Three not-quite-famous rappers walk into a Seattle McDonalds. It sounds like the start of a bad joke…
Maybe this is the kind of thing that only interests an obsessive rap nerd who will spend hours researching small details, but unlike my Surf research, which I'll admit catered to a pretty niche portion of the population who cares about vibraphone players, this particular rabbit hole involves three of the most famous rappers on the planet right now....who apparently all ate breakfast at this McDonalds together in 2010.
What?! WHAT?! What did Cole order? Did Macklemore get sweet and sour sauce BBQ for his nuggets? What kind of McFlurry did Drake get? He seems like an M&M guy (for the record if you don’t get an Oreo McFlurry I’m not sure I trust you). What kind of “breakfast” happens at 3:18 PM 12:18 PM on a Monday and what’s wrong with getting a McFlurry in the middle of the afternoon? But more importantly than the legitimacy of a frozen afternoon treat, what string of events had to occur for these three soon-to-be household names to all go to a McDonalds together to get breakfast?
So I started to do some digging. I may not have all the answers to all the questions—I still don’t know what kind of McFlurry Drake got—but in my “research” I found some pretty cool shit, the main fact being that it really does look like this is a real thing that happened in reality, really. To find out just how these stars aligned, let's take it case by case.
Drake (circa June, 2010)
McDonalds Order: Mighty Kids Meal with the toy and, of course, a McFlurry.
Of the three artists, Drake was far and away the most popular and successful (still is). 2009 was a crazy year for Drizzy. His So Far Gone tape, released approximately seven months before that McFlurry was ingested (maybe the best one he’s ever had?), was flying off the shelves like Beanie Babies. He had also hurt his knee and was going through rehab and was often found tweeting Anchorman quotes. Amidst the sea of Anchorman and quintessential Drake tweets, I found one that was really interesting.
Woah. Wait. What? What the hell is It’s Never Enough? I’ve seen a compilation tape around the internet, but it doesn’t seem to be an official release from Drake himself and there’s no mention of it anywhere on his discography. Does that mean there’s an unreleased Drizzy tape? Did it turn into So Far Gone? What happened to It’s Never Enough? I know there are hardcore Drizzy fans who can fill me in, please, have at it.
Anyway, back to the lecture at hand - the McDonalds meet up in Seattle. Fresh off the release of Thank Me Later and an absolutely epic late 2009/early 2010, Drake hit the road on his first ever solo tour. It just so happens that The Away From Home Tour made a pit stop in Seattle on September 4 as part of the Bumbershoot Festival. In other words, holy shit, Drake really was in Seattle at that time, his next tour date wasn't until September 20 in Miami, so it's completely conceivable Drake hung around Seattle for a day or two after the show, maybe even made a McDonald's run. Plus, as you can see from the flyer, Drake was a headliner right along with a young, hungry emcee on the verge of releasing his second mixtape. That emcee?
J.Cole (and friend circa December 2010)
McDonalds Order: McRib but if it's not available a Quarter Pounder, hold the pickles, and an apple pie.
Cole burst onto the scene with 2009’s “classic” mixtape The Warm Up. It’s amazing, yes, but if I remember correctly, it took him a minute to really start buzzing and it wasn’t until Friday Night Lights dropped in November of 2010—just two months after the breakfast club meeting—that Cole was poised to blow the fuck up. I’m actually pretty surprised he was a headliner at Bumbershoot because I feel like, at the time, he wasn’t that popular. I mean, look at this pic from August of 2010, of him performing in a parking garage on some 8 Mile shit.
He went from that performance to a tour headliner in a couple months? Still, Cole was sort of next in line behind Drake. At this point, Drake already had a few mixtapes, a deal and an album, so the headlining spot makes sense; he was the Ronald McDonald, but Jermaine was the Grimace. Kind of crazy to think about Cole’s career arc. You could say signing to Roc Nation, headlining festivals, getting McDonlads with Drake and dropping a well received mixtape in 2009 was his “arrival,” but it was more of the prequel. Sideline Story was the real beginning and now, five years after supersizing his career, he’s just hitting his true potential. All jokes aside, it's inspiring.
Macklemore (circa October 2010)
McDonalds Order: Fries. That's it. Just fries.
Now here's where things really start getting interesting. Macklemore was at Bumbershoot too, but other than that, he had nothing direct in common with Drake and Cole at that time. He wasn’t even on the flyer. I only know he performed because of this random girl's picture.
