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Drake takes the road with a flock of rising stars

As the headliner of what looks to be the summer's biggest R&B/rap tour, Drake feels a sense of responsibility not just to his fans, but also the other artists.

"It's definitely not about the check for me," says the Canadian hip-hop phenom of his Club Paradise package tour, which will also feature J. Cole, Waka Flocka Flame, Meek Mill, 2 Chainz and French Montana. "It's about the experience. If the city isn't talking about it, you know, five, six, seven days later, or, you know, if people don't remember it for years to come, then I haven't done my job."

Drake also expects the support artists on the bill to make a big impression. "You've got a lot of different elements of hip-hop music," he points out. "Even with myself, you get, obviously, a flip side of singing and melody — and so I was really just trying to cover all bases and bring the most exciting young refreshing acts to the stage, all together in one place, one night."

Actually, the 25-year-old Drake might be considered a young artist himself, were it not for the major waves he's been making for six years now. After a series of mixtapes, 2007's laid-back "Replacement Girl" earned him serious exposure on the BET cable network. That triggered a series of guest appearances on tracks, remixes, and mixtapes that continued to build a buzz and had record labels competing for his talent, with Lil Wayne's Young Money label winning out.

Just before signing his deal with the Motown Universal-distributed label, Drake self-released a single, "Best I Ever Had" — from what would become his popular mixtape, So Far Gone — and watched the track top Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart.

His Young Money debut, Thank Me Later, accelerated the momentum. Stylistically, it followed the lead of "Replacement Girl," often favoring slow, deliberate tempos over which Drake sang and rapped in a laconic manner. The album spawned a pair of No. 1 rap singles and contributed to a total of 30 different Drake-associated singles that have charted on Billboard's Hot 100, making him the most successful recording artist in the two years leading up to last November's sophomore release, Take Care.

Predictably, it was another blockbuster, debuting at No. 1 and topping 1.5 million sales. "Make Me Proud," "Take Care" and "Headlines" were all multi-chart hits, while Drake's latest single, "The Motto," features Lil Wayne and has just taken the top spot on the Billboard rap single chart.

"A lot of it's down," he says of the album's tempo as well as its lyrical content. "And I think a lot of that had to do with being back home in Toronto and just trying to get reacquainted with a life that I had before — and the difficulties with that."

But these days, he figures, things are becoming less uncertain.

"I'm in a different mindset now that I'm very proud of," says Drake. "There's just so much going on for me in the U.S. that I've recently made the move to L.A. So it's a new atmosphere, getting to know new people."

For now, Drake is most excited about the tour. "I want people to make it a day," he says. "You make sure you're well-fed, you start drinking early, and you start having fun early. It's a full-day experience, which I think is especially great for summertime."

scene@csindy.com

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