In a couple of weeks from now, Toronto will be hosting the largest (if not one of the largest) sporting events in this city’s history. Sorry CFL fans & Grey Cup Guzzlers, it’s the truth. The NBA All Star Game & Weekend is finally coming across the border. I personally have been waiting for this since the NBA announced that Toronto & Vancouver were getting NBA Franchises back in the early 90s. I assumed once the Raptors got settled in (much like Miami, Charlotte, Orlando, & Minnesota a few short years after getting an expansion team), they would get to host an All Star game. Nope. Instead we had to wait 20 years for the NBA to finally deem Toronto worthy. Now that it’s almost showtime, many people are extremely excited for the opportunity to see what all the hype is all about. Almost as big as the event itself, everyone’s wondering what Drake is going to do for that weekend.
The only things that’s been confirmed so far is that he will be coaching one of the teams in the Celebrity Game against Kevin Hart, & that he’s releasing his OVO Jordans the same weekend. Outside of that, no one knows what else he has planned just yet. It could be everything, it could be nothing. He could do concerts across the city, he could perform in front of Maple Leaf Square; or at Dundas Square; or take a heated flatbed down Yonge St & perform all his songs Carnival-style like Kendrick Lamar did in L.A. last summer; or he could just attend all the parties like everyone else (doubtful, but technically an option). No one knows for sure.* If I’m Drake though, none of the above listed items will have as much impact as him releasing “Views From The 6” during All Star weekend…. you know, IF that’s what he chooses to do. It would be the smartest of moves if he pulls that off again like he did for last year’s All Star Weekend. To recap, here’s what happened last February & the impact it had once If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late came out:
The Unexpected Album Drop. In today’s music climate, it has become hard to generate a healthy buzz for your album, and unless you’re a major superstar artist, it’s even harder to make that flip towards large amounts of sales. The music game has changed greatly in the last ten years as you know (think about it: when was the last time you bought a CD off the shelf? Or in a store for that fact?) Unless your album is filled with classic material & that fact is being promoted all throughout the music industry before your album release, generating an album release buzz is much more difficult than it used to be. You know what works in our social media/digital age instead? Unexpected Album Drops! (Let’s refer to it as “UAD” for the remainder of the article). Nothing sets social media on fire more than your favorite artist dropping a new album on you without warning. Not only does it create major news & help that artist trend everywhere, it’s also protection from the album being leaked earlier than its scheduled release date. In a way, it puts the power back into the artist hands. A few artists have done it prior to “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” (ie. Beyonce’s last album), but when Drake did it last winter, it set Twitter on fire. By the next morning, customized “If You’re Reading This…” memes & gifs were already on heavy rotation before you even heard a track. A lead-off single, or a pre-album write up in XXL wasn’t needed. The public literally determined what was hot from the album, & within a few weeks, 14 songs from the album made it on the Billboard charts, something only the Beatles accomplished in music history (until Justin Bieber beat that record with his Purpose album). Let’s take it a bit further…..
He Sent a Shot to His Competition. We all remember the whole Drake vs Diddy episode, so I won’t rehash it here. What was underrated about the UAD was its timing. At Madison Square Garden last All Star Thursday, Diddy had his first concert to kick off the All Star Weekend, as well as his 20th Anniversary of Bad Boy Records, his first concert in years. It had many, many big names from Snoop, to Nas, to Dr. Dre, to entire former Bad Boy Family + countless surprise guests performing on stage. Looked like an awesome time to be honest. On top of that, whoever couldn’t attend was able to stream the concert on their devices. Around midnight, while the concert was in full swing, Drake does a UAD on the masses. Within the hour, the streaming numbers took a bit of a hit, and even people at the concert took their attention off the stage for a few moments to check their phones respecting the breaking news. It was a chess move. By the time the concert was over, everyone focused their attention to digesting the album for the remainder of the weekend, therefore, putting the spotlight squarely back on Drake. What a time to have it on him because…..
