Toronto’s 50 Most Influential: #1, Drake
Our annual ranking of the people whose smarts, connections and clout are changing the city as we know it
1 In the aftermath of the tabloid-riddled fever dream that was 2014, Toronto was desperately in need of a rebrand. “The 6ix,” Drake’s pet name for the city, was weird and edgy and gave grammarians fits—but it stuck. And it marked the start of Drake’s dominant 2015. Today, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, Drake is Toronto. As his star has risen, he has reshaped our civic mythology, telling a new story about Toronto—one in which the city is cool, progressive and diverse enough to have produced a half-black, half-Jewish emo-rap superstar. That narrative is fast becoming the foundation of a new civic identity—a Toronto defined less by the traditional power brokers and more by the teens and 20-somethings growing up around its edges. Bit by bit, he’s physically transforming the city, too. Late last year, he set up a permanent storefront on Dundas West to peddle his clothing line. Sher Club, his exclusive retreat at the ACC, is a hush-hush destination for ballers of all types. OVO Fest, his annual two-day hip-hop festival, sold out in a day and drew guest appearances from Kanye West and Pharrell Williams. Drake has even branched out into restaurants: his lounge Fring’s, a joint venture with Susur Lee and sons, had a stealth launch in September.
Of course, at the heart of Drake’s power is his artistic ability, and on that score he’s never been stronger. His new mixtape, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, and in August it became the first 2015 album to sell a million copies. And when Philly rapper Meek Mill accused Drake of using ghostwriters on his songs, Drake, instead of engaging in a Twitter war, made a beeline for the studio and hit back with two devastating tracks, bolstering his artistic bona fides. It’s no coincidence that this is the year the man once known as Aubrey Graham finally dispensed with all the modesty and declared himself a “6 God.” As if to prove it, at the end of September, he became the fourth performer in history to rack up 100 entries on the Billboard Hot 100, putting him in a league with the king himself, Elvis Presley. Seems like the right kind of company to us.