Eccentric musician and celebrity interviewer Nardwuar The Human Serviette (real name: John Ruskin) has a unique, some might say grating, high-energy style that has made him a legend in his native Canada. With his frizzy hair, squeaky voice, and plaid tam o’ shanter, he is anything but a smooth, polished broadcast professional. But his odd approach sometimes yields amazing results, as when he recently conducted a wide-ranging, hour-long chat with Drake and producer Noah “40” Shebib, both fellow Canadians, from within the cozy confines of Shebib’s State Of The Art Studio in Toronto. While Drake’s relationship with the press has not always been an easy one, this conversation is cordial and winning. What helps is that Nardwuar has done his homework for this interview and brings Drake and 40 an armload of gifts, including records, magazines, books, toys, and DVDs. The men mostly talk about the musicians (Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield), athletes (Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant), and other performers who have influenced Drake’s life and career. For those wanting to see Drizzy at his most relaxed and giggly, this interview is manna from heaven.
Things get off to a good start when Nardwuar presents Drake and 40 with an official Notorious B.I.G. action figure. Other goodies include a vintage Rolling Stone with Michael Jackson on the cover and a whole slew of R&B, dancehall, and hip-hop singles, some of which Drake has sampled on his songs. There is, for instance, a discussion of Timmy Thomas, whose “Why Can’t We Live Together” formed the basis for the backing track of “Hotline Bling.” Drake admits he hadn’t heard the original record until after making “Hotline,” but now it’s one of his favorite songs of all time. Also up for discussion: Drake’s longtime crushes on Pam Grier and Tyra Banks and the viability of professional athletes who make records of their own. (Drake cops to being a Shaq fan “for a minute.”) The popular rapper is very much a student of hip-hop, and he graciously gives credit to the Memphis and Houston rap scenes for the influence they’ve had on him. But closest to Drake’s heart is Toronto, whose CN Tower is featured on the cover of Views. Canadian pride is a definite hallmark of this conversation.