drake, meaning their so-called on-and-off relationship was over.

His Shady Side

Although Drake is usually considered one of hip-hop’s “nice guys,” his shady side has been exposed more than once. There has been a lot of drama throughout his successful career that many people overlook. In 2014, he got into another altercation outside a nightclub.

Drake and P. Diddy attend a basketball game.
Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

P. Diddy punched Drake outside the Miami club because Drake used instrumentals for his song that were meant for Diddy. He was also involved in a feud with Tyga because of negative comments Tyga made during an interview. Drake allegedly had Tyga removed from Young Money Entertainment.

The Beginning of a Long Feud

As many people know, Drake had a public feud with Meek Mill that lasted for several years. It began in 2015 when Mill claimed Drake used a ghostwriter during recording sessions for the song “RICO.” It was one of the lead singles on Mill’s album, leading people to believe the claims.

Drake / Meek Mill
Source: Getty Images

Following the ghostwriter claims, Mill said Drake didn’t help to promote the album. Mill claimed the ghostwriter was Quentin Miller, who Drake collaborated with and credited in the past. However, Mill said Miller wrote Drake’s entire verse for “RICO.”

He Responded in Song

Drake responded to Mill’s hurtful claims with two diss tracks like most rappers. He wrote “Charged Up” and “Back to Back” about the ongoing fight with Mill. The rapper called Drake’s diss tracks “baby lotion soft.” Drake also got his longtime friend Nicki Minaj involved because she was dating Mill.

Drake attends the LA Premiere Of HBO's
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

In his track “Back to Back,” Drake rapped, “Is that a world tour or your girl’s tour? I know you gotta be a thug for her.” He referenced Mill’s opening act on Minaj’s The Pinkprint tour. At first, Mill stayed silent but later responded with more diss tracks.

He Didn’t Get Permission

In 2012, Drake’s ex-girlfriend, Ericka Lee, filed a lawsuit against the rapper for using her vocals in his hit “Marvin’s Room” without asking for her permission. She sued him for songwriting credits and royalties. The two settled things out of court, but the drama didn’t end there.

Drake and Ericka Lee.
Source: Twitter

When he released his 2016 song “Redemption,” Drake namedropped Lee in the lyrics. He rapped, “Ericka sued me and opened a business.” It seems that he was thinking about their relationship long after they settled their legal dispute. It was the first time he spoke publicly on the matter.

The Struggles

In Drake’s 2013 hit “Started from the Bottom,” he raps about his personal struggles for success. He explained to MTV News that he wanted the song to share that he worked hard to make it to the top. Drake said, “It wasn’t just a fluke, and it wasn’t easy by any means.”

Drake poses in front of
Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images

However, some have criticized him for faking his struggles. Although his mom had to work a few jobs, Drake lived a comfortable life until his parents divorced. Even after his father went back to the states, the rapper didn’t struggle too much.

Baby Mama Drama

In case Drake didn’t have enough drama in his life, in 2017, Sophie Brussaux claimed she was pregnant with his child. She also said Drake told her to terminate the pregnancy. His lawyers said Brussaux had a questionable background and admitted to having multiple relationships.

Drake, his son, and Sophie Brussaux pose together.
Source: Twitter

Although she was just one of the many women claiming Drake got her pregnant, Brussaux’s claims seemed more real than others. In May 2018, TMZ reported Drake had been sending her money since before she gave birth. A DNA test later proved he was the father.


Drake’s paternity scandal wasn’t very public until Pusha T released a diss track about the situation. Unfortunately, Pusha T’s disses didn’t stop after the song. He also posted an old photo of Drake in blackface, which went viral to promote his diss track.

Drake performs onstage during Coachella.
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Drake explained that the photo was from 2007, when he was an actor. He said, “I was working on a project that was about young black actors struggling to get roles, being stereotyped and typecast.” Drake claimed the photo was to show the struggles of black actors in the industry.

Problems With Kanye

In the past, Drake has collaborated with Kanye West on several songs. Kanye wanted their relationship to be like the producer-artist duo Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson. He helped Drake with his music and invited the rapper to Wyoming to work on new tracks.

A photo of Drake and Kanye.
Source: Twitter

However, when Drake arrived, they only worked on music for Kanye’s album. Although Kanye eventually helped Drake and even warned him about Pusha T’s song, their relationship turned sour. Drake denounced West in songs and live performances. West retaliated in a series of harsh tweets.

The Unreleased Song

Although Drake worked closely with Kanye, he had tension with the producer because Kanye worked with Pusha T. After Pusha T released the diss track revealing Drake fathered a child, Drake recorded a response track, but the world never got to hear it.

