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Gone So Far: A look back at the impact of Drake’s debut mixtape

Drake 'So Far Gone'

Drake celebrated the 10th anniversary of his debut mixtape on Feb. 13.

Feb. 13 marked the 10-year anniversary of Drake’s debut mixtape, “So Far Gone.”

To celebrate the occasion, the Toronto-based rapper released the project on all digital platforms, including Spotify and Apple Music.

The re-release of “So Far Gone” is an opportunity to look back at the beginning of the decade-long, chart-topping career that came from Wheelchair Jimmy on “Degrassi.”

All the way through, “So Far Gone” follows the formula of every Drake album: rap verses about lost love and R&B hooks of emotional struggles. However, to understand the impact of "So Far Gone," you must look at it in the context of the year it came out.

In 2009, the hip-hop industry was just coming down from the ‘bling bling’ era. Lil Wayne was littered across the Billboard charts and Soulja Boy was just blowing up. Most significantly, Kanye West had just dropped “808s & Heartbreak,” an album that rewrote the rules for a rap album.

To say that Drake’s music career wouldn’t exist without “808s & Heartbreak” would be an understatement. It was the first album featuring a rapper exchanging rapping for singing. The lyrics were emotional and lovelorn. It shocked the industry and inspired a new generation of rappers who aren’t afraid to sing.

This influence can be drawn directly to “So Far Gone,” specifically the track “Say What’s Real.” The song features Drake singing and rapping over the instrumental to Kanye West’s “Say You Will” from the album “808s & Heartbreak.”

“Say What’s Real” is Drake acknowledging the influence that he got from Kanye. The rest of the mixtape is Drake taking this new style to a new level. Significant moments of this new style include late-night club banger “Houstatlantavegas”and “Successful," a classic Drake record about reaching for the stars with features from Trey Songz and Drake’s mentor Lil Wayne.

Much of the commercial success of “So Far Gone,” as well as much of Drake’s career, is owed to Lil Wayne’s mentorship. Wayne discovered Drake’s talent prior to the release of “So Far Gone,” immediately signing him to his Young Money label and providing four features on Drake’s debut mixtape.

Taking the melodic and heartbroken singing of “808s & Heartbreak” and blending it with the southern rap influences passed down from his mentor, Drake created a new wave within the hip-hop industry. Over the course of a decade, this style has grown and inspired a generation of artists who walk in the path this mixtape created.

Looking back at “So Far Gone” 10 years later, now that Drake has more Billboard chartings than the Beatles, the power of the project can finally be felt. With the mid-2018 release of Drake’s latest album, “Scorpion,” he had the top song in the county. As Drake topped the charts, it was announced that hip-hop had grown to the point of making up over 70 percent of all top 10 hits in 2018, according to Billboard. That is over double the amount of hip-hop records in the top 10 compared to the previous year.

The growth in hip-hop’s popularity and the emergence of a rap superstar capable of blending genres is not a coincidence. In the past decade, there has rarely been a major moment in the hip-hop industry that hasn’t had Drake attached to it in some way. No matter what he does next, there is no doubt that Drake has gone so far.

entertainment.ed@ocolly.com