Canadian rap ambassador Drake, who has worked with dozens of homegrown artists on his albums and regularly touts his native Toronto — and Canada overall — in his music and onstage banter, appears to be shunning the country’s biggest awards show, the Junos.
For the second year in a row, the rapper’s record label and management team did not submit Drake’s album for consideration — and most assuredly nomination — to the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (CARAS), the industry nonprofit which puts on the Juno Awards.
Drake’s latest release, the double-disc “Scorpion,” came out last summer. The deadline for all submissions was November 9, 2018. The awards are handed out over two nights at a private gala dinner and televised show, this year being held in London, Ontario on March 16 and 17.
“Ultimately, this is a question for his camp,” CARAS CEO and president Allan Reid told Variety when asked about the Drake-Junos drought. “While he opted not to submit this year, we’re feeling optimistic that he submitted to the Grammys and we look forward to seeing him at the Junos again in the future.”
“Scorpion” would have been eligible for rap recording of the year — or another craft category such as pop album — album of the year, single of the year (for “God’s Plan” or “In My Feelings”).
Once submitted, screening committees of eight to 10 experts review each musical work, sometimes shifting a release to another category, but it is ultimately the artist’s choice which category they wish to be in. Ten judges, or the body of CARAS academy delegates, then cast their vote for the final nominees.
Winners are voted on by CARAS academy delegates or judges depending on the category, except for the fan choice, for which Drake is also eligible. However his name does not appear on a list that includes Alessia Cara, Avril Lavigne, Shawn Mendes, The Weeknd and Tory Lanez, among others. “We didn’t include him [because] they opted not to participate,” adds Reid.
Last year, Drake’s “More Life” wasn’t submitted to CARAS either. Since winning new artist of the year in 2010, the rapper has walked away with another six trophies. He has been nominated 33 times.
In 2011, the year he hosted the awards in his hometown, he was nominated six times but won zero. In 2016, “Views” was submitted; he was up for five and again didn’t win any. He was, however, recognized with the international achievement award.
Toronto publicist Dalton Higgins, author of the Drake biography “Far From Over,” devoted a whole chapter to Drake and the Junos called “Juno Diss?”
“In Canada’s ‘urban’ music scene, the feeling has always been that Drake got snubbed at the 40th edition of the Awards show,” Higgins told Variety in an email. “He got six nominations, was the leading rap artist in North America, never mind Canada, and won nothing in his home country. How bizarre was that? … It was also the first time in the history of the Awards that a musician who agreed to host the show and had nominated music didn’t win at least one award. When acts like Nelly Furtado, Shania Twain, Celine Dion hosted the Junos, they won 12 awards combined. … It felt like a massive slap in the face to both him, and some other powerful entities in the Canadian music biz.”
Why no love for Drizzy? For one thing, like the Grammys and NARAS, CARAS has had to make efforts to reach more urban and younger voters, strides that Higgins says he’s seen in recent years. “The leadership at the Juno Awards of today, versus back then, is considerably stronger, where they are now connecting to people who actually know what they’re doing in the rap music scene. They’ve done roundtable discussions. They even reached out to me to give them honest feedback on what seems to be working well, or not. And that is smart and takes some courage.”
No word yet on whether Drake will show up to the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Feb. 10, where he’s the second-most nominated artist, up in seven categories including the top three awards — record of the year, album of the year and song of the year.