Drake’s life wasn’t without its travails: His mother and father split when Drake was a young child. His father, a musician from Memphis, spent time in jail and drifted in and out of his son’s life (“He’s slick. He could sell water to a well”), while his mother, a teacher (“She’s the godlike person in my life”), contended with growing health issues, including osteoporosis and debilitating joint pain, that eventually left her restricted to her room, where, Drake remembers, she “smoked cigarettes and took her pain meds, deteriorating every day, essentially dying.” Though he grew up in the affluent Forest Hill section of Toronto, Drake says he and his mom rented the first floor and basement of a house. “We were more or less broke, but my mom didn’t want us to live in an area that could create trouble for her son,” he says. Meanwhile, as Drake grew older and eventually landed the Degrassi role, he became enamored of the good life.
“I needed a car and clothes. I wanted to go to the club, at least buy some drinks. And I wanted studio time.” (He dropped out of high school, acted all day and rapped all night, sneaking into his Degrassi dressing room at dawn each day and sleeping there until the 10 a.m. call.) “I did ask my mother and uncle for a lot,” he says, “but watching my mom go through her illness, and not being able to help, was very tough. And when I finally did make some real money, my mother got an operation on her spine that changed her life.”
Meanwhile, there was a fractured relationship with his father, one that both father and son have recently tried to mend. “It’s an emotional process,” Drake says. “My father is an incredible man—charming, talented, and stylish—and I’m sort of living the dream he had for himself. But his actions served as that reverse role model for me. There are a lot of things that I don’t ever want to do. I don’t want to miss years of my child’s life. I don’t want to put a woman on a roller-coaster ride.”