Here at Vulture we don’t usually take the time to introduce you to random mix-tape rappers, but Drake — a young emcee from Toronto — is a special case. No, it’s not because he got signed by Lil Wayne or because he hangs out with Jay-Z or because he’s actually pretty good — it’s because he used to be on Degrassi! From its 2001 premiere up until last season, Aubrey “Drake” Graham co-starred on the Next Generation reboot of the endearingly crappy, cultishly beloved Canadian teen soap. He played Jimmy Brooks, a kindhearted basketball star who was accidentally shot and paralyzed (seriously) and then found new purpose in life with painting and T-shirt design (or, uh, so say our sources). And now he’s maybe gonna be a famous rapper!
Graham was in New York all last week, doing the hip-hop equivalent of the shaking-hands-and-kissing-babies thing — basically, a bunch of shows and radio interviews. He also freestyled on Funkmaster Flex which, at least at one point, was a pretty big deal for an up-and-coming type (Jamal “Gravy” Woolard famously went through with a Flex appearance despite having been freshly shot in the ass). And, in the process, Drake proved he is no turncoat: During the requisite “uh-huh, yeah … uh … let me feel the beat a minute” portion, he name-checks New Jersey, Toronto, and — oh hell yes — good ol’ Degrassi High. Check it out: