We spoke with the show's creators about why Toronto should pay attention to the artist formerly known as Aubrey Graham.
What do you get when you bring together two Drake-obsessed friends with a penchant for cultural criticism, a MacBook and a microphone? In the case of writer Rawiya Kameir and comedian Lauren Mitchell, it’s “Trust Issues:” a monthly, roughly hourlong podcast devoted entirely to the Toronto-bred Degrassi-actor-turned-superstar-musician whose songs centre increasingly around his hometown, a Toronto he has lovingly dubbed “The 6ix.”
While it may seem excessive to centre a recurring conversation around a single artist’s creative output, the two women point out that Drake’s vision, sound, and success have a lot to say about where Toronto as a city fits on the global cultural map―and how we see ourselves, too. We spoke to them about the podcast, Drake, and getting to love the 6ix.
Torontoist: Why a Drake podcast?
Lauren Mitchell: My personal brand is pretty Drake-heavy. When I first started doing comedy, people used to always introduce me as the girl who really likes Drake and also books, which, now that I think about it, is pretty bang on. I also like the idea that two women who aren’t from Toronto, but call the 6ix home, have a part in the media narrative about Drake. I think the people were ready for this.
Rawiya Kameir: I spend a wildly unrealistic amount of time thinking, tweeting, and talking about Drake. Like, my beat is basically OVO. He’s a great starting point for conversations about so many things—music, obviously, but also the Internet culture and race and municipal politics.
When did you each get into Drake? What drew you to him?
R: I had seen him around and heard some of his music pretty early. I remember a friend of mine playing me some songs he was working on off her iPod in the Yorkdale parking lot in like 2006 or something. He was wooing her, which in retrospect is hilarious. I remember being impressed and telling her to date him but I didn’t really become a fan until his first proper album, Thank Me Later.
L: I got into Drake in 2008, right around the time when “Best I Ever Had” really became a hit. I mean, I definitely watched his era of Degrassi, so I think I was partially drawn to him because he felt really close and real, but also because, let’s face it, “Best I Ever Had” was and still is the jam. I think that song is pretty undeniable. I then spent the next few years defending my love of Drake to people who liked to tell me that I obviously didn’t appreciate “real hip hop”, whatever that means.
There was that amazing map of Drake’s Toronto released in Pitchfork last week, where the writer made a point of distinguishing between “actual” Toronto in real life and the mythologized 6ix of Drake’s world. Do you guys see a distinction? If so, where is it most noticeable?
L: Ahhhh, that was such a great article, very thoughtful, and they did at least get a Canadian to write it. I mean, obviously we don’t and can’t see Toronto the way Drake sees it, but for me, that is part of the charm, to have that perspective on something that I am so in the weeds with feels really refreshing. I love Drake’s Toronto, and it makes me love my Toronto even more.
R: There’s definitely a distinction. Life in Toronto isn’t all Yorkville and courtside Raptors seats; in fact, it’s not that at all. But despite the surface-level civic engagement, Drake isn’t a political rapper. He’s a rich 28-year-old who spends his time between a Yorkville condo and a Calabasas mansion. I don’t expect him to know or care much about the city’s budget or about the TDSB or about the fact that the public transit prices keep rising while service is declining. Those are our burdens as regular-ass Torontonians, and Drake’s version of the city doesn’t have to reckon with that until he begins considering his mayoral campaign. Lucky guy.
Toronto has a tendency to navel-gaze, as a city, about its cultural identity as a fast-growing metropolis. (I mean, look at this Q & A.) Where does Drake fit into that―besides proving to us that we’re a city big and interesting enough to not only produce the hardest-working rapper in the industry right now, but have him proudly rep us?
L: I am originally from a very small town in southwestern Ontario, but went to Toronto a lot as a kid to see family that lived here, and so I had an idea of Toronto that went beyond the CN Tower and Ontario Place and all that. I distinctly remember when I was nine thinking, “as soon as I can, I am getting the hell out of this small town and moving to Toronto.” It was never Montreal, it was never Vancouver, it was always Toronto. But when you become an adult, it’s like, oh, there are so many other cool places to live and living in Toronto you realize that people really are quite navel gaze-y and self deprecating about this place (for a lot of legit reasons like, damn, I’m pushing 30 and will never be able to afford a house here, but that is a whole other thing)…anyways this very rambling answer is all to say that I feel best about living in Toronto when I hear Drake rap or speak about this place; he makes Toronto feel like somewhere you want to live even if you weren’t some lame kid living in small-town Ontario.
R: I’ve lived in seven different cities and have never really felt a sense of “home” until Drake put Toronto on the map in a cultural way. Not only has he changed the world’s perception of us; he’s changed our perception of ourselves. It sounds melodramatic, but it’s true—since Drake, being from Toronto has been a badge of pride, not shame. Toronto is still hella navelgaze-y, but like in a more confident, less chip-on-our-shoulder way.
Finally: Say somebody reading this just discovered Drake and is like, “My life finally has meaning! Point me to the Toronto hip hop I’m missing.” Where would you direct them?
R: Once they’ve committed Drake’s entire catalogue to memory, I’d point them to my two favourite rappers in the city right now: Keita Juma and Jazz Cartier. Also, like, Kardinal.
L: 100% what Rawiya said and also Jimmy Johnson, and also please god if you’ve never listened to Choclair, do it right now.