Drake‘s career has been nothing short of versatile: splitting his albums between singing and rapping, the Canadian superstar never approaches two songs from the same angle.
Since Drake’s 2009 breakout single “Best I Ever Had” introduced him to non-Degrassi fans, he’s infused many worldly and eclectic sounds into his tracks. From working with Nigerian rapper Wizkid to soaking up the bright palettes of UK dancehall for smash single “One Dance”, Drake has always worked outside of the box of what’s popular at the moment. His defiant approach has resulted in a decade of standout songs that dominate the charts.
But he hasn’t done it alone. Staying true to the hip-hop art of sampling, Drake and his loyal team of producers have interpolated lyrics, instrument breaks, and concepts from previous songs to craft something entirely fresh time and time again. Some samples being fairly obvious, while others are known only to the most fervent crate-diggers.
We’re breaking down some of our favourite Drake samples.
Drake – “Hotline Bling” (2015)
Samples: Timmy Thomas – “Why Can’t We Live Together” (1973)
“Hotline Bling” first appeared as one of three new songs introduced to the world in the inaugural OVO Sound episode, alongside “Charged Up” and “Right Hand”. The track picked up steam fast, eventually peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and would later be included as a bonus track on Drake’s landmark album Views..
Those chugging bossa nova percussion hits that define the intro, alongside the organ stabs, were sped up and brought 40 years into the future thanks to Toronto producer Nineteen85. While the signature sounds of Thomas’ song can’t be mistaken, “Hotline Bling” breathes new life into a soul staple with crunchier drums and Drake’s braggadocio delivery.
Drake featuring Wizkid and Kyla – “One Dance” (2016)
Samples: Crazy Cousinz feat. Kyla – “Do You Mind” (2009)
Drake’s camp took the opposite approach when reshaping Crazy Cousinz and Kyla’s 2009 UK dancehall hit, slowing down the BPM to draw emotion out of those earworm piano chords.
The track adds Wizkid alongside sampling the original artist Kyla, whose “Do You Mind” was remixed by Crazy Cousinz before Drake heard it on a Toronto radio station.
“When they contacted us—I was ’round a friend’s house, drinking tea, and I got an email from a publishing company like, “You really need to get in contact with Sony,” says Kyla to the FADER. “I just remember thinking, ‘I’m round a friend’s so I’ll deal with it later.’ Then they actually contacted my father-in-law, so I knew it was quite important. My father-in-law was like, “They’re saying that a huge international artist is trying to get hold of you.” Paleface phoned up, and then we found out that it was Drake, so that’s when I was like, “Something’s not quite right here. I think someone’s trying to play a joke on us.”
In advance of Views‘ release, Drake dropped “One Dance” alongside “Pop Style” featuring The Throne. It quickly ascended up the charts, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 five weeks into its release. It became Drake’s first solo number-one after two chart-toppers with Rihanna (“What’s My Name” and “Work”.) It eventually notched ten weeks in the peak position.
Drake – “Best I Ever Had” (2009)
Samples: Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds – “Fallin’ in Love” (1975)
The song that catapulted Drake’s career owes its foundation to the US Top 10 soft rock song, “Fallin’ In Love”. Producer Boi-1da chopped up the intro and shifted the pieces around to craft a beat worthy of Drake’s sharp rhymes.
It appears nobody was expecting the song to take off as it did because a lawsuit soon followed claiming consent to use the sample was never granted. Initially released for free as a part of mixtape So Far Gone, the song’s inevitable radio success could not be ignored and Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds’ label claimed Drake’s camp did not seek permission to use the copyrighted audio. The two parties eventually reached an agreement.
“Best I Ever Had” was Drake’s first entry on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at #2 behind The Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling”. He became the third Canadian rapper to reach the charts, besting Kardinal Offishall’s “Dangerous” (#5) and K’naan’s “Wavin’ Flag” (#99). Since this feat, Drake has amassed 193 entries on the Billboard Hot 100, second only to the cast of Glee.
Drake – “Nice For What” (2018)
Samples: Lauryn Hill – “Ex-Factor” (1998)
The cat was out of the bag before Drake’s 2018-dominating banger soundtracked every barbecue, wedding reception, and road trip: Lauryn Hill’s son, Joshua Omaru Marley, shared a clip of “Nice For What” on Snapchat before release, sparking a firestorm across the Internet the two superstars were joining forces. Hill’s ’90s hit “Ex-Factor” was clearly identifiable, and fans weren’t disappointed when it was interpolated throughout the entirety of “Nice For What.”
Whereas “Ex-Factor” embraces a solemn R&B mood, “Nice For What” brings an infectious energy by speeding up Hill’s soulful lyrics. The glitchy vocal loop delivers an anthemic quality, perfect for Drake’s message of female empowerment.
The song debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, knocking off Drake’s own “God Plan” from the peak. It went on to spend eight nonconsecutive weeks at the top spot.
Drake – “In My Feelings” (2018)
Samples: Magnolia Shorty – “Smoking Gun” (2010)
Lil Wayne feat. Static Major – “Lollipop” (2008)
From TV show Atlanta to rap duo City Girls, Drake’s “In My Feelings” features a mishmash of samples colliding into one another, but none are more prominent than Magnolia Shorty’s “Smoking Gun” and Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop.”
“Smoking Gun” brings a very specific New Orleans bounce quality to “In My Feelings”, showcasing Magnolia Shorty’s infectious energy in its chopped-and-looped hook. Lil Wayne’s #1 hit gets spliced up and woven into the mix as the two samples snake around one another during the climax of the bridge. Even with the samples getting pulled from every corner of the universe, the final result proved to be an effective formula that propelled the track to ‘smash song of summer 2018’ status.
“In My Feelings” spent ten weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, becoming his sixth track to do so. The success of the song was highly fueled by the viral “In My Feelings Challenge” where fans dance to the track alongside a moving car. At the peak of the craze, “In My Feelings” held the record for the most streams accumulated in a one-week period.