When I got got home last night, my body and mind felt eerily similar to last September, when I shot Drake and Future's surprise concert at my home school of Ryerson University. My boots were muddy, my hair was wet, and I was dead exhausted. Despite my aching muscles from standing and shooting for the whole day, I was also incredibly hyped: I am a HUGE Drizzy fan. I like to think I'm his spiritual successor—in a decade, I'll be his age, and by then, I want to be the first journalist to drop a pair of Jordans. You can write that one down.
That's why, when I posted some photos I took at his performance last night, I was secretly praying to get a like, maybe even a comment from the man himself. A nod from Drake would have been an incredible achievement in my book, a real notch in the metaphorical belt buckle of a hypebeast concert shooter and hip-hop head. What I didn't expect, however, was a full on repost on @champagnepapi's account—without crediting me at all.
Let's walk it back a bit: The "6 Cent Concert," as our student union dubbed it, was a charity event, with the headline act being Future's main man and dancing partner DJ Esco. He's basically every Vine meme and Nae Nae dancing video contained in the body of a human being. Esco turns up like a wild man and doesn't even DJ his own songs. Rather, another guy spins for him while he runs around the stage and dabs for 45 minutes. Esco is a riot, but he's not the reason why everyone came—the "special" unannounced guest (a.k.a. GQ's coziest baller) was the main attraction.
And people showed up. Judging by numbers the student union gave me and how antsy the venue was, there were probably around 4,000 rabid Drake fans in attendance. When Drake's right hand and OVO muscleman Chubbs strolled out onstage with a VIEWS hoodie, people knew it was locked in: Drake was nearby. With a Game 7 showdown between the Toronto Raptors and the Indiana Pacers set to happen just around the corner at the Air Canada Centre, the mood was set, and the crowd went fucking wild. As I whispered to a photographer beside me that we should trade places to get "different angles of Drake," a woman behind me yelled in confusion.
"IS DRAKE COMING? IS HE COMING? OH MY GOD, HE'S COMING. HE'S FUCKING COMING."
Within seconds, the 6God burst out onstage—the crowd exploded. He played his most recent hits—"One Dance," "Summer Sixteen," "Pop Style"—and some of his 2015 favorites. He shouted out Ryerson as his favorite Toronto school, and told the crowd he would come play for them on a moment's notice. After 20 minutes, he was gone. The mass of people crammed into the parking lot almost trampled one another in an attempt to escape the venue. Hundreds erupted onto the streets to chase after the pack of Range Rovers that whisked away DJ Esco and the Boy. Needing to get away from the madness, I immediately Uber'd in the opposite direction.
I picked six (yes, 6!) selects, and loaded them on my phone (I don't watermark my photos—it ruins the art). Over the next two hours, I posted them to my Instagram with cheeky captions and references to Drake's performance. The last one I posted—a shot of Drake wildin' out to his Meek Mill killer "Back to Back"—sported a thank you note to the student union and Aubrey himself. Feeling satisfied, I packed away my laptop, brushed my teeth, and headed to bed. I was dead tired, but my phone continued to light up with notifications every few minutes. While my photos typically garner around 100 likes on an average day, each photo of Drake had easily snagged 200 in an hour. Trying to ignore my (very, very, very) minor social media fame, I slid my phone under my pillow and drifted off to sleep. A few hours later, an unending rumble woke me up.
"Bro, bro, bro. Drake posted your fucking photo," my friend, who called me while mildly drunk, yelled into my ear. "Man, you're fucking famous. I actually can't breathe."
My friend does not keep my ego in check.
When I hung up, my phone was a light show. A constant stream of Instagram notifications was blocking the top bar of my iPhone. I couldn't see the time, so I checked the clock on the microwave: 2:30 AM—over five hours since the original post on my account. I frantically pulled up Drake's Instagram and saw my photo. I couldn't believe it. I looked at the caption. "Ryerson always shows love." There was no tag on my name. I wasn't even tagged in the photo.
Instantly, a mix of emotions hit me—excitement and anger. For starters, Drake—who has 22 million followers—decided to post my photo on his Instagram to pay tribute to the moment. That was fucking huge. It was the nod I was looking for, and then some. But there was also a sense of robbery. I've shot tons of venues and major rappers in the past. For the most part, when artists get a hold of shots they like, they at least tag me or my employer in the empty space of the photo. It's a mutual respect for art that all creatives generally share.
In this case, I was left high and dry. Earlier that night, I had already been reposted by a number of popular Drake fan pages—some of which actually gave me credit. Many accounts, however—particularly smaller fan accounts with nothing to lose—had posted my photos with no credit, or even tried to take credit for my photography. I was steamed, but I didn't think it would be much of an issue outside of Tumblr or the inner circles of Drake fan forums.
The reality of the matter is that the credit itself means a lot. Photography shared on social media is worth only as much as the people you shoot and the size of the audience you have. My Instagram following sits around 1,700—too small for most brands to be interested in paying you for it, and too underserved for your favorite artist to take take notice of your work. It's hard to get the attention you think you deserve on Instagram nowadays, because there's just way too many people shooting. At the end of the day, the quality of photography has been diluted by pure quantity of people posting online. If you want success, you need access to an audience. In this case, I got access to Drake's millions of followers, but didn't actually get the stamp for my work.
I'm well aware that Drake likely didn't see this photo on my account before taking it. If anything, he probably saw it somewhere on his feed, sitting there without credit, and nabbed it for his own. That's fucking lit—I now officially hold a place on Drake's Instagram, and because of those who were dedicated enough to find the original, I've gained hundreds of followers. Maybe, as an apology, Drake will let me flash my phone at the door to Fring's and nab a free meal, or casually pass through the Raptors' locker room and pop bottles with DeMar DeRozan after they win round two (fingers crossed). Anything is possible when you live in the 6ix.
Follow Jake Kivanç on Twitter.