Toronto double-JUNO Award-winner The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye) saw his international profile rise dramatically when Drake included a handful of his songs and a couple of co-production credits on 2011’s Take Care, an obvious sign of respect to the then-newcomer’s talents.
The Weeknd recounted to Complex magazine what happened when Drake first heard “The Ride,” which the R&B artist was originally intending to use for his own House of Balloons album.
“We were making the drum loop and… I had sung this melody – it wasn’t a hook, just an unfinished lyric. And he liked it so much, he was like, ‘I need to have this, man… I know I’ve already taken “Shot for Me” and “‘Crew Love’ and this and that…’ And me, I was hungry at that time. I was like, ‘Dude, take anything.’”
“It’s about finding what’s next.”
Funnily enough, The Weeknd didn’t hear Drake’s version until much, much later. “That song was so special to him. I didn’t hear that verse until maybe four or five months after I gave it to him. Even with ‘The Zone,’ [co-written with and featuring Drake] I was scared I was going to have to put out Thursday before his verse came in because Drake takes his time. He makes sure that he says the right shit and his flow is on point.”
There are several other Drake collaborators who fit into the “bubbling under” category: writers like Anthony “Hush” Palman, who’s contributed to 14 songs in the Drake canon, and provided tracks for Nicki Minaj and Florence & The Machine; producer T-Minus (Tyler Williams), who’s worked with Minaj, Lil Wayne, Kendrick Lamar, T.I., Ludacris, Ciara, Justin Bieber and Wale; and producer Matthew Burnett, hired by Eminem, Meek Mill, Tyga, Childish Gambino, Minaj, Wayne, 2Chainz and Young Jeezy.
There are many, many others: Adrian “X” Eccleston, Nikhil “Kromatik” Seetharam, Jason “Promise” Shepherd, Slakah The Beatchild (Joseph Byram), and Drex Jancar and his Remix Project to help underserved youth. That’s just a small sample of the many talented satellites orbiting Planet Drake, either contributing to his chart-topping albums (So Far Gone, Thank Me Later, Take Care and Nothing Was the Same), or working with him via his annual Toronto Molson Amphitheatre OVOFest, or Drake and 40’s newly-minted, Warner-distributed label, OVO Sound.
The circle continues expanding, because Drake is always on the lookout for Toronto talent to share with the world. “It’s about finding what’s next,” Drake told Rolling Stone.
This is how October’s Very Own rolls: He may have started from the bottom, but he always strives for the top. Discovering talented new hometown collaborators helps Drake keep constantly moving towards the summit.
“I feel this great responsibility to see how far can we take it,” he told GQ, “how out of reach can I set that bar for whoever comes after. While I’m here, I’m gonna keep pushing that bar higher and higher up and make you really work for it.”