20 of the Best Drake Songs
Drake is arguably one of the biggest stars on the planet. The 29-year-old rapper has put together one of the most illustrious hip-hop careers in such a short time and helped Toronto’s music scene get on the map while doing it.
At the age of 15, Drizzy was cast as Jimmy Brooks on the television series Degrassi: The Next Generation, where he played the character for eight seasons. But music was his calling. In 2006, Drake independently released his first mixtape, Room for Improvement, which featured Trey Songz and Lupe Fiasco. He followed that up in 2007 with Comeback Season. The single off the tape, “Replacement Girl” featuring Trey Songz, became the first music video from an unsigned Canadian rapper to be featured on BET.
After Lil Wayne got a hold of Drake’s music from Rap-A-Lot founder J. Prince’s son, Jas Prince, he invited the 6 God to Houston to tour with him. Drake’s big break came with the release of his third mixtape, So Far Gone, in 2009. The tape lead to Drizzy signing a record deal with YMCMB and instant stardom followed.
Heartbreak Drake would go on to release three solo LPs — Thank Me Later, Take Care and Nothing Was the Same — another project he sold on iTunes, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and one collaborative project with Future, What a Time to Be Alive. He has sold millions of records worldwide and has 100 songs placed on the Billboard Hot 100 — the rapper is one of only four artists ever to do that. Aside from his music achievements, the Grammy Award-winning MC has also founded his own record label, OVO Sound.
His resume is filled with platinum and gold plaques and he’s without a doubt one of hip-hop’s most prolific rappers of all-time. XXL looks back and highlights the Boy’s best tracks to date. Here are 20 Best Drake Songs.
“Marvin’s Room” is a masterpiece. What makes the song so great is its reality. Whether you’re a man or a woman, nine times out of 10 you’ve drunk-dialed someone you probably shouldn’t have. Between the lyrics and excellent production by Noah “40” Shebib, “Marvin’s Room” made you feel something or sparked a memory of a night (for some multiple nights) when you were the drunk caller or the receiver of a drunk, late-night rant. Isn’t that essentially what the goal of music is? To move you to action.
Drake calls up his ex-girlfriend with way too much self-confidence and liquor in his system and rants about how much better he is than his ex’s significant other. Adrian Eccleston and Gonzales provide additional musical contributions to the song. “Marvin’s Room” was the lead single off Drake’s second studio album, Take Care, and peaked at No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100. The track is hands-down one of Drake’s best songs and arguably his most vulnerably honest musical moment.
“Say What’s Real”
Drake’s peak moments is when he raps over a simple loop and opens up about his life. That’s exactly what he does for “Say What’s Real.” Over Kanye West’s “Say You Will” beat, Drizzy pours his soul out. “Say What’s Real” is from So Far Gone, Drake’s breakthrough project in 2009. He spills his emotions and feelings about his current career trajectory and with each bar, you get to know the fragility of a young man who’s just trying to make a name for himself. “Why do I feel so alone?/Like everybody passing through the studio/Is in character as if we acting out a movie role/Talking bullshit as if it was for you to know/And I don’t have the heart to give these/Bitch niggas the cue to go,” he raps.
We spoke to Noah “40” Shebib about the track and he explained why “Say What’s Real” was so crucial to Drake’s catalog. “People like to compare [So Far Gone] to 808s & Heartbreak,” he said. “[There’s] a real reason for it. He did the ‘What’s Real’ freestyle over ‘Say You Will’ and that shit just connected so much for me. That shit was so impactful to hear him spilling his heart over that kind of production. With that very euphoric space in it. I was like, ‘Yo, fuck it, that shit crazy,’ and I ran with that sound. I always get super defensive when people mention 808s because I’m like, “Yo, love 808s, amazing project, but it was one song that had [that] influence.’ I wasn’t listening to 808s & Heartbreak when I was making So Far Gone. I was listening to Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and The Smiths and stuff like that. But I will say that ‘Say What’s Real’ helped me find a place that I really wanted Drake to sit, sonically.”
Drake and Trey Songz have been working together since the beginning of their respective careers. Their biggest hit together came with “Successful,” which featured a verse from Lil Wayne. The song is deeper than its face value. The three artists discuss wanting everything that comes with fame and fortune but ultimately they all just want to make something of themselves before it’s too late. Trey’s hook hits the hardest with, “I want the money, money and the cars/Cars and the clothes, the hoes, I suppose/I just wanna be, I just wanna be successful.” “Successful” was featured on Drake’s So Far Gone and Trey Songz’s third studio album, Ready. The song, which peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100, resonates with the go-getters.
