MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Hip-hop star Drake is one of those music artists big enough for one name.
He kicks off his ‘It’s All a Blur’ tour with a concert at the FedExForum in Memphis on June 29th. You may already know that Drake considers Memphis home, but even his biggest fans may not know something as simple as his last name, Graham.
We recently spoke with Drake’s father, Dennis Graham. He’s the “dad” of the “Champagne Papi,” but he says it’s no coincidence that his son is kicking off his tour in Memphis.
That’s because, despite growing up in Toronto with his mother, Drake spent summers with his father at his grandmother’s house in the Whitehaven neighborhood of Memphis in Bluff City.
During the interview, Dennis wore a hoodie from his son’s clothing line, OVO, with Memphis Grizzlies’ claws painted around his trademark owl.
One of the first things Dennis Graham says about his son is how much he admires his business instincts.
“He’s been involved in so many different businesses that he’s making so much money that it’s just mind-boggling,” Dennis said.
Still, it’s the music that propelled Drake to number one selling singles and albums more than any other artist. More than Elvis, more than the Beatles.
Dennis said his son’s talent is extraordinary because his songs tell stories that people can relate to.
“Here I thought I could be a big star, but I didn’t, and here’s the price,” he said.
In fact, Dennis initially said he was overwhelmed when his son became the number one artist in music. Still, he credits Drake’s summers in Memphis with shaping his sound.
Denise recalls driving from Canada to Memphis in the summer. When Drake wanted to listen to rap in the car at the start of his trip, it was soon his father’s turn to choose the music.
“He had a little time to listen to his own rap, and then I played Johnny Taylor. The Bobby Blue Band, BB King, Al Green, and he listened to it, its soul and blues. was planted in me,” Dennis said.
Dennis said some of his favorite memories are of summers spent on Appleville Street, just off Shelby Drive, which Drake made famous.
“I can see him wrestling in the garden now. I can see him wrestling with his cousins in the study at home,” Dennis said.
Dennis currently lives in Los Angeles, but said he always stays with Drake when he returns from visiting family in Memphis. She added that there was a time, after Drake became famous, that she finally told Denise, “Every time I go, I have to take a picture with my family, but it’s boring to have everyone around.” Told. “So I finally told them.” [family members] when he comes [to Memphis] You should treat him like you used to when you were playing in the garden together. ”
“Don’t ask him for pictures or money,” Denise said. “Money is a problem. Everyone feels they owe themselves. [They’ll say] “Hey, are you my cousin rich?” Can I get $10,000? Or $250,000 for a hair salon?” That was ridiculous. ”
Still, according to Dennis, Drake is always asking about his next trip back to Memphis, which is why Memphis was the obvious choice to make the first of the 28 cities on his upcoming tour. .
“He tells people, ‘I’m from Memphis,'” Dennis said. “He would say right away, ‘I’m from Memphis. That’s my home.'”
Dennis Graham wouldn’t tell us his age, but we do know that Aubrey Drake Graham is 36, and Dennis says they have an unbreakable bond.
“Our love is undeniable,” Denise said. “I mean, that’s my heart. That’s my heart rate.”
That bond includes daily phone calls, which, according to Dennis, are primarily about giving each other a hard time. However, we do admit that the calls can be serious.
“Some things hurt him when he was dating certain people,” he said. “We discussed it and I just told him it had to go on. [A break-up is] It’s not something you can change, so it doesn’t hold you back. ”
Dennis, who was the first to admit he wasn’t the perfect father, is proud that Drake has mostly stayed clean, aside from occasional public feuds with a few rappers.
He has avoided glorifying gun culture in his actions and songs. Dennis said it was no coincidence.
“It wasn’t instilled in him. He wasn’t raised that way. He’s not from the so-called ‘hood.’ Well, sure he lived under the hood, but he couldn’t have that kind of mentality. ”
Dennis hopes his clout as Drake’s father will play a part in that.
“Yes, I definitely talked to him about it,” Denise said. I’m not going to take that route. ”
The recent addition of five-year-old grandson Adonis has further strengthened the bond between father and son.
“Adonis is my heart. He’s my friend and he loves Grandpa Dennis,” said Dennis.
Dennis said many of Drake’s fans may not realize how kind and down-to-earth he is. Indeed, his life changed along with his fame. Including having 12 bodyguards around him at all times.
Still, after spending an afternoon with Drake’s father, it’s easy to see where that “warm-hearted” and “down-to-earth” quality comes from.