Who hasn’t heard of Drake?
Whether or not you’re a fan of the Toronto-based rapper and pop star, you’ve heard of him. You know his name, his music, his dad-like dance moves, his TV show past, his album covers, and even his lifestyle.
But how has Drake gone from a Degrassi child actor and unheard-of name to a household name so widely known that his international recognition is matched only with high caliber names like Taylor Swift and Michael Jackson?
His traction and talent as a rapper began to pierce the music game in the late-2000s and early 2010s, but it wasn’t until 2013 that his brand and image took off with the release of his album Nothing Was The Same’s cover art.
A head in the clouds (or at times two, a child version and grown version of Drake), this simple concept art quickly became a focal point and inspiration for many photoshop “trolls” online, with social media seeing thousands of remake versions poking fun at the rapper’s album art.
But Drake and his team were prepared for this, and began to fuel the photoshops as jokes and play along. On his Instagram @champagnepapi, Drake began to repost the edits he thought were funniest to his millions of followers. Soon his fellow OVO record label members and friends began to do the same, and before long Drake’s album cover was one of the most popular memes online at the time. See, Drake turned “trolling” into free marketing, with nearly every social media user on the planet capable seeing and recognizing his album art, brand, and name, whether or not they even listened to his music (his actual product).
This began a trend of having good humor in making fun of himself and embracing a culture of authenticity in his online presence. His pictures that he posted were of behind-the-scenes looks into his life, his family and personal relationships, as a representation of who he was as a brand. Then, a year and a half later, he released the mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, with the cover art looking as if scribbled by a Chick-Fil-A-Cow.
This album art, in a world already accustomed to Drake memes based on his brand and previous album art, made it easy for his audience on social media to repeat it all again. Soon remakes of the mixtape cover were appearing all over Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and Facebook. He took the authenticity represented in his music and brand, wrapped it in an editable, personable cover, and it became a machine for free digital marketing.
It continued with Views, Drake’s 2016 studio album. Before a single track was confirmed or a release date was even mentioned, a picture came out. You guessed it, the album cover. A little Drake, perched at the top of Toronto’s CN tower, just chillin’. And with it, a website that allows anyone to put that little Drake on any picture, meme, or photo edit imaginable. And that’s exactly what happened, and yet again Drake could be found on every social media for weeks, sitting on celebrities shoulders, on park benches, and even on himself on Jimmy Fallon, without any mention to the music the album itself contained.
And all of this without having to ask anyone to do so. He only laughed along, but was it with us… or at us?