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Started from the Bottom — Drake’s Rise from a Single Parent Home to the Top of the Pop Charts

Few musicians today can claim the level of commercial success and cultural significance that Drake has. The rapper, whose most recent album, 2018’s Scorpion, broke single-day streaming records on Apple Music and Spotify, has been a presence on the pop charts since the release of his 2008 mixtape, So Far Gone.

Drake’s autobiographical lyrics have led to considerable interest in his upbringing and personal life. By this point, Drake’s story is well known — raised primarily by a single mother, he first came to fame as a cast member of the TV series Degrassi: The Next Generation before dedicating himself to music.

A Rough Start in a Rich Neighbourhood

Every great rapper has a rags-to-riches origin story and Drake is no exception. Drake spent his earliest years on Weston Road, a low-income area in Toronto, Canada. Despite a move to the more affluent Forest Hill neighborhood, the rapper’s childhood was anything but comfortable. “I grew up with a mom who was deep in debt because she wanted best for family,” he told CBC in 2013.

Most of the anecdotes about Drake’s early years focus on his contentious relationship with his dad, who moved back the US when the rapper’s parents divorced. Often overlooked are the sacrifices his mom, Sandi Graham, made — just one example of how society undervalues the labor of single parents.

Sandi Graham is one of many single moms who have struggled to do better for their kids. Even as an English teacher, making ends meet with a single paycheque was a challenge. As Drake said, Sandi “was willing to live far beyond her means for her family.”

Working to Avoid the Mistakes of the Past

“Of course, as life takes shape and teaches you your own lessons, I end up in this situation where I don’t have the fairytale,” Drake told LeBron James on his HBO show, The Shop. When news of the rapper’s son, Adonis, leaked to the world in summer 2018, it appeared Drake was repeating the patterns of his parents — a carefree musician leaves a child behind, leaving the mother to do all the work.

But the reality was somewhat more nuanced. Drake has spoken openly about the steps he’s taking as a single father to avoid some of the pain he experienced: “I don’t have any desire for him to not love his mother. I don’t ever want the world to be angry at his mother […] I’m just really excited to be a great father.”

Of course, being a millionaire rapper makes all of this a lot easier. But for many who grow up with absent parents, the emotional damage leaves scars that are as significant as any financial hardship.

The Importance of Self-Reflection

Unfortunately, mental health and self-care are both things that single parents rarely have time to prioritize. By being open and honest about his own struggles, Drake is showing a willingness to grow in a difficult situation — and recognizing when and how he can break the cycle that caused him pain.