His Album Dropped during “Black Super Bowl” Weekend. Shout out to Bill Simmons for being the first person to publicly coin that term as the “aka” for the NBA All Star Weekend. Since the mid-80s, that weekend has been known for when all the biggest black celebrities in the world get together to take part in the festivities and parties. The All Star Game & festivities take over wherever the host city it’s in like Bigfoot. So naturally, when Drake’s UAD happened, all the celebrities & athletes devoured it like everyone else that weekend, sharing their favorite songs & slangs from the album all over social media. Of course, this is all being re-tweeted & liked by their own followers hundreds of thousands of times, basically making the buzz now turn into The Hulk. You couldn’t possibly pay for better promotion that this.
His Album Dropped on Family Day Weekend. For those that don’t live in Ontario, starting in 2008, an extra long weekend was added to the calendar & was no longer to be the only province in the country with the lowest long weekend totals every year. The great part about Family Day Weekend is that every year it falls on All Star Weekend, so for you hoop junkies (myself included), this is a great weekend to kick back & watch all the festivities and old All Star Game marathons on NBA TV…… as well as spend quality time with family of course (coving my ass here folks). For Torontonians, Drake’s UAD became the official soundtrack for the weekend. Everyone riding around the city in the -45 degree climate to hit up clubs, get-togethers &/or house parties was bumping Drake’s most Toronto-centric album he’s made. I mentioned this to some friends after listening to it the first time. Anyone who was born & raised in Toronto basically stuck out their chests here. Pretty soon, the world would start implementing some of Toronto’s ebonics into their slang venacular. If Drake was the unofficial King of the City, this album added a couple of more rubles to his crown.
He Completed his Contract with Young Money/Cash Money? In one of the smarter moves around, with this particular UAD, Drake would have fulfilled his album obligations with Young Money/Cash Money. With the Cash Money empire in major flux, he may have jumped out the window of a burning house to free himself up towards his own OVO Sound Record Label. Although it keeps being called a Mixtape, it was sold on iTunes with YMCMB attached to it, and also scanned as one of the few platinum albums in the music business for 2015, therefore fulfilling his 4-album contract with his label in the process. If this is actually the case here, these strategies are almost Sun Tzu-like. (Here’s something that needs to be asked: Considering he put out an album that had no marketing or promotion of any kind, yet he still went platinum & broke records on the charts, does he really need to be signed to a record label with anybody at all? Do you really even need a distribution deal from a record label when you’re at his level, if his albums are being bought online & streamed exclusively? It’s an interesting thought.)
We can all admit now whether you love him or hate him, Drake is having an unbelievable 12 months. From winning rap battles, releasing another “Mixtape” with Future, dropping “Hotline Bling” which has taken off on the music charts, Serena, the Apple Deal, launching apps, & continuing to make OVO into one of the hottest brands in Hip Hop.
However, if he repeats the method & release an album’s worth of new material in a couple of weeks, it will further cement his legacy in Toronto. It’s one thing to do what he did in New York City, but putting out Views From The 6 when the spotlight will already be shining on Toronto (especially if the album is nice) will take it to another level. It could be an added event that nobody in the city ever forgets, especially for the ones that share his generational demographic. The Drake Brand can post another win locally and worldwide.
Here’s an underrated reason that’s potentially being glossed over…..
I for one, have always believed that Drake’s role as Global Ambassador of the Toronto Raptors was an underrated move by the Raptors. Just for the simple fact that he is either friends with a lot of major superstar players, or the ones that don’t know him personally (especially the younger players) revere him. In other words, because of who he is, he can put himself in places the average NBA GM cannot, simply due to his lifestyle. Please don’t get it twisted, some of your favorite basketball players love hanging out in this city for quite some time, & you can see a lot of them roaming the city during Caribana Weekend when Drake has his annual OVO Fest.
It lends itself to what Tim Lieweke & Masai Ujiri started in 2013, which is changing the narrative & perception to how NBA players feel about playing in Toronto. At the very least, you want to be respected enough to have the good Free Agents listen to your phone call to get you in the room to take a meeting. 2016 has been deemed as an important year for the Raptors for quite some time now in terms of being seen as a world class city (which is already established), a world class basketball organization, & as major players in the NBA. The Raps have the All-Star game, the new practice facility (which is supposed to be amazing by all accounts) that will be ready shortly, & will be pulling all the stops to show the world what kind of organization this is. Drake’s role on the team whether you believe in it or not, has helped in some ways with raising the awareness about the city with other basketball players & pro athletes. IF Drake does a UAD, the momentum of the aftershocks of that might play a part in how some of these athletes feel about playing for this city in a few months. You might laugh at that & say that’s ridiculous, but a couple of years ago, would you ever think you’d see Kevin Durant wearing a David Price Blue Jays jersey at a concert in Toronto either? I want to make this clear. This is not about believing that Drake can sign players. It’s about changing the perception about how people view a franchise to the point that you’re respected enough for Free Agents to listen to your pitch. That’s all that matters in these cases, that you get a chance to get your foot in the door & make a pitch.