From the looks of it, he was only a guest of Grynch’s, too; the only thing he was headlining was the pre-festival show as the host. Despite the lack of credentials and influence, Macklemore still managed to link up with Drake and Cole for a McDonald's breakfast, and since Seattle was his hometown, I have to imagine he was the driving force behind the meeting. I’d love to know exactly how it happened, but regardless, September 6, the last day of Bumbershoot, is when the magical McDonalds visit happened.
While Macklemore’s career was a tadpole at the time—this is two years before The Heist, when he's still essentially a local underground rapper—his Twitter game was already on fleek (they said that back then right?). In fact it was too on fleek. The man would not shut up. Just a few months before hanging at McDonalds with Cole, Macklemore had this to say about Jermaine grabbing a headliner spot
Clearly though, Cole’s performance changed his opinion. The day after Cole performed, and the day of the meeting, he tweeted:
While it’s kind of shade-worthy, I actually agree with him. As I mentioned, it kind of surprised me to see Cole as a headliner; I really don't think his buzz was buzzin' until after Friday Night Lights. Macklemore may not have been in a position to critique, but his critique was on point. Drake, though? No way Mack could say anything. Well, not only did Macklemore have something to say, but he said it when Drake was on stage at Bumbershoot. At 11:06 PM, just hours after name name-dropping the alleged McDonalds trip, Mack tweeted this:
Man, that’s some shady shit.
The man has a right to his opinion and all, but like, Mack, you were just hanging out with him. Did the McFlurry session not go well? It feels pretty shady to be critiquing the man as you are watching him headline a festival after you just got all chummy with him. About the only thing Mack was better at than Drake at the time was social media, and let me tell you I found some gems.
While Drake was on top of the world with So Far Gone, Mack was finishing up Vs. Redux, and by "finishing up" I mean it still took him a year to release it, even after this picture from November of 2009. In 2015 Mack’s video for “The Town” has 13 million views, but back then, he was just upoloading it to YouTube. Obviously, Macklemore is a super-superstar now, but back then? It just seems weird and kind of two faced to harp on two dudes, then act chummy with them, when you are light years behind them. Drake is blowing up and you are posting videos of you playing with Tech Decks? Come on now. Shit, about the only positive I took away from this is that Macklemore’s love for thrift stores is actually genuine; half the pictures I came across looked something like this.
Maybe though, and I hope you've got enough energy left for one more big surprise, Macklemore was still kind of salty that Drake was trying to charge him $6K for a show and a verse way back in 2008.
AAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! I have to say, in my increasingly long history of digging things up on the internet, this might be my best find yet. It's a completely ordinary email for a young promoter/rapper named Ben Haggarty (Mack's government name) to write an up-and-coming rapper named Aubrey Graham in 2008, but it's insane to think of Macklemore writing this to Drake. Plus, shout out Drake for having his booking done by "HOLLABACK T. SLACK," who it appears is still very much in the game.
I don’t want this to come across like digging up past shit on Macklemore, though. Until I can get one of the three to confirm it really happened, it very well could be a joke tweet I'm decontextualizing three years later and taking way too seriously. If that turns out to be true, fair enough. It doesn't really matter though, because more than anything it’s just interesting to see how the lives of three rappers who are now huge intersected in their early years. If anything, the fact that Macklemore was behind them in 2010 makes his astronomical rise even more impressive. It took Drake and Cole years and years to reach any real mainstream exposure, Macklemore did it much faster with much less material. He managed to catch Usain Bolt in a footrace after giving him a headstart. Who would have possibly thought that two years after critiquing Drake's album, Macklemore would be the one winning a GRAMMY first multiple GRAMMYs.
So yeah, the internet is a wild, wild place. Sometimes you see cute cats, sometimes it makes you want to die, and other times you stumble on a tweet from years ago about rappers going to McDonalds and you spend the next two days of your life Googling, and in this case the result is a fascinating snapshot of three artists who all pushed through their humble McFlurry beginnings to become three of the biggest forces in music.
Now if you’ll excuse me, all this stalking has made me hungry....I think I’ll get an Oreo McFlurry.
Editor's Note from Nathan: I called the Northgate McDonalds, and no one was available who had been working at the store since 2010. If so, it would have been unlikely they would have remembered three not particularly famous people coming in one day in September, but it was worth a shot.