Drake might be in the running for five Grammys, but it’s his entry in one race that has elicited the most buzz.
The Canadian rapper-singer landed two nominations in rap performance: “Truffle Butter,” the Nicki Minaj house banger that he guested on, and his own track, “Back to Back.”
Released in the middle of summer, “Back to Back” wasn’t a radio promo single or an album track. Instead, it’s a diss track aimed at Meek Mill, who dared to push the superstar into a corner. “Back to Back,” one of two tracks released at the height of his summer beef with the Philly emcee, came after some pretty serious allegations that Drake employs a ghostwriter for his lyrics, which is the most serious indictment you can lob at a rapper.
After being blasted on a Twitter rant that spawned speculation into the rapper’s entire discography, Drake opted for an old-school approach: He penned a great diss record, and two of them at that.
While diss records have long been part of rap tradition, Drake’s release via Apple Music — part of a high-profile deal he struck with the streaming service — allowed him to flex more than biting lyrics. Recording a track that sends fans of your opponent on the defensive puts points on the scoreboard. But having the biggest digital music retailer release your track and feature it prominently on its service is a game-ender.
Beyond the diss record, a few of Drake’s other nominations also reward the new, Apple-boosted approach he took to releasing music this year.
In February, he quietly released If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late on iTunes. The 17-song mixtape was sold in a year when fans were already expecting a full length from the performer, and that didn’t keep it from becoming an instant smash.
It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and was the first album from 2015 to cross the million sales mark, according to Nielsen Music. In April, months after its digital release, it received a physical release. One of the project’s standout cuts, the anthemic “Energy,” landed a surprise nod for rap song as the performer’s latest ear worm, “Hotline Bling,” owns the zeitgeist.