Fame is a a double-edged sword and Drake vents about turning from a local Toronto mixtape rapper to international superstar on “Fear.” The cut was the only new song that was featured on Drake’s extended play of So Far Gone in 2009. It was released as the transition song between So Far Gone and his debut studio album, Thank Me Later. “I did this song that no one has ever heard before, ever,” he explained to MTV. “[It’s] a song called ‘Fear.’ I recorded it when I did So Far Gone — the first verse and half of the second verse I had gotten through. But then I just stopped because it was getting eerie. It was getting where I didn’t know if I could [finish it]. And then the other night I had a moment and I finished the song. That’s gonna be the last song on the retail [version of] So Far Gone. And the third verse transitions into Thank Me Later. So the last line of the third verse is gonna be the first line on my album.”
Drake gets a chance to express his struggles and misconceptions of being a celebrity. Very candidly, he raps that its not just glitz and glamour, but rather cruel politics and shady characters. He gets into painful details about his emotional stress from fame and money.
When Drake dropped If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late out of nowhere last February, one of the clear standouts of the mixtape (which was sold as an album) was “Energy.” The vibe from the song is electric from start to finish and that was reflected when it peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 9 on Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs and No. 5 on Billboard Rap Chart. Throughout If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, Big Homie Drake is as boastful as he’s ever been. He beats his chest the loudest on “Energy,” essentially giving the middle finger to just about all the haters in every crevice of his life. The video for the song is flat-out bizarre but oddly entertaining. The visual went viral, with Drake impersonating numerous celebrities and high-profile people, including President Obama, LeBron James, Oprah, Miley Cryus, Justin Bieber and Kanye West.
“The Motto” was a bonus record on Drake’s second studio album, Take Care, and originally only featured Lil Wayne. The track peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was remixed by a bunch of rappers such as YG, Nipsey Hussle and Snoop Dogg, Nelly, Jeremih, Mario, Wale and Meek Mill plus Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J and Berner. However, Tyga was added on the song’s only official remix. “The Motto” is most famous for lyrics popularizing the acronym “YOLO,” which stands for “you only live once.” YOLO was so popular that actor Zac Efron got a tattoo of the acronym on his hand. Drake made sure to pay homage to the term’s creator, Rick Ross, via Twitter by writing that Rozay put him up on YOLO and folks should “pay homage.” Aside from earning Best Rap Song at the 2013 Grammy Awards (a huge honor), the song kicked off one of pop culture’s worst trends of all time with the use of YOLO.
“The Calm” is a deep cut off Drake’s stellar mixtape, So Far Gone. Every once in a while, we get to see this side of Drake. No singing, no hooks, no catchy lyrics — just raw emotion; truth put on paper and turned into a record. Here we have Drizzy in a zone, completely opening up about his family, the pressure of success, his love life and his friends. The stresses in Drake’s life are eating at him and he feels like his home is gone, a feeling that will crumble the strongest man. But despite it all, he remains confident that everything will eventually be okay. In 2011, Drake stated that his first verse on “The Calm” is his favorite verse he’s ever done because at the lowest point of his life, he was able to get across every emotion that he was going through perfectly. Noah “40” Shebib described the scene to us when Drake was making “The Calm.”
“That’s a special record,” he said. “I just had a little set up in my bedroom. Drake came by, just not in a good headspace. Not in a good headspace, like, we’re kids, man. We’re having family issues, things are going on. He got into a big argument with his uncle I think. It got so heated he had to step out on the balcony. I’m sitting there at the table with this beat I made which I know he wants to work on, which is ‘The Calm,’ and I’m just like, oh, this is a write off. He’s obviously very upset and probably will storm off. But he gets off the balcony, heated still, and just storms back into my room like, ‘Yo, let’s go,’ and just started writing, and he cut that record that night. So those emotions that he portrays in that song blow off from that and are very real. Therefore it’s a really impactful record for me.”
Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Eminem teamed up to make the colossal record “Forever,” the single from the soundtrack to LeBron James’ More Than a Game documentary. The combination of the four artists is like the assembling of the Avengers or the formation of the Justice League. “Forever” peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. The Boi-1da-produced beat was originally used by Kardinal Offishall in early 2008 and titled it “Bring It Back” featuring Rock City. However, Kardinal didn’t use the song for his album and the beat was later re-sold to Drake. Drizzy used the beat initially for a song called “I Want This Forever,” which featured Lil Wayne and Nut da Kidd. But the song was later reworked and in 2009, it became the version that we all know today. It’s easily the best posse cut of that year and one of the most played records in the country.
Drake teams up with his idol Jay Z for the first time on “Light Up,” a deep cut on Drizzy’s debut album, Thank Me Later. Here we have the king of the rap game Hov and the hip-hop golden child on an absolute classic. On the song, Drake describes the work he put in to get to the Hollywood limelight and become a hip-hop legend, and you have Jay describing the pitfalls to the younger rapper. A mentor to mentee conversation made into a four-minute record. It’s beautiful stuff. Looking back at the lyrics, Jigga’s verse is startlingly accurate. “Drake, here’s how they gon’ come at you/With silly rap feuds, trying to distract you/In disguise, in the form of a favor/The Barzini meet, watch for the traitors/I done seen it all, done it all/That’s why none of these dum-dums could done him off,” Hov raps. Listen to your elders, boys and girls.
“Best I Ever Had”
“Best I Ever Had” was the song that took Drake from budding Toronto rapper to an international name. The song peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has been downloaded over 1,500,000 times since its release. The track became popular from the release of Drake’s third mixtape, So Far Gone, and was later included on the project as an EP. The song was nominated for two Grammy Awards: Best Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap Song. To be frank, “Best I Ever Had” is undeniable, from the catchy lyrics to the Boi-1da-produced beat, equally showcasing Drizzy’s rap skills and his singing ability. The video was directed by Kanye West and filmed in Brooklyn, N.Y. at Bishop Ford Central Catholic High School. Does it fit the song? No. But is it wildly entertaining? Absolutely.
“0 to 100 / The Catch Up”
“0 to 100 / The Catch Up” is a long song (clocking in at over six minutes) but worth the listen. The two-part track features two sides of the rapper, making this such a polarizing effort. The first part, “0 to 100″ shows Drake boasting that he’s the big dog and he can catch any of his opponents no matter the distance. It’s littered with catchy lines and witty bars (“Oh Lord, know yourself/know your worth, nigga/My actions been louder than my words, nigga/How you so high, but still so down to Earth, nigga/If niggas wanna do it, we can do it on they turf, nigga”).
“The Catch Up” samples an unreleased James Blake song and slows things down considerably. On this song, Drake double downs on his threat to catch his idols but way more poetically. This version of Drake is a lot more introspective. “They say the shoe can always fit, no matter whose foot it’s on/These days feel like I’m squeezin’ in ’em/Whoever wore ’em before just wasn’t thinkin’ big enough/I’m ’bout to leave ’em with ’em/Cause if I run in the game in these, man the seams are splittin’/No pun intended but they’re smellin’ defeat in the air/Headed where nobody took it, who meetin’ me there?” he raps.
“0 to 100 / The Catch Up” peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, was featured in a Sprite commercial starring himself and Nas plus it was nominated for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song at the 2015 Grammy Awards. Sorry, Diddy.
The rapper pays tribute to his Houston roots with “Uptown,” a song off his third mixtape, So Far Gone. Mr. Hardly Home But Always Reppin’, Drake comes out playing no games. Going back and forth between singing and rapping, you can see Drizzy’s versatility on this song. Reppin’ Toronto, Drizzy Drake’s bravado is on full display in his first two verses, then you have two southern kingpins end the song in Bun B and Lil Wayne — it’s nothing short of amazing.
B’s verse in particular is really strong. “I palm the game like it’s a Spalding ball and take flight/From the free-throw line and slam it down like I’m the great Mike/Bun and Wayne and Drake in here, mayne, this gon’ be a great night/Look at all these posers bite our swagger like a great white/Try to cross me over I just fake left, then I break right/Stupid animal tricks like David Letterman’s Late Night,” he delivers.
“Look What You’ve Done”
Drake opens up to his mother Sandi and uncle Steve and lets the world listen in for the song “Look What You’ve Done.” The song is produced by Chase N. Cashe and Noah “40” Shebib. Chase found the late Static Major and Smoke E. Digglera’s demo on Drake’s OVO blog and used it as the sample for the beat. “Look What You’ve Done” is one of the many highlights of Take Care, displaying Drake’s impressive thoughtful lyricism and poignant self-examination of his relationship with his closet family members. The song caps off with a from his late grandma Evelyn, who thanks Aubrey for taking care of her. Instead of focusing on the faults of his loved ones, he ends off each verse with the triumphs he was able to accomplish because of his closest loved ones’ guidance.
“Dreams Money Can Buy”
Before Drake released his second album Take Care, he dropped a string of records not featured on the album on his OVO blog. One of the songs was “Dreams Money Can Buy.” The other tracks were “Trust Issues,” “Club Paradise,” “Free Spirit” featuring Rick Ross and “Marvin’s Room,” which was later used as the first official single to Take Care because of its popularity. Drake described the track as “a song that he felt the need to share” and a “piece of his story.” Produced by 40, the effort features a sample of Jai Paul’s “BTSTU.” As Drake gets bigger and his talents are being realized, the dreams he once had as a young kid from Toronto are becoming reality. “I got car money, fresh start money/I want Saudi money, I want art money/I want women to cry and pour out their heart for me/And tell me how much they hate it when they apart from me,” he rhymes.
