Feature: The many faces of Drake

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From the February 16, 2012 edition

Listening to urban radio in 2012 is like eavesdropping on a close cadre of megastars. As if to preserve some semblance of monoculture against a rising tide of niche success stories, programmers lean hard on a handful of rappers and singers the way Judd Apatow leans on his narrow stable of actors. The same performers (Rihanna, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown, et al.) repeatedly combine and reshuffle until they blur into a monolithic sex-charged ego trip spilling ceaselessly from pop music’s Mount Olympus.

No one has wedged his way to the center of this clique as successfully as Drake. The Toronto-based rapper-singer is not a hip-hop stereotype — a Canadian, half-Jewish former teen soap opera actor — but his omnipresent hybrid of rap and R&B is becoming one. Rarely does a half-hour pass on Power 107.5 without his voice.

Besides five songs from his 2011 sophomore opus “Take Care” (named album of the year by Alive), he appears on a spectrum of singles by other mainstays. Recently he teamed for hits with everybody from sultry veteran diva Mary J. Blige (“Mr. Wrong”) to snarling pot-bellied street soldier Waka Flocka Flame (“Round of Applause”).

Drake fancies himself a tastemaker, which is why the Club Paradise Tour (hitting the Schott this Saturday) features critical darlings Kendrick Lamar and ASAP Rocky as openers. That’s just one of the hats Drake wears; let’s explore his many personas currently saturating the airwaves.

The chest-puffing party animal: “Headlines”

Key lyric: “Drinking every night because we drink to my accomplishments.”

(See also: “Over”)

The condescending not-really-feminist: “Make Me Proud”

Key lyric: “I’m so I’m so I’m so I’m so I’m so proud of you!”

(See also: “Best I Ever Had”)

The self-pitying sad sack: “Marvins Room”

Key lyric: “I’m having a hard time adjusting to fame.”

(See also: “The Resistance”)

The narcissistic eulogizer: “The Motto”

Key lyric: “Rest in peace Mac Dre/ I’m-a do it for the Bay.”

(See also: The Aaliyah tattoo on Drake’s back)

The awkward lothario: “Take Care”

Key lyric: “What’s a life with no fun/ Please don’t be so ashamed.”

(See also: “Find Your Love”)

The strip club romantic: Waka Flocka Flame’s “Round of Applause”

Key lyric: “I just throw a couple bills and she’ll have a pair of heels.”

(See also: “The Ride”)

The conflicted player: Mary J. Blige’s “Mr. Wrong”

Key lyric: “And we hold hands while I pray she’s not the type to hold grudges.”

(See also: “Marvins Room”)

The cold-hearted materialist: DJ Khaled’s “I’m On One”

Key lyric: “All I care about is money and the city that I’m from.”

(See also: “Successful”)

The creeper: Lil Wayne’s “She Will”

Key lyric: “I said I don’t doubt you for a second/ I squeeze it and I can tell how it feel.”

(See also: “Practice”)

The hometown hero: Future’s “Tony Montana”

Key lyric: “Shout out to Toronto/ B--- I’m Tony in my city!”

(See also: “Crew Love”)