Drake was feeling forlorn, so he took a walk through the streets of Toronto to clear his mind. As he turned the corner of Queen onto Church Street, he noticed an old man sitting down with a chess board. “Do you play, young man?” the man asked, and Drake nodded. “Yeah, a little. Not in a while.” Why not, Drake thought? Maybe playing this game would take his head out of the rap game. The old man was far more practiced, but Drake held his own. As the match progressed, the chatter between the two became more familiar, with the old man offering sage advice about love and finding moments of peace and clarity in the clutter of city life.
As they approached the endgame, it dawned on Drake all at once: This man had no idea who he was. As the old man declared checkmate, Drake was not disappointed to lose — if anything, he was overwhelmed by a feeling of intense joy for making this genuine connection to someone of a very different generation. But the feeling passed quickly, and Drake quietly muttered, “No new friends, no no new,” before standing up from the stone bench. “What was that, young man? My hearing is not what it used to be,” the man said. Drake turned away. “Nothing. Thanks for the game, old-timer.” Drake walked away without looking back.
Drake was backstage at the BET Awards when he heard a familiar voice.
“Drizzy Drake! What’s happening?”
It was Kendrick Lamar, winner of the Best Male Hip-Hop Artist award. Drake had been up for the award too, but he wasn’t sore about it. How could he be? His debut album was an instant classic, and he had the privilege to appear on one of the best tracks, “Poetic Justice.” And besides, he’d already won two awards that night. Why not spread the wealth?
“K-Dot, sup,” Drake said, turning around with a big smile. “Best male rapper, that’s tight. I’m not even mad at ya.”
“Thanks again for being on ‘Poetic Justice,’ it was a real honor,” Lamar said, reaching out to shake his hand.
“Think nothing of it, man,” Drake said. “My only regret is that we weren’t in the booth together, and we weren’t on the set for the video.”
“Yeah, we gotta change that,” Lamar said, nodding emphatically. “Let’s book some real studio time, do some Watch the Throne shit, just me and you.”
“Yeah! I don’t usually say this to other emcees, but I wish my verse on ‘Fuckin’ Problems’ was even half as good as yours,” Drake said with a slightly sheepish tone. “‘Halle Berry, HALLELUJAH!’ — that’s some good shit right there.”
Lamar reached out for a hug, and Drake acquiesced, though he wasn’t normally the type who likes to hug. As the two held each other, Drake was overcome with a feeling of respect and acceptance. Kendrick was one of the few rappers in the game who was about his age and had the same level of talent and success. If anyone out there could truly understand him, it was Kendrick. Fate had brought them together.
“Is it true what you say in that song?” Lamar asked as they broke apart from their brief embrace. “No new friends?”
“I dunno,” Drake mumbled, and then looked down at his phone, pretending to read a text. “Look, I gotta go.” He picked up his drink and walked down the hall to his dressing room without saying another word.
“Peace,” Lamar said, waving good-bye.
Drake slumped down into his first-class seat, anxiously waiting for the Air Canada flight to depart from Toronto Pearson International Airport to New York. Moments earlier, a flight attendant announced over the intercom that the flight would be delayed indefinitely due to unforeseen storm activity. He could feel his heart sink — not only would he be late for a recording session in Brooklyn, but the risk of being recognized by people milling about in the aisles would skyrocket. He tugged his ball cap down over his eyes and crossed his arms.
“Bad news, eh?”
Drake took a quiet breath and looked over to the passenger to his left. “It’s bullshit, and it happens every time I’ve got to go down to the States,” the passenger said. “Is this gonna mess up your schedule as much as mine?”
“Yeah,” Drake mumbled. “S’fucked up.”
“Yeah. I’m Jeff, by the way.”
“Sup, Jeff. I’m Aubrey,” Drake said, pulling up his posture in his chair.
“I was all set to watch these episodes of Breaking Bad on my laptop. I’m re-watchin’ the last few episodes before the final run of them starts airin’ in a few weeks,” Jeff said, tapping anxiously on the lid of his computer.
“Ah, yeah, Breaking Bad, that’s a fucking great show,” Drake said, slightly surprised by his own enthusiasm. “I don’t even know what I’m gonna do if they kill off Jesse, man. I don’t think I could take it.”
“Actually, you know, my theory is that Jesse will live, but he’s gonna kill Walt,” Jeff said.
“Word?” Drake said, pausing to consider the dramatic irony. “I think that’d fuck me up too, to be honest. I really don’t want the show to end.”
“Me and some of my friends from university are going to do this email thing where we all talk about the new episodes when they air,” Jeff said. “You wanna get in on that?”
Drake had to stifle himself. Of course he would, why would he not? He was never satisfied with the chatter amongst his circle of friends about the show, and would love to dig deep into each episode with intelligent and devoted fans. But no. The vow: No new friends. He must stay true to his word.
“Yeah, maybe,” Drake said, breaking his eye contact. “I’m gonna get some sleep, man.” Drake abruptly turned to his side, shut his eyes, and never spoke to Jeff ever again.
Drake looked out over the Los Angeles skyline from the rooftop bar at The Standard, sipping the last of his Negroni as the sun set. He was bored by his company, and only showed up at the urging of some executives at Universal, the corporate parent of Young Money. He considered quietly leaving the party before noticing a beautiful, stylish girl standing awkwardly on her own near the bar. Drake moved closer and nodded to the bartender, “Hey, whatever she’s having, it’s on me.”
“Uh, I’ll have what he’s having,” she said, sounding at once nervous and flirtatious.
“So that’ll be two Negronis,” Drake said, perking up with confidence. He gave the bartender a generous tip and a friendly wink. He turned to the girl and passed her the drink. “What’s a pretty lady like you doing here on your own?”
“I didn’t come here alone, but I don’t know where my friend Rachel went,” she said. “You’re Drake, right? The rapper?”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said. “Are you a fan?”
“I like ‘Marvin’s Room’ a lot. Do you really drunk-dial girls like that, or is that just the song?” she said, with a note of mischief in her voice.
“Uhhh, yeah, from time to time,” Drake said, feigning embarrassment. “What’s your name? You in the industry?”
“I’m Natalia,” she said. “I’m not in show business, if that’s what you mean. I’m a teacher, third grade at a school out in the Valley.”
“No shit,” Drake said, lighting up with enthusiasm. “I used to be on a show about schools, and that got me really interested in education. I do a lot for public schools in Toronto — that’s where I’m from.”
“That’s amazing,” she said, leaning with a smile. “I wish I could help on that scale, but the best I can do is just teach.”
“That’s the most important thing anyone can do,” he said before letting out a deep sigh.
Drake spent the next hour in deep conversation with Natalia, talking about their passion for education and their hopes for school reform in their respective nations. He noticed early on that she was doing that thing where a woman casually mentions their boyfriend every once in a while so you don’t get the wrong idea, but he didn’t care. It was so rare that he could speak openly about this passion, how could he pass up this opportunity?
But then it dawned on him. If Natalia could not be his latest conquest, she would have to be his…friend. He balled his hand into a fist under the table and pounded on his leg as he bit his lip in frustration, remembering his solemn vow. No new friends. No new friends. No, no, no.
“Are you OK, Drake?” Natalia said.
“Yeah,” he said as he got up. “Look, it’s been nice talking to you, but I gotta go.”
“Uh, bye?” she said.
Drake weeped a single tear as he walked downstairs from the bar. He wiped it away before anyone else could see.