January 19th was a big night for Memphis. Zach Randolph, the living embodiment of the Memphis Grizzlies‘ “Grit ‘n’ Grind” mantra, made his return to the city for the first time since joining the Sacramento Kings in the offseason. Despite the fact that Randolph grew up in Indiana, Memphis has claimed him as its own because of the way he embraced and personified the city’s hard-working underdog mentality. When he left to join the Kings, Memphis sent him off with a massive outpouring of goodwill and gratitude for the things that he meant to the city.
But Z-Bo wasn’t the only story of the night inside the FedEx Forum. Drake also made an appearance to witness the homecoming of the Memphis hero, and folks went wild. I saw Instagrams and Snapchats in the double digits of Drake and his family in their floor seats during the game. While he obviously most prominently claims Toronto in his music, Memphis is another place Drake considers home. With family ties to the city, Drake grew up spending summers in the Bluff City and has been known to drop in to visit on occasion in his adulthood. In the music video for “Worst Behavior,” Drake strolls down Beale Street, raps in front of Jack Pirtle’s Chicken, and explores Memphis’ distinct personality in a variety of other spaces in the city. “With my dad out in Tennessee is where I belong/Out here in LA I don’t know what’s goin’ on,” Drake opine’s on Views’ “Keep the Family Close” signifying the romanticized simple lifestyle Memphis represents to Drake. Z-Bo’s blue collar leadership on the Grizzlies epitomized the qualities of Memphis’ character that Drake admires, and it makes sense that Drake would want to be at the game to witness Randolph’s return.
Later that night, Drake previewed new music at a Memphis nightclub that would become available for streaming at midnight.The songs, “God’s Plan” and “Diplomatic Immunity,” demonstrate a braggadocio that contrasts starkly with Drake’s humble perception of the city he was in at the time of their release. In the fashion we have come to expect from Drake, the two singles paint a picture of him on top of the world. The immense success that he has achieved has brought rivals, haters, and personal struggles along with it, but Drake clearly revels in his triumphs. Perhaps that explains in part why Drake chose to be in Memphis on the night of the release of these singles. With the power and fame he has acquired at this point in his life, Memphis is one of the few places left in the world where Drake can experience some relative privacy and be with folks who loved him prior to the accolades he has earned. Things seem to be preparing to kick back into gear as he prepares for the grind that will accompany his next project, and Drake’s Friday night in Memphis provided some space for him to catch his breath and reflect upon the humble beginnings that cultivated his unmatched ambition.