Beyond Emancipation

Drake: Writing His Own Song

Next time you’re hurrying through a BART station, listen for the soulful strumming of a guitar accompanied by an extraordinary voice.

Singer-songwriter Drake, 22, plays for crowds as often as he can, and as anyone who watched him perform at Beyond Idol in 2013 can attest, his is the kind of performance you don’t want to miss. (Read Beyond Idol Profile)

For Drake, making music “is everything.” His love for it began when he was just 9 when his mother sent him to New York to live with his uncle. “He’s the one who put a guitar in my hands,” says Drake. “From then on, music has helped me get through a lot of stress, isolation, and bullying in my life, especially after I went into foster care.”

When Drake came to Beyond Emancipation a few years ago, he was undergoing aggressive chemotherapy to combat stage four cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain. “My body was rocked to its core,” he says. “I was in an unbelievable amount of pain, and could barely climb the steps. B:E pretty much saved my life because I had nowhere else to go.”

With B:E’s support, Drake was able to focus on his health and get back to his goals, including making music.  Residential Counselor Zimbabwe Davies mentored him from day one.

Drake and Zimbabwe at the 2017 B:E Social

Drake and Zimbabwe at the 2017 B:E Social

“Zimbabwe helped me stay positive when I needed it most,” Drake says. “There were a lot of negative influences in my life, people who were very distracting, wanting to drag me down. Zimbabwe helped me stay focused and work hard. He taught me that if I stay focused on my goals and my work, no one else can bring me down.”

Davies introduced Drake to the recording studio Black Ball Universe, where he recorded a track earlier this year with Oakland blues and hip-hop artist Fantastic Negrito. “Two days later,” Drake says, “he won a Grammy for best contemporary artist, so it’s been a real crazy turn of events — incredible and fantastic.”

After five strokes, Drake’s tumor marker shot from 2000 to 250,000 before dropping — against all odds— to zero. Now in full remission, Drake plans to return to college to finish his degree in psychology and recording arts, and continue forging his music career with his appropriately named band Never Give In. “I now have a very solid appreciation of life,” he says, “from the air I breathe to the colors I see on the trees and in the sky. I don’t take people or anything else for granted. I feel reborn.”

Drake with the mayor of Fremont Lily Mei and City Councilman David Bonaccorsi.

Drake with the mayor of Fremont Lily Mei and City Councilman David Bonaccorsi.

Currently saving up to get his own place when his current transitional housing ends in August,  Drake has the “best job ever” at John’s Incredible Pizza, complete with a giant arcade and carnival rides. “I get to bring hundreds of smiles to my community through my job and through my music,” he says. “It’s incredible.”

A powerful public speaker, Drake shares his story, he says, “to help make a better today and an even better tomorrow.”

When he’s not at work, he’s somewhere making music.

“Music helps me feel acknowledged, accepted, and appreciated by my community,” Drake says. “I hope I can continue to touch the hearts of many with my art and my work.” Listen for him.

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