How a “Wigger” and a Trickle of Pee Started an Empire

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                 Drake and Tyler (second from left) at an event in 2015

Entertainer Drake is selling millions
of records and headlining SNL, but 26-year-old Houston native Tyler
Epps is just happy about one aspect of the singer’s career: “he
sounds believable now. On his records at least,” Epps says. It
wasn’t long ago that the former Degrassi star was a newcomer to
Hip-Hop, calling Reggae artist Kardinal Offishall “that nigger”
in an interview. Epps notes that after that event, Offishall’s people
cornered Drake in a hotel room and threatened to beat him up for
perceived racism.

“We were chillin’ in the hotel suite
with a couple chicks. I had to tell them to chill, he was green. He
didn’t know how to say n*gga yet. It wasn’t no racism behind it,”
Epps recalls. The shock of a white man defending Drake’s N-word usage
kept Offishall’s squad at bay.

Defending–and perfecting–Drake’s usage of the word was his job though. After a fateful 2007 day in Houston, Drake sought out
Epps, who grew up in the area, to teach him how to “talk like a real
one.”

Epps and Drake would do “n*gga”
drills. Drake would say “n*gga” in a rapid motion while Epps
threw up flashcards with different words. Drake quickly
said the word on the flash card, then reverted back to saying “n*gga.”
The drill gave Drake the phonetic memory to pull off future songs
like “We Made It.”

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                            Drake and two embarrassed men in 2007

Epps admits Drake called him in for
that record. “The connotation between “n*gga we made it” and
“nigger we made it” is pretty different from a guy who’s part
Jewish and doesn’t naturally talk the way he rhymes,” Epps admits.
He also contends that the presence of Soulja Boy—who once thanked
slave masters for bringing Africans to America—would have made the
wrong pronunciation a “commercial for white supremacy.”

The pair met when Drake took the bus
into Epps’ Trinity Gardens neighborhood and uttered, “where the
lean at niggers?” in a manner that had residents in a local “trap
house” thinking the police were coming.

“They had to flush like four bottles,
then they see it’s just some skinny lightskinned guy. He didn’t
have a lot of love in Houston at first,” Epps said through
laughter. The men came out and robbed Drake, and Epps–a self-described “lifelong wigger”–helped him up
and told him his mistake.

After being hired, Epps would give
Drake a crash course in how to deliver his rhymes and conduct himself
in a more “believable” manner to Hip-Hop fans. Epps says before
recording, Drake would watch and recite a copy of the ATL
movie—which he kept at all times—to develop what they jokingly
refer to as his “Torontlantan” accent. He would also stride
across the room with an exaggerated limp. Epps called it his Stephan
Urquelle routine.

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                      Drake in the midst of his “Urquelle Routine”

Epps and Drake developed a hand signal.
Whenever Drake was in a Hip-Hop environment and talked too much like
the former Nickelodeon child star he was, Epps would make the signal
and take Drake into another room for the “Urquelle Routine.”

Drake hit a stride by the time his
Comeback Season project rolled around, but disaster soon
struck. After telling TI of his impact on his career, Drake was
invited out to the movies with TI and his Grand Hustle crew. When TI’s friend
Cap—who had just come home from jail– was standing in the walkway,
blocking Drake’s view, Drake loudly whispered “I wish this nigger
would sit down” to Epps. Enraged and still affected by his penal
experience, Cap let
off a furious flurry of urine
on Drake’s suede jacket while
repeatedly screaming “I’m free now!”.

Drake immediately left, as
the combination of his stench and tears caused many members of Grand
Hustle’s entourage—including a young Meek Mill—to laugh at him.

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    Meek Mill and Drake reminiscing about the Cap incident in cordial times

Epps says “Drake remembered the look
in Meek’s eyes” as the Philadelphia rapper mocked a peeing motion
while Drake slowly walked out of the theater. Epps surmises the beef
the two had in 2015 was “a long time coming.”

Drake had to pay TI and his crew
upwards of $200,000 to stay silent, wiping his bank accounts clean.
Drake was so broke he had to write his own lyrics and use upcoming Toronto producers with the
promise of “exposure”. That’s when he met producer Noah “40”
Shebib. The two instantly clicked and crafted So Far Gone, a
genre-bending opus that helped define the sound of modern mainstream
Hip-Hop.

Drake laughs all the time at how fate
worked out. If he wasn’t such an awkward young man, he wouldn’t have
called Cap a “nigger,” wouldn’t have lost his fortune, and
wouldn’t have found 40. Drake employs a self-deprecating sense of
humor in private, noting “the road to becoming a legend was paved
with pee.”

For now, Epps doesn’t talk as much to
Drake as he once did, but still calls him every couple months. He
notes that in today’s “PC” times, the relevation of a white male
teaching a Black male how to “act Black” would be controversial.
Epps was paid an undisclosed amount in gratitude from Drake and says
he’s “proud” of the entertainer.