(Art by WHIP, who's awesome and you should check out.)
In hip-hop we hold certain truths to be self-evident: Illmatic is a classic, JAY Z is past his prime and Drake raps about women, a lot. I mean alot-alot. Like all the time. Or at least it certainly seems like Drake's favorite topic is the fairer sex. If there was only some way to turn that subjective feeling into cold, hard, mathematical fact.
Well, it turns out there is, if you're willing to do an insane amount of work. I had the DJBooth squad listen to every Drake song we could find - we're talking every project from Room for Improvement to 6 Godto If You're Reading This, plus guest verses, and we wrote down every time he mentioned a woman in the romantic/sexual sense. Spoiler alert, that turned out to be a lot of times.
For the record, that means we only counted when Drake mentioned a woman, as in "that specific woman right there," not just women in general, as in "Girl, move that thang like you gettin money for college." We also disqualified all the women he mentioned in an obviously plutonic sense. So we didn't count all the times he mentioned his mother, or grandmother, his friend's mother, his producer's mother or his piano teacher, or Sylvia Rhone or Ms. Murray (his former manager), but otherwise, if they were in possession of a vagina and Drake rapped/sang about his often complicated relationship to them and/or their vagina, we got it down.
Frankly, it was an insane amount of work, but greatness never comes without great sacrifice, and we're determined to be great. So without further ado, let's dig into what we've found:
Total Different Women Mentioned: 129
For the sake of accuracy, I should say approximately 129 women. There are a number of times when Drake appears to be rapping about the same woman in different songs (more on that below), but he doesn't name them specifically so it's impossible to say for sure. Given that, the number of different women might likely be less than 129.
At the same time though, while we listened to Drizzy songs until our brains started to leak out of our ears, there must have been some songs we missed. There just must have. And given his impressively high women-to-songs ratio, that also means we must have missed some women.
On the whole, while that means 129 probably isn't an exactly accurate number, I'm willing to stand by it as a pretty damn good benchmark. It may not be 129, but it's not far off. And as long as we're here, le'ts take a moment to appreciate that 129 is, indeed, a lot of different women to mention in rap songs.
Drake's Upward Women-Mentioning Trajectory
While off the bat that 129 number means Drake's reputation as a lady's man is well earned, it's important to note that reputation is relatively recent. Almost shockingly, his first mixtape, Room for Improvement, features relatively few explicit women. With the exception of "Special," which in retrospect feels like the blueprint for his later ex-girlfriend raps - "Its true, I been talking to Aleshia, Keisha and Nadia" - the entire mixtape is almost completely devoid of specific women. By contrast, If You're Reading This features 12 specific women mentioned on 11 different songs; so 11/17 songs on the If You're Reading This contain a specific girl, compared to only 1/22 on Room for Improvement.
Turns out that if she wants the old Drake back, Drake would mostly just be tempted to rap less about women.
If You're Reading This...
Speaking of which, full disclosure, we originally had the research for this finished and then had to go back and revise everything after Drizzy's surprise project dropped. It was a weird experience; when I heard Drake had dropped an album out of nowhere, my reaction was simultaneously "Hell yeah!" and "GODDAMNIT NOW I'VE GOT TO COUNT MORE WOMEN!!!!"
Anyway...as I pointed out above, If You're Reading This is absolutely loaded with references to specific women. On "Legend," he's apparently converted a Houston stripper into some kind of live-in maid/girlfriend, which is maybe the most Drake line in the history of Drake.
"Got a girl, she from the South / Used to work, used to dance in Texas, now she clean the house."
And sweet baby Jesus, "Energy" is essentially the holy grail of Drake women references. We're talking about girls he bought, in order, a purse, a truck and an entire mall (an entire mall?), all of whom are separate women. Then you've got all the bitches asking for the code to his Wi-Fi, who may or may not be the same women he bought all those things for, and of course his "ex-girl, who's the stripper version of me." (Who we have to assume is different than the ex-stripper, current girlfriend/maid.)
You're going to want to get comfortable, I'm just getting started. There's also:
- "10 Bands": My ex asked me, "Where you movin'?" I said, "On to better things" (Stripper version of him ex, or a different ex?)
- "No Telling": The woman he's afraid might rob him after that woman robbed him on "The Resistance."
- "Madonna": An entire song devoted to making this one girl famous, a girl he's known for a while (yet another ex?).
- "6 God": One girl who's his and you can't hit.
- "Preach": Miss Cassidy in Miami who he needs to call up.
- "Company": An independent-minded stripper he devotes the first verse to. This appears to be a different woman than the stripper he's considering proposing to, who again, is different than the ex-stripper/maid living in his house on "Legend."
- "You & the 6": His mom's trainer who's not ready to live the life of a rapper's girlfriend.
- "Jungle": The girl who he loved but didn't treat right in the first verse, and the girl who's phone is disconnected in the third verse. It's unclear whether that's the same girl.
