As much as competitors might want to credit something otherworldly for Drake’s all-out dominance in 2018, it wasn’t so much a higher spirit at work as the well-oiled machine that is Aubrey Graham Inc. “God’s Plan,” the top song of the year with a consumption total of 5.5 million, started with a leaked snippet that instantly garnered a strong reaction.
“It was clear [right away] what we had,” says Drake’s longtime producer Noah “40” Shebib, who is credited on the track alongside Cardo, Yung Exclusive and Boi-1da. “We knew it had to be released.”
The next lightbulb moment came with the concept for the video, during which Drake doled out nearly $1 million, the clip’s allotted budget, to needy recipients in the Miami area and beyond, including a local high school, homeless shelter, grocery store and a student struggling with tuition fees. “Don’t tell the label,” the title screen teased. The video premiered in February, a month after the song’s debut, and so far has racked up more than 875 million views on YouTube alone.
“The video was a really special moment for all of us,” Shebib says. “And possibly more real than anyone will ever understand.”
“God’s Plan,” with its endlessly quotable lyrics — “I only love my bed and my mama, I’m sorry” — also showed a vulnerable side to the Toronto rapper. To wit, the lines: “I been movin’ calm, don’t start no trouble with me / Tryna keep it peaceful is a struggle for me,” and the refrain, “A lot of bad things … they wishin’ on me.” The song’s accessibility carried it over to Top 40 and Rhythm, where it’s nearing 3 billion radio impressions to date.
Leading the Drake charge at Republic were exec VP and general manager Jim Roppo, exec VP of commerce, streaming and digital strategy Kevin Lipson; and executive VP of international marketing Mike Alexander. The strategy, to create multiple marketing events through advertising, digital initiatives and a video roll-out campaign, included a global takeover of Spotify. The album art to “Scorpion” covered more than 100 playlists, including every Hits playlist around the world and, between “God’s Plan,” “In My Feelings” and “Nice for What,” Drake claimed the top spot on the streamer’s chart for more than 150 days.
“Songs need a reason to exist,” says Shebib. “’God’s Plan’ was exactly that.”