The non-musical talking points on Drake are as follows: He’s a former Degrassi star; he’s Jewish; he got dumped by Rihanna; he wears a lot of sweaters. This last fact has been bandied about on music blogs and parodied (by Drake himself) on SNL, and it’s now a sartorial shorthand for the many ways in which the 25-year-old Canadian is not your average rap star. After a breakout mix-tape hit (Vulture’s 2009 Song of Summer winner “Best I Ever Had”) launched him to the big leagues, Drake carved out a name for himself as an honest, often vulnerable lyricist; his sophomore album Take Care (out tomorrow) is possibly his most confessional effort to date. Ahead of the album’s release, Vulture caught up with Drake to discuss Take Care, the girl behind “Marvin’s Room,” and the exact number of sweaters in his closet. (It’s not quite 1,000, like he told us.)
First of all, this was supposed to be a birthday album. Did your 25th birthday have any kind of significance?
I don’t know. Am I 25?
I am. It’s depressing. I don’t want to be 25. I like 24. 23 sounded even better.
Do you worry about not being the youngest guy around anymore?
No, because when I still look at my favorite rappers, at what they were doing when they were 25 or 24, I still feel very accomplished and gratified at this age. I do wonder if I’ll be rapping past 30.
What else would you want to do?
I don’t know, maybe get into business or do acting.
Do you have any business ideas? Or do you just want to, like, start a báhn mì shop.
Did you say starting a Bun B shop?
No, a báhn mì? Sorry, the Vietnamese sandwiches.
Oh, I thought you asked if I was gonna start a “Bun B shop,” like a shop solely dedicated to Bun B. I think I might open a Bun B. shop when I turn 30. [Laughs.] I’m very obsessed with smell so I actually want to — my dream, to be honest with you, my goal, is to form a fragrance and lifestyle line like candles, incense, room spray, and fragrance. I like Sephora for the store that I’d like to put it in. So that’s a big thing for me. I’m actually working on it. You know, that paired with some acting, maybe, like, one album in there somewhere.
Take Care has a lot of feelings. You write these very emotionally specific songs and then you have to live with them however many months later. Does what you write stay relevant to you?
Yes. I do not take to Twitter or any social media outlets to document my life. I don’t have a diary, so I use my music as time markers. So Far Gone is still as powerful as ever to me because it allows me to vividly remember where I was at that time and because I talk about such personal things. It almost is a reminder to myself of, “Oh man, that’s who I was dating at that time and that was what I was driving? And that’s where I was — that’s the apartment — ” I’m very precise about the things that I talk about and therefore my music doesn’t lose its value to me.
On a bad day, do you ever wake up and listen to one of the more confessional songs and think, Oh my God?
I only reference my own music when I’m making new music. I don’t listen to my music otherwise. I like other peoples’ music too much. I love music. But that’s not mine, you know? I hear my own voice and I don’t hear a singer. It’s tough. I’m very hard on myself. People come up to me and say with the most flattering compliments ever and I just don’t hear it. I’m always like, “Ahh, I need to get better. I need to start doing things better.” So if I’m gonna wake up, I’ll listen to someone else’s music. I don’t ever listen to mine unless I’m making a new album and I say, “Okay. Why do people keep telling me they want So Far Gone?” I listen to So Far Gone all the way through to try and study what they’re missing, you know? And then I just come to the realization that actually it has nothing to do with the music and it has everything to do with the fact that they’re just missing that time in their life and not me. My music is associated with that time in their life and they miss the old Drake.
Do you ever hear from anyone that you mention in your songs?
What was that face you just made?
Okay, so I get often so immersed in the song that I will even go so far as to say somebody’s name in it. And at the time, I’m just so about the song and then the songs come out and I’m just like, “Fuck! This is gonna be bad, you know?” And I get those phone calls.
You let it get that far that it goes out?
I do, I can’t stop it. I can’t stop my emotion; I always go with my initial thought. I never pull back and say, “Oooh, I should — ” Unless it’s like someone crazy or something, and I’ll be like, “I shouldn’t say that person’s name.”
How many of those are there?
A few. But I’ve definitely had my share of awkward experiences due to my music.
Are they just telling you how you got it wrong?
Um … some people don’t understand it, you know? Like, “Why? Why?” Call me crying. It’s rough, you know.