- "6 PM in New York": Your girl, who he knows well, just not in public.
I promise, that If You're Reading This section will be the last time I'll specifically break down every reference on a song or album, if I did this would an actual novel, not just an insanely long internet article.
Ok, I just lied. After I dig into "The Resistance," that will be the last time I specifically break down a song. I only feel so obligated to get into this song because in many ways it's the Rosetta Stone of Drake music about women. From start to finish, we're looking at:
- A girl who declines his offer to party and get high.
- His mother, who weren't not counting, but worth noting because he runs the full spectrum of women in his life in one song.
- His grandmother in a nursing home, see above.
- Penny Lane, which is not a movie girl reference so it doesn't count, unless it is a real girl, in which case it totally does.
- Some girl he met at a mall.
- Some girl who had an abortion after messing with him unprotected (whoa, surprisingly heavy for a throwaway line).
- The girl he's laying next to who reads a text from the girl who had an abortion.
- DJ Lissa Monet, who misses the old him.
- The girl who set him up for a robbery and made him paranoid (see also, "Legend").
The Famous Women:
Not every woman Drizzy mentions is his mom's personal trainer, the man's found himself mixed up with some very high-profile females. And yes, I'm mean high-profile in the sense of actual, global fame, not Instagram famous or stripper famous, which is like being actually famous, but only for boners. Boner-famous. Moving on.....
- Serena Williams: The woman who launched one of the weaker beefs in hip-hop history.
- Rihanna: Where do I even start? Of course there's the two songs they've done together, "What's My Name" and "Take Care," but especially in the last two years, Drake's dropped more possible references to RiRi than he has chains he wears around the house. There was that time on "Days in the East," that time on "5 AM in Toronto," that time he definitely was talking about her but wouldn't say her name ("Views From the 6") and that time he just came right out and said her name ("Made Men"). Hard to blame the man, he's far from the only one to have a hard time letting go of Rihanna.
- Erykah Badu: This one's borderline, since their relationship seems to be non-romantic, but he did hang out in her house and talk about love.
- Kylie Jenner(?): Maybe a stretch, but I'm far from the only person to think that the girl from "6 PM in New York," the girl who he knows is someone's secret girlfriend, it Kylie Jenner. Let's just say it's not not Kylie Jenner.
- Also: At various points he also claims Megan Fox and Jennifer Lawrence could get it, plus impregnating Halle Berry is on his wish list, plus Chanel Iman, Jada Pinkett and Demi Moore references.
- Nicki Minaj: AKA the only woman he's rapped about more than Rihanna. Listing all the Nicki mentions would be like listing all the drops of water in the Pacific ocean. Of course, there's the first time he wanted to marry her on "Miss Me," the time he was lining up for sloppy seconds on "Only," when they got all romantical on "Moment 4 Life" and, of course, the time Nicki gave him blue balls, which doesn't technically count because it's not a Drake lyric, but still:
The Girlfriends (etc.):
As we've already established, Drake raps alot about women he wishes were his girlfriend, and a lot about women who used to be his girlfriend, but you'd be hard pressed to find many specific mentions of women he's currently dating (it's unclear how much of a girlfriend the ex-stripper/maid who lives at the house is, I'm going to go ahead and say not much.) But if you really dig into the lyrics, there are a more than a few specific women he's had relations with that you can pick out.
- Alisha: As first mentioned on "Special," Alisha seems to be the original ex-girlfriend - she comes up again on Room for Improvement's "Thrill Is Gone," and then again on "Successful," and then again in "Shot For Me." If you're looking for the source of all that Heartbreak Drake, she's it. Alisha is Drake's white whale, if I can be allowed to make the first Drake-Herman Melville reference in human history.
- Nebby: I take that back, there was apparently a girlfriend even before Alisha.
- The Girl From "Marvin's Room": Thanks to a lawsuit, we know more about "Marvin's Room" girl than almost any other non-famous girl here. Drake allegedly dated Ericka Lee for a year, 2010-2011, and she's the drunk dial voice you hear on the song.
- The Girl From "Karoake": Could this girl who he wanted to marry, the one who became a wedding planner and moved to Atlanta, also be Alisha? Or does Drake just think about proposing to every girl he fucks (see also above, the stripper he wasn't to marry in "Company")?
- The Ethiopian/East African Girl: Yo, who is this girl??? He mentions her on "Where to Now," and again on "Over Here," and again on "Poetic Justice," going so far as to say he'd fly her and her mom to the motherland. She's a multi-year obsession for Drake.
- Dia Edwards: He tried to save her, but he couldn't. Maybe he should have bought her a mall.
- Rose Mary & Leanne Sealey: They both have new boyfriends, much to his chagrin.
