There was a funny Seinfeld episode involving a friend of Jerry's. The friend's name was Drake - a nice enough person, but a guy who was sometimes adored ("love the Drake!"), and sometimes despised ("hate the Drake!").
When it comes to the Toronto-bred hip-hop star Drake, his supporters would seem to outweigh his haters. Why then would he "feel unsafe in Toronto at all times," as he disclosed in a recently published interview with The New York Times? Perhaps it has something to do with an incident involving Drake at a restaurant in Toronto's Little Italy neighbourhood on May 31, 2009. Two men were accused of robbing the recording artist at gunpoint, and were later were convicted of lesser charges. Both men have served their sentences.
The stealing of bling would normally be just a blip on the blotter, except that it involves a now world-famous recording artist who has since been branded, perhaps outlandishly, as a tattletale. The Toronto rapper known as Big Page has accused Drake of acting dishonourably for co-operating in the police investigation, going so far as to tweet accusatorily: "How u gonna rep toronto on a big scale and be a snitch at the same time???"
The use of multiple question marks serve to accentuate the intensity of Big Page's concern.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail this week, Big Page elaborated on his outrage. "Drake doesn't understand the seriousness of the things that he gets involved in," says the rapper, who collaborated with Drake on the Juno-nominated 2009 single I'm Still Fly. "When he was robbed, he was with goons - friends who represented a certain lifestyle," says Big Page. "You're supposed to follow the code of that lifestyle, the code of the street and keep your mouth shut.
"He tries to mix his Forest Hill life and the new hood life that he's trying to start with his hood buddies. There are people, people who are forced to be on the street, who will be offended by that. That's why it could be an unsafe environment for him."
The roots of Big Page's quarrel - or "beef," in street parlance - lie in the aforementioned I'm Still Fly. According to Big Page, who admits that before their relationship soured the pair enjoyed what he calls a "friendly rivalry," Drake released a freestyle (or unofficial variation) of the song before the proper Big Page-Drake single hit the airwaves. "People automatically assumed [the song]was his," explains Big Page, "and that was when the tension began to grow between us."
Drake was unavailable for comment.
The street-savvy Big Page, who is black, has since directed at least one "diss song" toward Drake, who is of white Jewish and black heritage. Big Page's opinions aside, there is little evidence that Drake is attempting to cultivate any sort of "street cred." The rapper (who resides in Toronto although he's rarely here) was downright nerdy in appearance when he sang with the swoop-haired Justin Bieber on this year's Juno Awards.
And although he recently visited the rapper Lil Wayne in prison, Drake told MTV that his boss advised him against tattoos. "Don't change yourself, please," Wayne apparently told Drake. "I've never met a young dude that has it figured out, but you got it."
This week, the MC, known as Aubrey Graham previously when he was an actor on the Canadian TV high-school drama Degrassi: The Next Generation, released his debut album, Thank Me Later. Sunday, he'll be one of the headlining performers at the MuchMusic Video Awards in Toronto. If the 23-year-old hip-hop phenom feels unsafe here, his apprehension may stem from the commotion his appearance could cause at an event that also stars host Miley Cyrus and the riot-starting Bieber. A free outdoor Drake concert in New York on Tuesday was shut down by police, as violence flared throughout the over-capacity crowd.
Responding to Drake's suggestion that he feels less than secure in his own hometown, Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash said: "If he has any concerns at all, he should contact police. That's something we would take very seriously."
Drake is more likely to take the advice of a hip-hop mentor than the Toronto Police Department, no disrespect intended. On the album track Light Up, a fatherly verse from the rapping superstar Jay-Z is a warning: "Drake, here is how they goin' to come at you/ with silly raps for you, tryin' to distract you."
So far, the distractions haven't worked. One million Drake fans can't be wrong - they love the Drake.