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"I just want to be successful," Aubrey Drake Graham sings on his 2009 mixtape, So Far Gone. From a 23-year-old who's worked with Jay-Z, Kanye West, Eminem and Lil Wayne — all before releasing an official LP — such wish-casting couldn't be less necessary.

  Success for Drake seems preordained: His father, Dennis Graham, drummed for Jerry Lee Lewis; two uncles, Teenie Hodges and Larry Graham, defined the guitar and bass sounds for Al Green and Sly & the Family Stone, respectively. The Toronto native spent much of the 2000s as a regular on the Canadian teen soap Degrassi: The Next Generation, but his budding second career as an MC already has surpassed his screen credits. So Far Gone, his third mixtape since 2006, took over club set lists largely by virtue of its two lead singles, "Successful" and "Best I Ever Had," both of which portrayed the singer as bruised rather than a bruiser, a bridge between sensitive neo-soul '90s crooners like D'Angelo and Maxwell and his bulletproof hip-hop contemporaries.

  Drake's cultivated image may be trampled yet on the MC's forthcoming debut for Young Money Entertainment — provided it ever actually sees release. The album, aptly titled Thank Me Later, has been delayed three different times since Lil Wayne proclaimed it was finished in November. (It's now slated for June.) March sneak preview "Over" has Weezy's slippery sonic stamp all over it; other confirmed guests on the record include West, Jay-Z, The-Dream, Kings of Leon and Alicia Keys. With rumored targets covering disparate reference points from Sade to Andre 3000, here's hoping Drake's success rate holds up. — Noah Bonaparte Pais


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