- The Girl From "How Bout Now": I'm going to assume the whole song's about the same girl, a girl he drove in the snow to her bar exam and bought Christmas presents for her dad, around the time he was acting. Could it be Alisha or Nebby? If not, Jesus, how many serious girlfriends did he have in '09? One things for sure, her voice is crazy annoying. The second a girl says, "You cheese me dog," they're instantly an ex-girlfriend.
- His Babysitter: He fucked her later on, which brings up some questions about her age, but regardless, she's obviously just a drop in the bucket for Drake.
- That Girl Who Works at the Walgreens Corporate Headquarters: It makes sense why she works there.
- Courtney From Hooters on Peachtree: He always thought she could be the one to complete him.
- Lavish Lee: Not an actual girlfriend, apparently the best friend of a girlfriend. So...
- That Girl From "HYFR": She goes to college in Atlanta and, just to switch things up, Drake isn't the one paying her tuition.
- That Girl From Villanova: She doesn't give a fuck about her professors. No word on if Drake's paying her tuiton.
- Paris Morton: Ass so round she got two songs!
- Amy/Stacy: From back in the AIM days.
- Rita: I'm not technically counting her because he couldn't seal the deal, but worth noting.
- Jade: I take it back yet again, this was that OG first girlfriend reference, circa '06. According to RapGenius, this is Jade Lee, the same girl who moved to Atlanta to become a wedding planner in "Karaoke." If only she was Ethopian we could have solved that mystery too.
- Oh yeah, and we figured out who Alisha was, but how about all the other ex's he mentions on "Special"? Keisha Chante is the same girl he grew up with whose mom he also loves, but as for Nadia and Shadia, they may be actual people, or they may be girls' names that conveniently rhyme.
And that's only the girls that I can more specifically separate out. There's about another 60 references to women who may or may not be the same as the women above, for example, "My newest girl from back home, got issues with parents / and some charges, how can I get her to Paris." Could she be the girl he drove to her bar exam? And then let's not forget Tammy with a purple Bentley (who was Jason's girl) and Lorraine who makes him laugh. Plus, there are a bunch of girlfriends he had but somehow never made it into the music.
Holy Moses this is getting mind-meltingly complicated. I feel like I need one of those charts the police use to chart gang connections.
Guys, I'm about to break some news. You might want to sit down. If you're currently sitting down, stand up, then sit down again. Ready? Brace yourself. Drake likes strippers. In hip-hop that doesn't exactly make him unusual, but how readily he seems to turn them into girlfriend material, possible wife material, and then of course, ex-girlfriend material is almost astounding, so much so that strippers deserve their own section here.
So in addition to everyone already mentioned above, we're also talking about:
- Maliah Michel: Drake's on fire, she should work tonight.
- Chyna: Call the King of Diamonds, it'll be worth the flight. (Bonus points for Tyga beef.)
- All of "Houstonlantavegas," the whole damn thing.
- Catya Washington: My apologies to Ms. Washington, she's technically a video/Instagram model and Bad Girls Club cast member, but come on, that's basically a stripper, so I'm including her here instead of the Girlfriends section. (Is she the same Cat that started actin silly? Or maybe it's this Cat?)
- Porsche: But only from when she used to work at Treasures.
- Bria Myles: Drake discovered her in the Beverly Center. She even got her own interlude.
- Rochelle, Jordan: Hard to know who they are since those are their real names. Could also just be Rochelle Jordan.
- Bernice Burgos & Yaris Sanchez: Again, not literally strippers, but come on. It should be noted that he's not actually talking about Bernice and Yaris, but women he actually knows from Toronto whom possess similiar posterior regions.
- Texas Syn & Just Brittany: This is what they look like, now you know the deal.
- Mia Khalifa: Ok, so she's more of a porn star than a stripper, and he hasn't rapped about her yet. Still, there's something like a 179% chance he's going to soon. It's only a matter of time.
So why did I do all this? When they asked George Mallory why he dedicated his life to climbing Mt. Everest, do you know what he said? He said, "Because it's there. If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain internet article and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go."
Although, if I weren't going to be all eloquent-historic-quote about it, I don't know if I can even wrap my head around the sheer volume of women Drake's been involved with. We're talking Wilt Chamberlain numbers here. How does he even have time to occasionally drink water, let alone record music, in between juggling what amounts to a metropolis worth of women?
The man himself said, "I'm turnin' into a nigga that thinks about money and women like 24/7, that's where my life took me / That's just how shit happened to go." But looking back at this list, it's obvious that's not just how shit happened to go. Drake wasn't studying to become a priest and then oops, life took this crazy turn and he became a rapper obsessed with women. Really, he's always been that way, and the stats say it's only getting worse.
129, remember that number. Before all is said and done I wouldn't be surprised if Drizzy cracks the millenium mark, and at least in that regard, he will be an indisputable legend.
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter. Bonus points also go to Richard Spadine and Yoh, who generously indulged by requests for research assistance.]