No one is proud of their days spent on Myspace. It was a time when social media was in its infancy and people were trying to figure out if they were supposed to be using the service to both release and discover music, or if it was simply an extension of AIM for hook-up purposes.
As the passage of time often reveals, Myspace proved to be a little bit of everything; a ceviche of sorts made up of mixtapes, acoustic guitars, duck-faced selfies and perverts.
Although many artists who have established themselves in the contemporary music landscape would probably prefer to have their old Myspace pages wiped from public consciousness, some actually owe their current success not only to the service, but also the budding opportunists who sifted through the digital muck in pursuit of a certifiable star.
If the name "Tom" is synonymous with Myspace, so too should Toronto rapper/crooner, Drake, whose own musical beginnings began on the site.
While many assume Drake's music career has a direct correlation to his time spent as a thespian on Degrassi High: The Next Generation - where he played Jimmy Brooks for eight years - his musical aspirations were actually responsible for him losing his job rather than buoying his chances at international stardom.
“That was part of the reason I was kicked off the show,” Drake told W Magazine. “Back then, I’d spend a full day on set and then go to the studio to make music until 4 or 5 a.m. I’d sleep in my dressing room and then be in front of the cameras again by 9 a.m. Eventually, they realized I was juggling two professions and told me I had to choose."
Like many other artists, Drake used Myspace to stay connected with his growing fanbase, but he was certainly not immune from putting the cart before the horse. In an archived version of his page, Drake boasted about his "30 dedicated fan clubs" and "20,000 fans for mall tours" despite him being a relative unknown to most if not everyone in the music business.
"Initially, I think I just didn't know what would happen," Drake said. "I was this rapper with a little bit of buzz, the internet was taking over, and I didn't know the power of the internet at that point. The true power of social networking and the things we are so emmersed in now. There wasn't an artist that had been 100% birthed from that outlet."
The man ultimately responsible for discovering Drake, Jas Prince, shared a similar pedigree in the world of music as the upstart Toronto artist. While Drake himself was the son of Dennis Graham, a drummer, who had provided the rhythm for artists like Jerry Lee Lewis, Prince was the son of Rap-A-Lot Records founder James “J.” Prince whose label was instrumental in establishing the Geto Boys as rap royalty.
"So I kind of slid in Drake’s messages and was like, 'Hey, what's up? I'm Jas Prince,'" he told The FADER. "I let him know who I was and who my father is, and I told him that I wanted to make him famous. And he was like, 'I get that a lot but, whatever you say.' We kept in contact and I brought his music to my dad. He didn't get it. He was like, 'What do you see in this?' Because rap to him was more gangster hip-hop music than someone rapping and singing. But I was like, 'Well, he has a buzz.'"
Prince was correct. Drake was earning traction off his self-released, debut mixtape, Room for Improvement, in which he managed to score features from the likes of Clipse, Trey Songz and Lupe Fiasco as well as notable production from longtime collaborator, Boi-1da. Myspace even called him the "best unsigned artist in Canada."
Drake noted in a 2007 interview that he had more plays on Myspace than some established, signed acts who also used the platform.
"It shows me that corporate America doesn't get it yet and the record labels don't get it, but definitely I think that the people really appreciate it," Drake said.
With Jas Prince's own reputation solidified thanks to his father's work in the business, he often found himself in situations where he could pass along artists he thought were poised to break out. After reaching out to Drake and signing him to Aspire Music Group, he began searching for the perfect landing spot and distribution deal for the multi-threat talent from across the border.
As Drake's profile grew on Myspace, Lil Wayne was also making strides in the traditional record label landscape where he was handed the keys to the offshoot imprint of Cash Money Records, Young Money, as a means to cultivate new artists.
"At the time I was really cool with Lil Wayne, and I brought Drake to his attention, too," Prince said. "I was like, 'Yo, I have an artist I'm working with and I believe he's dope.' His response was just: 'Jas, don't ever play this for me again. He sucks!' But I'm persistent. Wayne didn't stop me—I kept pursuing it, pursuing it, pursuing it."
While such an unequivocal statement of disdain would normally close the book on one artist working with another, Prince used another encounter with Wayne to play more of Drake's music while the duo rode through Houston, Texas.
“One day while leavin the [mall], I just threw [Drake’s] CD in and let it play,” Prince said.
Lil Wayne was particularly impressed with Drake's reinterpretation/remix of his Bangladesh-produced banger, "A Milli," and blown away that he easily transitioned to singing on tracks like "Brand New."
"Wayne is like, 'Hold up, man, this dude is really fucking dope,'" Prince remembers. "He's like, 'Where is he at?' I told him in Canada, and Wayne was like, 'Let's fly him here right now.'"
Drake ultimately flew to Houston soon after Prince had brokered a short phone conversation between the two. Wayne had a show in Atlanta later that night, and urged Drake to ride on the tour bus with him. While in Atlanta, they recorded "I Want This Forever" which ultimately just became 2009's "Forever" featuring Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Eminem.
"I'm so unsigned, it would blow one's mind," Drake began his verse. Whether it was a message to Lil Wayne or not, a deal with Young Money would follow soon after based off the strength of his song "Replacement Girl" from his second mixtape, Comeback Season, which marked the first time an unsigned Canadian rapper had a "Joint of the Day" on BET’s 106 & Park.
“Today is definitely a comfortable day for me, having my team now that’s been in place for a couple of years. It’s just a great day,” Drake told MTV News. “It’s something new, but it feels familiar.”
In order for Drake to sign with Young Money, the label had to ensure that Jas Prince would financially benefit from bringing him aboard. Thus, all parties allegedly agreed to a deal that would pay him pay 22% of all Drake’s advances and net profits.
Whether or not Drake would have ascended to such heights without Jas Prince's discovery will always be an unanswered question because he did find him and Drake did blow up.
In 2015, Drake landed at number 3 on Forbes' "Hip-Hop Cash Kings" list behind only Diddy and Jay Z with an annual take of $39.5 million USD.
Due to the murkiness of what he was actually owed - and Cash Money's reputation for holding back profits - Jas Prince filed suit in 2012 in a Manhattan court against Drake’s management team for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty as it related to unpaid royalties for his role.
In October 2015, Prince settled for an undisclosed sum. Preliminary documents had shown that he had asked the court for $11 million USD in unpaid royalties.