As long as he’s affiliated to the Raptors, doing things like dropping UADs on All-Star weekend to help alter the environment for Player X’s enjoyment for example, helps market the Raptors down the line. It’s almost like dining at an upscale restaurant. You go there for the main course, but if the side dishes are incredible, the wine is aged just right & the service is top notch, you’re going to remember that restaurant experience once it’s time to decide where to dine out again, right? While I’m not relegating Drake’s UAD potential to a side dish, in the case of the Raptors place in the NBA Landscape, experiencing that on a weekend such as this could be placed in a future Free Agent’s memory bank, whether he’s there or hears about it from his peers.
It could be an interesting time in a couple of weeks in Toronto IF this album drops that weekend, going along with all the all-star festivities. Stay tuned…..
* I’m also hearing rumors courtesy of Jacky Jasper that the City of Toronto is banning Drake from headlining any after parties during All Star Weekend due to the aftermath of the shootings from the OVO Fest After Parties at Muzik nightclub last summer. You can read about it here, more as this develops of course.
– Everyone keeps making fun of LeBron’s hairline issues & begging for him to cut his hair off. So, you guys are just gonna keep ragging on LBJ, but let Marcus Thornton walk these streets freely huh? That’s actually going to happen?
– If the over/under for Half American/Half Canadian babies being born in late November that were conceived in Toronto is 100, I’m taking the over. I’ll also bet about 8-10 of those babies will come with annual six-figure attachments by way of the Child Support Express…..
– The narrative of LeBron being totally unaware about David Blatt being fired like the rest of society……I don’t want to call someone an outright liar or anything, but I also have no frigging idea how to finish this sentence so…..
– If a condom company was smart, they’d have a kiosk planted at every major hotel across Toronto in about two weeks……
– Do I have to apologize for liking Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” song? I mean, I don’t have to hold onto that secret any longer, right? Ok, cool. Phew!!….
– After watching Steph Curry dismantle the Spurs on Monday, is there any way that the NBA could just announce the regular season MVP award to Curry during the All Star weekend? There really isn’t any point of waiting until May to officially give it to him….
– You’ve seen Josh Smith & Lance Stephenson slapboxing on the bench during OT of that Clippers game a couple weeks ago, right? #KnuckNation
– Speaking of the Knucklehead Awards, did Blake Griffin submit his registration forms too late for this year, or was he getting an early jump on next year’s awards? How do you do that to your boy (Assistant Equipment manager of the Clippers), & what the hell could have been said that you punch him (at a packed restaurant apparently), then follow him out the restaurant to punch him again, repeatedly? Did he sleep with your woman? Stole money from you?? Wore your underwear??? What’s the story here?!?!
– As far as David Blatt is concerned, his major problem was that he wasn’t meant to coach this team. He signed on to coach a rebuilding team with young players headlined by Kyrie Irving & Andrew Wiggins being the faces of the franchise. Then LeBron decided to come home & changed everything. They went from “let’s hope to make the playoffs in the next couple of years” to “championship or bust” by the time training camp started. It’s asking a lot out of most coaches, much less Blatt to coach that kind of team, especially when you have never coached in the NBA before. Once LeBron started treating Blatt like someone who showered every 5th day but always wants to hug it out, everyone else followed suit, including Tyronne Lue who used to call timeouts behind his back.
Unlike Miami’s situation a few years ago, Blatt did not have the backing from management & ownership to stand firm with LeBron. So it was only a matter of time. On top of that, personally, he always seemed a little pompous to me, always reminding people in interviews that he won a million championships in Israel, as if he had to continually validate himself to the public that he was a good coach and not Lebron’s wash cloth. He may have been doomed to fail from the start, but between that, and what Brendan Haywood had to say about the situation, it’s not as if he exactly helped himself either.
Cal Cee // South Shore Ave
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