ARTS AND CULTURE
A Drake-Lover's Tour of Toronto
When a Canadian makes it big in the U.S. entertainment industry, his or her heritage is usually reduced to a sentence in the official bio. Toronto-born rapper Drake stands apart because he reps his hometown often and proudly, but its geography and culture are felt – directly and indirectly – in his music. Part of the fun in every new Drake release is spotting the local references, which naturally include a few shopping, restaurant and evening-out recommendations. Here’s a handy guide to exploring Toronto in Drake’s shoes.
October’s Very Own is Drake’s brand, which consists of a record label and, as of 2014, it is also a clothing boutique. The OVO Store stocks T-shirts, hoodies, snapbacks, jackets, and accessories branded with Drake’s owl logo, as well as limited edition collaborations with Canadian brands such as Roots and Canada Goose.
Ovo Store, 899 Dundas St. W.
OVO is also the name of Drake’s annual hip-hop festival that takes place every August at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre on Caribana Weekend. The concert is famous for A-list surprise guests such as Eminem, Stevie Wonder, Nicki Minaj, Kanye West and TLC, and as a Mecca for die-hard fans who rap along to every lyric while mimicking Drake’s hand-gestures in real-time.
Molson Canadian Amphitheatre
909 Lake Shore Blvd. W., 416-260-5600
Sotto Sotto, Il Mulino and Joso’s
Drake loves plugging his favorite restaurants. In “5am in Toronto” he describes “eating like I'm seated at Swish, Sotto and Joso’s.” However, a Drake reco is not always auspicious. Upscale Korean spot Swish is closed and Italian trattoria Sotto Sotto burned down on Christmas Day 2014. It has since relocated and reopened. Italian seafood eatery Joso’s remains a favorite, as does Il Mulino (1060 Eglinton Avenue West), the Forest Hill Village spot referenced in “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2.”
120 Avenue Rd., 416-962-0211
202 Davenport Rd., 416-925-1903
15 Fort York Blvd, Apartment 1503
The Toronto condo where Drake recorded part of his breakthrough mixtape So Far Gone is referenced in “Know Yourself” and “The Ride,” respectively. The building is located north of Lake Shore and west of Spadina Avenue in CityPlace, the city’s largest residential development complex and ground zero for Toronto’s condo boom.
One of Drake’s songs and his 2012 tour share a name with Club Paradise, a strip club on Bloor Street West. The club is locally famous for having a hole in the stage from which the dancers emerge, and is walking distance from the west-end studio where much of his 2011 album Take Care was recorded.
The Hazelton Hotel
Built in 2007, the Hazelton Hotel is a hive of celebrity activity during the Toronto International Film Festival. Drake thanked the hotel in the liner notes for mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Less glamorously, the luxury establishment made the news when another Canadian mega-star, Justin Bieber, was photographed spitting over a balcony.
118 Yorkville Avenue, 416-963-6300
Driving in the GTA
Drake’s musical influence encompass R&B and reggae and nod to Toronto’s multicultural mix, which is extends to its suburbs – or Greater Toronto Area – surrounding the city. The car is Toronto’s transportation mode of choice and songs such as “The Ride” and “Preach,” with its references to Mississauga, as well as Drake’s short film “Jungle,” evoke the feeling of cruising around the city’s outer suburbs.
“I got real ones livin’ past Kennedy Road. I got real ones with me everywhere that I go,” Drake raps on the song “Energy.” The east-end suburb of Scarborough, which was amalgamated into the City of Toronto in 1998, and its major streets pop up in Drake’s music in the form of local West Indian slang (“From Time”), and as a place he hung out in (“Wu-Tang Forever”) and worked (“ Worst Behaivior”).
The Toronto Raptors
Drake has ingratiated himself with local sports franchises, most notably as the exuberant “Global Ambassador” (a.k.a. unofficial mascot/in-house design consultant) of the Toronto Raptors, which now hosts an annual Drake Night. Prior to that, OVO collaborated on special edition hats with New Era and the Toronto Blue Jays.
Nomad and Stussy Toronto
Aside from the OVO Store, the best places to spot Drake’s circle of friends upgrading their wardrobes is at Nomad and Stussy Toronto, which previously hosted OVO’s pop-up shops.
819 Queen St. W., 416-202-8700
1000 Queen St. W., 416-537-9700