Aubrey Drake Graham. Rap star. Grammy Award winner. Multi-millionaire. Jimmy on the Canadian teenage drama Degrassi: The Next Generation. You throw a rock at a label, and it probably describes Drake in some way. Throw in enthusiastic, if not annoying to many, Toronto Raptors fan.
While not nearly as the same level of fame, Drake’s father Dennis Graham is also a man of many talents. He’s a Memphis-based musician who’s drummed with some legendary talents. He’s a TV producer, as well as the mentor to a son who is the highest-certified digital singles artist ever in the United States, having moved 142 million units.
Here’s what you need to know about Graham.
1. Dennis Met Drake’s Mom Sandra at a Club in Toronto
According to Billboard, Graham met his future wife and Drake’s mom Sandra (Sandi) Sher at Club Bluenote in Toronto. The Guardian states that she is a white Ashkenazi Jew who was an English teacher and florist.
Even with the mixed marriage, Drake still identifies as black, per Biography.
Speaking about his personal identity, Drake says: “At the end of the day, I consider myself a black man because I’m more immersed in black culture than any other. Being Jewish is kind of a cool twist. It makes me unique.”
Dennis and Sandi split up when Drake was just five. Dennis left for Memphis, while Sandi stayed in Toronto to raise their son. She tried to provide as much as possible despite lesser means than their neighbors in the affluent neighborhood of Forest Hill. Per the Guardian:
The family home was in the working-class west side of the city, before the Grahams moved to the more affluent Forest Hill in what Drake has claimed were still relatively straitened circumstances: “I went to school with kids that were flying private jets. I never fit in. I was never accepted.”
Drake has written several songs about his complicated relationship with his mother.
2. Dennis is a Memphis-Born Jazz, Blues & Soul Musician
Drake has music in his blood, because his father does, as well. Dennis grew up in the famous musical city of Memphis to a talented family. According to Billboard, his uncle was Willie Mitchell, a producer who worked for the Memphis soul label Hi Records and Al Green, while his cousin, Teenie Hodges, also collaborated with Green.
He taught himself to play the piano, guitar, and drums as a kid. Raised by a single mother to the sounds of B.B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Little Johnny Taylor, and Sam Cooke, Graham often had to be resourceful. His first drum kit was a converted tin bathtub. His cousin accompanied him on the cardboard box.
He ended being a part-time drummer for Jerry Lee Lewis starting at age 18. Drake told Hip Hop Canada in 2006 that there was no way to avoid absorbing his family’s musical talent.
My grandmother who passed away in Memphis, used to baby-sit Louie Armstrong and my dad like you said was a drummer for Jerry Lee Lewis. My dad used to live it up back in his day and was friends with many people in the industry as well as people like Mohammed Ali. And all of that sort of ran in that circle of great musicians, and my dad has many stories… that is why I love sitting with my dad.
“It’s in [Drake’s] blood,” Graham said plainly to Billboard.
3. Dennis Faced Drug Charges After the Divorce, But Later Straightened Things Out to Help Raise Drake in Memphis
According to DJ Booth, Dennis was “in and out of (Drake’s) life due to drug charges that lead to his incarceration” after divorcing Sandi. “Insufficient funds led to him selling drugs and later locked up,” writes Yoh Phillips.
Even though he considers himself Canadian, Drake also affiliates with the United States, as he spent a lot of time with his father in Memphis after the legal issues. Dennis told Variety that the two would take long car rides between Toronto and Memphis and share music.
Yeah, he knows everything I know. He knows all the music that I came up with, he had to listen to. We used to take 18-hour drives down to Memphis every summer, we would take turns listening to his music and my music. He turned me on to rap music and I turned him on to my music. We switched off in the car.
Drake has also expressed his rocky relationship with Dennis through his music, something that Dennis has said the two have talked about.
“It was good to hear some things,” Graham admitted to Billboard. “We had a discussion about some of the things that were said, and it’s all good. Because I know why he was doing it. He explained to me why, so it made it alright.”
4. Dennis & Drake Talk to Each Other About Several Projects
Dennis frequently appears with Drake in various projects, including a recent commercial for Virginia Black, an American Bourbon whiskey brand sponsored by the rap star. In the article with Variety, Dennis also expressed that Drake used to give advice on his dad’s music, including the 2019 single “That on That.”
Drake was the first one to tell me, “Dad, I love that song.” He sent me a text message actually. [Shows text that reads “So f—ing good.”] Drake heard it when I first did it 10 years ago. He had heard it before because everything that he did, he used to send to me first. And whatever I did, I used to send to him. But now he’s too busy for that, he doesn’t send me anything now.
In May 2019, Dennis revealed to Too Fab that he asked Drake for feedback on a new television show called “Fame and Family.” The program is focused on interviewing parents of superstar artists, says Dennis. He states that he interviewed record executive Master P and “Blackish” star Deon Cole already.
5. The Mustachioed Graham Has Nearly 400k Followers on Instagram & Several Celebrity Friends
Dennis’ Instagram page shows over 376,000 followers. His signature look is flashy clothes tied together with a flowing mustache.
He frequently posts pictures of him with other rap stars, such as Snoop Dogg, Lil’ Wayne, Wiz Khalifa, Miguel and Big Sean. He also has several posts with female fans.