I Travelled to Drake the Village to Learn About Drake the Man
Being inside Drake is fascinating.
Photos by Stephen Simons
Drake fandom in Canada is a religion. Blessed are those who run through the 6ix with their woes, for theirs is the OVO-brand clothing and accessories at the pop-up. I've always loved Drake, but I live in the mid-western province of Saskatchewan—over 2,500 km from the epicentre of culture, Toronto. To the rest of Canada, Toronto's greatness is unstoppable and fragrant, much like a out-of-control septic truck. Drake is the driver.
I wish I could abandon everything that makes me happy and live in Toronto just to be closer, but rent costs approximately your bones. I'm holding out for when the city inevitably claims my home province as a suburb. But then I discovered something incredible: While checking out Toronto neighbour division lines, I found out Drake has already conquered Saskatchewan. It seems he settled a small village in the land of wheat and tedium. Turns out there is a village called Drake, in Saskatchewan. At first I was skeptical, but then the clues became obvious. Behold this video of Drake talking about actually being from Saskatchewan:
Some took this as a joke, but it was clear this was a direct calling to take my investigation to the next level. In order to be a faithful follower, I decided to make the pilgrimage to the Village of Drake and learn more about the birthplace of my idol. What I would uncover there was a sight to behold, filled with colourful people, Drakolytes, and some old ladies playing dominoes. In the end, however, I would discover the true meaning of life. More Life.
"The Ride": Arriving at the village
Being inside Drake is fascinating. Driving up to the village of less than 250 people, I saw his name on the welcome sign in an elegant font. It was very If You're Reading This It's Too Late cover-inspired. I tried to imagine how Aubrey Graham could have possibly written his name in metal letters, or at least how his ghost writer did. The streets of Drake are virtually empty, but no matter, I was finally home. The village consists of five residential blocks and a main street. There is a sports complex, a school and sausage manufacturer—all of which can be seen over the course of a two-minute drive. Out there on the Canadian plains, Drake seems even smaller, like a frail boy engulfed in a man's turtleneck sweater. On this tiny outback I'd meet the mayor of Drake, Peter. Just Peter.
"6 Man": Meeting the mayor
I walked up the drive toward a modest home. The place was easy to find, with a sign near the front door reading "The Nicholson's." A truck out front and tools strewn about underneath a detached garage awning spoke to the industrious nature of the Drake people. After a brief moment of waiting I was finally greeted by Peter, still just Peter. I'd, perhaps rudely, assumed everyone in Drake would be named Drake or Champagne Papi or some variant on a Drake-related theme. Something felt off, but Mayor Peter put me at ease with a firm handshake. He told me to meet him at the village office at the end of the block.
After a short walk passed a senior's home to the Drake headquarters, I sat down with my host near a stack of unopened phonebooks:
Me: Tell me about Drake.
Peter Nicholson, Drake Mayor: Drake is a good community. It was started back in 1907 or 1905 or some time around then. It was a stopping off point for Mennonites, so there's a fairly large population of Mennonites in the area. Not to be confused with Hutterites or Amish. It was a railroad town. At one time, there was probably 300 to 400 people in town with groceries stores and hardware stores and all the rest of it. Now we're down to 197 people. Just got notification the gas station at the end of the street is closing.
We've got Drake Meats Processors—they employ about 70 people—and the Credit Union would be probably the only two businesses in town.
And so … Drake doesn't have anything to do with the artist known as Drake?
No. Absolutely nothing. Nope.
Not even a little bit?
Not even a little bit. We haven't crossed paths. We haven't invited him, and he hasn't contacted us.