And you take that call?
Yeah, I take that call always because I never tear down the women in my music. They’re always pieces of my life. They’re always women that I cared about, so I never short-change them and be like, “Yeah, I just fucked Jennifer.” I never say cruel things, I always talk about women I truly cared for. Even if they did me dirty or whatever, I still never talk too much about the details, so no calls I ever get are really that bad because I don’t say cruel things. It’s just with Twitter, Facebook, it’s so easy to find someone that, like, I’ll say someone’s name and then people go online and go find them and start talking to them and it gets weird for people because when you have a life of anonymity and then all of a sudden people know you. The girl on “Marvin’s Room,” for example. No one knows who that is, but then there are people who know who that is, and it got weird for her. She’s all over the world, you know?
Especially because that one has been remixed over and over.
I was just super flattered that everyone did it, you know? That song, it’s tough, right, because that song has such a story to it that, it’s tough for me to like anything else but mine. And I never say stuff like that and I don’t ever mean to come off cocky but, like — it has nothing to do with me thinking mine’s the best. It’s just that song means so much to me, it’s hard for me to listen to anyone else’s remix.
What about Bieber’s “Trust Issues”?
Well, “Trust Issues” is like probably one of my favorite songs I’ve done in a long time. And Bieber killed it. Bieber actually did a live “Trust Issues” when I got presented at the Canadian Walk of Fame. No one’s ever seen it because it was an awards presentation video. He couldn’t be there, but he did a live rendition of “Trust Issues.” And it was so good, he killed it. He’s amazing.
There’s a rumor that you’re going to be on his new album?
I hope so. I mean, I’m definitely — I’ve been talking to Scooter and his whole team just about working on the album, you know, same way I worked for Alicia Keys, and I’d love to write for him. I think I have some good ideas. And if we do — if we have a song that makes sense, I’m down, you know? I think it only makes sense to do a song together, though.
There were rumors about Florence Welch doing something for this album, too. What happened there?
Florence didn’t make this album. I saw her when I was in London and we hung out and I love her with all my heart and her new album is incredible. But we didn’t get a chance to get back in the studio. But I love Florence and I really want to make music with her at some point. It’s on the agenda, right next to Justin Timberlake. ‘Cause Justin Timberlake is someone I wanted on this album so bad and I didn’t get him.
I have to ask about the sweaters.
This is like —
Does everyone ask you that?
Tenth time today.
When did you become aware of the whole phenomenon?
I think it was after I wore this Missoni sweater on the MTV Awards and it was, like, it felt good, but it looked really oversized and wintry. I don’t know why it did, fuck. Who knows? The point is, the sweaters thing is a result of the fact that I don’t give people enough to talk about as far as my life goes. So it’s like, sweaters, pants, shoes, I wear them all, you know? It’s like, they’re clothing articles but people, they need something. They need something to nitpick at.
Also, they’re nice sweaters. I wasn’t asking from a critical point of view.
Oh, you weren’t?
We’re celebrating it.
Please celebrate it.
Are you gonna wear sweaters for the whole tour?
I should, right? That would be really hot to perform in. But I want a magazine to shoot me, like I want to do a sweater spread. Like a ten-sweater spread.
You gave us a quote on like, Fashion Night’s Out, something like, “I own probably like a thousand.”
A thousand is a bit ambitious. Maybe like 400.
Is that pure sweaters or hoodies? This is important.
Ahh, that would be a mixture of night sweaters … [Laughs.]
Like your “Headlines” dinner sweaters?
“Headlines” sweater was Missoni. I love Missoni. I like textures in fabrics. So like night sweaters, dinner sweaters. Then you’ve got a sort of, like, light afternoon sweaters, all right? Airport sweaters and college sweaters.
And the college sweater is a hoodie?
I don’t ever do zip-up. Zip-up’s not really my thing. I’m a pullover guy myself.
One more fashion question: You’ve been into the patterned shirts recently, first in “Headlines” and then at your birthday party.
That was like a classic tribute to, you know, the vintage silk Versace. I’m not really too much into patterned shirts. But I am wearing cheetah jeans right now. I don’t know. You know [laughs] … maybe you can print that my biggest goal in 2012 is to be respected in the fashion world.
As a sweater-wearer or just as a human?
Just as a human being. I want people to take me seriously. [Laughs.]