Drake and Kanye pose for a photo.
Source: Twitter

Drake’s friend, J Prince, told him not to release the song because it contained digs and revelations about Pusha T’s producer, Kanye. Prince said the insults about Kanye’s lifestyle could hurt his family and livelihood. It makes us wonder what secrets Drake knew about Kanye.

He’s a Bad Sport

Drake is a big sports fan who loyally supports the Toronto Raptors. In 2018, he was courtside cheering on the Raptors as they played the Cleveland Cavaliers, but witnesses said the rapper was a mess. He reportedly got in the face of Cavaliers center Kendrick Perkins.

Drake yells from the sidelines of a basketball game.
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The rapper screamed at Perkins during halftime, and other Cavaliers players had to hold Drake back, so the altercation didn’t turn physical. Drake continued the drama after the game by screaming at Perkins to come out of the tunnel. The NBA player was shocked by the behavior.

He Received a Warning

While the incident was shocking to many, Drake is reportedly a regular distraction at Raptors games. The Raptors president, Masai Ujiri, said he had to talk to Drake privately about his conduct at the games. Additionally, Drake received an official warning from the NBA.

Drake shares a joke with the Toronto Raptors mascot.
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Following the verbal altercation with Perkins, the NBA issued the rapper a warning about his use of foul language. Perkins told ESPN, “I was talking to my old teammate, Serge Ibaka, ‘We are about to win this game,’ and Drake butted in. So, I said something back to him.”

Was It a Real Relationship?

Around Christmas 2016, Drake and Jennifer Lopez were spotted on a date. He attended her New Year’s Eve show in Las Vegas, and the two posted cozy pictures together on Instagram. But the relationship quickly ended in February 2017 due to their “hectic schedules.”

A selfie of Drake and Jennifer Lopez.
Source: Twitter

However, many questioned whether their relationship was real because people claimed Drake used J-Lo for publicity. Many outlets said the over-the-top PDA was a ploy to sell records and promote a collaboration. The two were spotted kissing on the set of a music video.

Strange Timing

The questions surrounding Drake and J-Lo’s relationship continued because many noticed the timing was strange. The two got together in late 2016, even though he professed his love for Rihanna on the Billboard stage just a few months before flaunting his chemistry with J-Lo.

Drake embraces Jennifer Lopez at home.
Source: Twitter

Someone close to Drake said, “This relationship is fake. It is just a publicity stunt to publicize their record together.” The rumors were slightly confirmed in March 2017 when Drake released “Teenage Fever,” which sampled J-Lo’s “If You Had My Love.”

Not a Happy Winner

Most musicians dream of winning a Grammy for their work because it is one of the most prestigious honors. However, when Drake won a Grammy for “Hotline Bling” in 2017, he wasn’t thrilled. He won the award for Best Rap Song and Best Melodic Rap Performance.

Drake poses with his awards.
Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images

The day after the award show, Drake criticized the Grammys for “shoehorning” him into the rap category. He told Apple Beats 1, “I’m a black artist; I’m apparently a rapper, even though ‘Hotline Bling’ is not a rap song. I won two awards, but I don’t even want them.”

He Broke Records

Although he felt pigeonholed in the rap category, Drake has had many accomplishments in the music industry. In October 2016, he broke the record for most American Music Award nominations. He was nominated for 13 awards, beating Michael Jackson, who once received 11 nominations.

Drake poses with multiple awards.
Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

Drake also broke Justin Bieber’s Billboard Hot 100 record for having the most songs on the chart in one week. He had 20 entries on the chart in a week, while Bieber previously had 17 entries in a week. Drake has a lot to be proud of.

Harsh Accusations

When it comes to music, Drake has done great things, but he has had questionable behavior outside his work. In October 2014, a stripper named Jhonni Blaze filed a police report after Drake allegedly threatened her. She said Drake thought she would reveal they slept together.

Drake / Jhonni Blaze
Source: Getty Images

Blaze claimed Drake sent her angry messages and members of his entourage went to her home to threaten her. Drake’s reps denied the allegations, and Blaze said she never called the police. Her credibility was ruined because she changed the story.

Bad Reputation

Drake hasn’t always hung out with the best crowd, and signing a former criminal didn’t help him. In 2017, he signed Baka to his OVO label after Baka was released from jail. The artist spent 11 months behind bars for assaulting a 22-year-old.

Baka and Drake get ready to perform on stage.
Photo by Ethan Miller/BBMA2017/Getty Images

Drake defended his decision, saying, “When Baka got out of jail, there’s a lot of different paths he could have taken. And he decided to focus on music. It’s an honor and pleasure to sign Baka to OVO.” He was honored to help his friend.

She’s Too Young

Being in the spotlight has many downsides, including having everyone watch your every move. In January 2019, Drake found himself in hot water after a video surfaced of him kissing a 17-year-old onstage during a concert in Colorado. He reportedly knew she was 17.

Drake leans in to kiss a fan.
Source: YouTube

Although the legal age of consent is 17, people still thought it was creepy because he was so much older than her. However, TMZ later reported the video was from 2010, making him 23 at the time. The age gap wasn’t that big, but he said some overly explicit things to the teen about her looks.

He Likes Models

Drake is a popular man, so it hasn’t been hard for him to pick up women. One consistent pattern in his dating life is that he loves models. In recent years, Drake’s past three girlfriends were models. He dated Malaika Terry, Bella Harris, and Imaan Hammam, but things weren’t serious.

Ellen Pompeo and Drake attend the Toronto Raptors vs Brooklyn Nets game.
Photo by James Devaney/GC Images/Getty Images

Drake typically keeps his relationships casual and hasn’t had a long-term girlfriend for over a decade. Maybe he is still hung up on Rihanna, or he is afraid everyone is just looking to use him for his fame. Whatever the reason may be, the women inspired his music.

Pulled Back into the Drama

While things calmed down between Drake and Kanye by December 2021, the rapper was recently pulled back into Kanye’s drama. Kanye is currently on a social media rampage, and Drake liked one of his Instagram posts. Kanye thanked the rapper for showing support but was pulled into more drama.

A photo of Drake and Kanye.
Source: Twitter

When Hailey Bieber spoke out against Kanye’s behavior, he posted an old article about Drake and Hailey dating. The two reportedly had a fling in 2016, long before she married Justin Bieber. Kanye claimed she cheated on Justin with Drake, but it was old news.

The Iconic House

Before Drake made millions, he imagined what his future mansion would look like. In 2012, he made his dream come true when he purchased a home in Hidden Hills, which he nicknamed the “YOLO Estate.” He lived there for a while before building a bigger home in Toronto.

Drake is hosting a house party at his estate.
Source: Twitter

The YOLO Estate featured a pool with a waterslide, flatscreen TVs in the grotto, and flame-spitting iron torches. Drake sold his dream home in 2022 for $70 million. His current home is called “The Embassy” and was featured in the music video for “Toosie Slide.”

Champagne Papi

Many people know Drake by his Instagram handle, Champagne Papi. Although he never specifically said where the name came from, he uses the pseudonym to produce music. Through his label OVO, he has produced music for other popular artists.

Drake attends The Mod Sèlection Champagne New Year’s Party.
Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images

Drake has also written songs for singers like Rita Ora, Jamie Foxx, and Alicia Keys. Some speculated the moniker came from the 2002 crime movie Shottas. Others say he created the name Champagne Papi because his favorite drink was champagne during his early years in the industry.

Partying After Tragedy

In November 2021, Drake attended Travis Scott’s tragic Astroworld event, where ten people were killed. Unaware of what happened, Drake and Scott went to an after-party, where they later learned about the deaths and injuries. Despite this, Drake still went out the following night.

Travis Scott and Drake perform at Astroworld.
Source: YouTube

Drake was slammed for going to a strip club, knowing people had died the day before. He reportedly spent almost $1 million at the club, and people online criticized him for not caring about the horrific event that left many families in despair.

He Released a Statement

After many people made negative comments about his actions, Drake released a statement about the Astroworld tragedy. He said, “I’ve spent the last few days trying to wrap my mind around the devastating tragedy. I hate resorting to this platform to express an emotion as delicate as grief.”

The strip club the night Drake went there.
Source: YouTube

He continued by saying, “My heart is broken for the families and friends of those who lost their lives and for anyone suffering. I will continue to pray for all of them and will be of service in any way I can.” Unfortunately, the damage was already done.

Arrested in Sweden

Although Drake spent the summer traveling, his experience wasn’t all fun and games. On July 17, Drake was detained by the Swedish police because of drugs present at a Stockholm nightclub where he was partying. His reps claimed he wasn’t arrested, but Drake later came clean.

A mugshot of Drake.
Source: Twitter

He posted a series of photos confirming he was arrested. However, he hasn’t been charged with anything. Drake later returned Canada, but not before #FreeDrake started trending on Twitter. It was just another unfortunate event to happen to Drake in 2022.

She Tried to Steal His Fluids

Drake’s year didn’t start out on the best note. In January 2022, an Instagram model tried to steal Drake’s bodily fluids after sleeping with him. She went to the bathroom after they finished to take the fluid out of the condom, but Drake prevented her from trapping him.

Recording artist Drake visits 106 & Park.
Photo by Bennett Raglin/BET/Getty Images

He reportedly poured hot sauce into the condom so the woman couldn’t use his fluid to impregnate herself. This must have been a common problem for the rapper because it became his protocol after sleeping with women. Drake didn’t deny or confirm the allegations.