This was a disaster. Something was very wrong. Surely this was a misunderstanding, and the mayor of a Drake-themed village knew what he was about. I pressed on. I showed him several photos of Drake, asked him if "Passionfruit" was eligible to be a national anthem of the area, all to no avail. Nicholson reacted to Drake's various styles through the years by saying, "Sure," "He's alright," and "Looks like he's enjoying himself." He then clarified the village was apparently named after a British explorer named Sir Francis Drake. I asked Nicholson to clarify: The rapper Drake is also a knighted British explorer? "No," Nicholson responded. Out of options, there was only one thing left to do: I put on "Hotline Bling." This would be it, no man nor woman or ugly baby could deny this. I danced around the mayor's office and asked him to reevaluate the sonic aphrodisiac that is Drake's timbre. As I thrusted I looked into his eyes, searching for any light, understanding of what was happening here.
"He's good. I've heard his stuff before. I don't know anything about it. Probably wouldn't buy anything by him. If it was on the radio, I probably wouldn't quickly shut it off." I had failed.
"Free Smoke"(d meat)
Drake's sausage is delicious. I've had it many times. Greg Jantz works in marketing and sales with Drake Meats, the town's biggest employer and exporter of Drake meat. I sat down with him to discuss what makes a good Drake weiner. He told me the business started in 1949, which I found strange because Drake was born in 1986. When asked if Drake Meats has anything to do with the artist Drake or Meet and Greets when you buy a VIP ticket, Jantz said, " No. Nothing to do with artist at all." He added, "As far as I know." There was still a chance then!
I showed Jantz a bunch of Drake photos to try and jog his memory, to which he responded, "Yeah, looks good," and various other polite but firm cues for me to hurry up. I quickly put on some Drake music and danced around his office to get the official review from Drake Meats. On a scale of one to 10, Jantz rated his Drake's music, saying, "I'd have to give it at least an eight." When asked which famous Drake meat he recommends for the artist, Jantz said, "Definitely the bacon." I nodded, thinking about the many ways the Jewish rapper Drake inspires me.
"One Dance" with the Women of Drake
I walked the streets of Drake, taking in the refined Drake Sportsplex, Drake School, Drake Branch Library, and several other Drake-themed buildings. In my wondering, I thought about the song "Blessing" when Drake says, "I cannot see heaven being much better than this." Was this heaven? I came there for glory, but something was missing. I remembered "Fear" when the iconic rapper says, "I pop bottles because I bottle my emotions," I realized I'd been bottling up my own anxiety about this oasis. Where was Drake in all this? He was probably in Toronto, but metaphorically where was my 6 God?
Stumbling in a lucid state I ended up at the Drake Silver Sage, a kind of community centre. There, I met Rosella, Margery, Eleanor, Shirley, Ruby, Lenora and Mary. The women were playing dominoes, and sat around watching them until they were forced to acknowledge my presence. Once they realized I was a famous journalist, they opened up about their celebrated pie making skills, which draw people in from surrounding communities. As Drake says on "I'm Going In": "I ain't cutting anybody slices outta my pie," which is probably related somehow. As Rosella listed off other treats they make, like Rice Krispies cake and cinnamon buns, I knew in that moment the spirit of Drake was in their comforting smiles. Free Spirits, we all became after this.
Spirit located and Oprah soul sunday fulfilled , I blasted Drake through some iPad speakers and danced for the ladies with everything in my soul. I asked what they thought, and Margery, wise and caring, told me, "Don't' quit your day job." I think what she meant is I am a child and prophet of Drake, and the town believes in my "day job," my mission to spread Drake.
On the way out, I burned a photo of Drake in front of the Drake sign as an offering. I didn't meet Drake in Drake, but I learned he is everywhere. His message of finding emotional connection and love can be found in a handshake with a stranger, an interrupted domino game, or a mouthful of sausage. While Drake's throne, the CN tower, looms over the dominion of Toronto, the Village of Drake is the gateway into the spirit world of Canadian hip-hop. Sure, many of the people there have only a vague understanding of who Drake is. Honestly, a lot people I met hadn't heard of him. And yet, in many ways, they understand his music better than anyone else.
With my heart now full and the mystery of the village solved, there was only one thing left to fulfill on my quest: Discover who Drake, as referenced in the classic song "Believe Me," may have allegedly thrown off the Scarborough Bluffs.
Devin Pacholik is a very important journalist. Follow him on Twitter.