Confirmed: A Young Drake Worked as a Songwriter for Dr. Dre at Aftermath Records
Drake, the unrivaled biggest star of his generation, got his first real music industry job as a teenager working for Dr. Dre at Aftermath Records. That's a real thing that really happened in reality.
Yesterday, Genius wrote an article titled, "Did Drake Work at Death Row Before He Was Famous?" that highlighted a passage from John Seabrook's recent book, The Song Machine: Inside The Hit Factory. Could it be true? Could the the man who came to fame with a song that assured women they looked prettier with no make up on have once worked for Suge Knight at the infamous west coast gangster rap label?
It turns that no, it's not true, not exactly, but in many ways the full story is far more interesting.
I reached out to Seabrook to confirm and in an an email he wrote that while Drake didn't specify exact years, he told Seabrook that when he was "like 19" (so somewhere around 2005) he and his production and songwriting partner Noah "40" Shebib did indeed move out to L.A. to work as songwriters, but for Dr. Dre at Aftermath Records, not Suge Knight at Death Row Records, which around 2005 would have been in the process of shutting down as a label.
And according to Seabrook, Drake told him they were paid $10,000 for their work and lived at the Oakwood Apartments, a complex with a well-earned reputation in L.A. as being filled with child actors and other naive entertainment industry hopefuls just arriving in the city of angels.
Obviously nothing came of Drake's short stint at the label, and in his book Seabrook quotes Drake as saying of his time there:
“It was some of the most strenuous militant shit I’ve ever done. But no useable songs came out of it. When I think of how he worked us, it’s no wonder he didn’t get anything out of it. It was just writers in a room churning out product all day long.” - Drake
While it's initally mind blowing to think that the same man who just surpassed the Beatles for the most Top 100 hits ever once worked as a teenager for Dr. Dre, when you take a step back it makes sense.
At the time, three years before he'd release So Far Gone and before he met Lil Wayne, Drake was a Degrassi actor anxious to snap up any opportunity in the music industry he hoped to move into, even if it was at the kind of factory-style songwriting system Drizzy mentioned. And since Drake had that experience so early in his career, you'd have to assume it shaped the far more more personal and intensive approach to music [cough, cough] that's made him such a star. We all have to start somewhere, but who would have guessed that Drake started with Aftermath?
Seabrook's The Song Machine: Inside The Hit Factory just became required reading.
[By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]