These two lyrical powerhouses link up for “Lord Knows,” a deep cut off of Take Care. What makes the song stick out initially is the excellent production from Just Blaze. The hip-hop legend creates a beat that should be inducted into the Hall of Fame of hip-hop. It blends gospel choir notes with bone-shattering drums. Rightfully so, Drake goes off for the first verse, which is the majority of the song. “I’m a descendent of either Marley or Hendrix/I haven’t figured it out cause my story is far from finished/I’m hearing all of the jokes, I know that they tryna push me/I know that showin’ emotion don’t ever mean I’m a pussy/Know that I don’t make music for niggas who don’t get pussy/So those are the ones I count on to diss me or overlook me/Lord knows, Lord knows, I’m heavy, I got my weight up/Roberson boost your rate up, it’s time that somebody paid up/A lot of niggas came up off of a style that I made up/But if all I hear is me, then who should I be afraid of?” he serves. Not to be outdone, Rozay comes through like Yankees’ Legend Mario Rivera and closes out the song ferociously. “Lord Knows” is the hardest song on Take Care by far.
“Back to Back”
When Drake dropped “Back to Back,” his second rebuttal to Meek Mill’s ghostwriting accusation, at 6 a.m. on July 29, 2015, it was truly scary hours. With catchy one-liners, clever single art and social media behind him, the diss track became Drake’s walk-off grand slam home run and sent Meek into a spiral. His championship trophy? A 2016 Grammy nod for Best Rap Performance. The disses were razor sharp and cut throat, sending a haymaker at Meek with every line. The worst part about “Back to Back” is its replay ability. The song was an instant club banger and was replayed everywhere. The record peaked at No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 and will go down as one of the better diss records in hip-hop.
At this point in Drake’s career, he is an undeniable force in not only hip-hop culture but in pop culture. On “Know Yourself,” a record off his surprise mixtape (that was sold as an album) If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, the term “woes” entered the pop culture lexicon — it’s an abbreviation of the word “Woadie,” brought to hip-hop by New Orleans-based artists. The hook was used repeatedly in Vine videos everywhere and people actually thought “woes” was created by Drake (standing for “Working on Excellence”) Crazy right? Outside of that, Drake delivers yet another party anthem that should be played at extremely loud volumes. “Know Yourself” peaked at No. 53 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also became the must-see song for him to perform live since its release. If you haven’t seen any video of Drake performing “Know Yourself” live, go check that out and buy yourself a concert ticket as soon as you can.
The Toronto rhymer tells off his the disbelievers of his past on “Worst Behavior,” discussing the transition from a childhood without a father to the top rapper in the game. The song captures the pivotal turn in Drake’s life when he’s progressed from unwanted rapper to the luxurious lifestyle and fame of a bona fide superstar. Throughout the track, Drizzy claims “mothafuckas never loved us” and he remembers everything. What’s interesting about the song is the third verse in which it is rapped in the same structure as Mase’s verse on “Mo Money Mo Problems.” “Worst Behavior” was produced by DJ Dahi and peaked at No. 89 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. If you’re a big lover of revenge, then you’ll get a real kick out of this uptempo banger.
The closet Drake has ever been to achieving a No. 1 single as a main artist was “Hotline Bling.” The song was released for free alongside “Charged Up,” “Right Hand,” and material from other OVO artists on OVO Sound Radio Episode 2 on Beats 1. But it got so popular, so quickly, that the rapper put it on iTunes. It peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and would have undoubtedly been a No. 1 hit if Adele didn’t come through and blow everyone out of the water with “Hello.” Still, the flip of rising MC D.R.A.M.’s hit single “Cha Cha” was too infectious to ignore. The song became certified gold or platinum in almost every major music market across the globe. Once the video arrived for “Hotline Bling,” the song (and every meme imaginable) became inescapable.
“How About Now”
“How About Now” was leaked initially a few days before Drake’s birthday in 2014 and officially released on Oct. 25, the day after. The song was released as one of three promo tracks for his upcoming album, Views From the 6: “6 God,””Heat of the Moment” and “How About Now.” Those were stolen by hackers so Drizzy posted them online for free. “How About Now” was the strongest out of the three because of its honest lyrics. Humility is fine but sometimes it’s not enough. Drake is completely fine with letting the people that used to doubt him know that they messed up. “I had no money left from actin’, I was focused on the music/I used to always try and burn you CDs of my new shit/You be like ‘who’s this?’ I be like ‘me, girl’/You be like ‘oh, word, true shit?’/Then ask if we could listen to Ludacris/Them car rides made me feel like I was losin’ it/Yeah, made me feel I ain’t have it like that/Or I was average like that/Started drinkin’ way more than I used to,” he rhymes.