How Drake's 'So Far Gone' Inspired One Aficionado To Create The Ultimate Drake Fansite
On its 10th anniversary, Word On Road's creator reflects on its legacy.
“So Far Gone will be available for download right here on October’s Very Own before midnight, Thursday February 12, 2009.”
Then another by Noah "40" Shebib later that morning with the caption:
"I'm in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in LA editing and mixing the tape right now. Im gonna post it as soon as i finnish putting it together. Ima be up all night working, but its all good cause my homey Ben Baller brought me that real deal LA "Good Good" aka "The Ghostface Killah". These are some pictures I took yesterday, our last day of recording. LA truely [sic] is a beautiful place."
"honestly, i am sorry, give me 1.5 hours more.
Its done, its just printing and i have to ID the tracks, almost there."
There was an excitement brewing like never before and the whole process behind the release just felt different. Drake and the OVO team kept fans in the loop via their blog, in a way where many artists before hadn’t allowed fans to follow their creative process so closely. From teasing songs, posting now legendary Blackberry pics from the studio, and dropping artwork there first—it felt like fans were right next to OVO throughout the making of So Far Gone.
Drake’s previous mixtape, Comeback Season, started a buzz so expectations for So Far Gone were pretty high. Midnight hit and it didn’t drop, 40 informed fans on the blog that he was still mixing the project. Anxieties grew. After more waiting and two more blog posts, the post we had all been looking for arrived. Though fashionably late, Drake’s third official mixtape, So Far Gone, was finally available for download.
After being a fan of Aubrey Graham from his Degrassi days, stumbling across his Comeback Season tape via an ad on Facebook was quite a surprise. Immediately after downloading and listening to the mixtape, I was hooked. As my fandom grew daily, I became a regular visitor to the OVO blog; there, Drake, 40, and Oliver would provide updates on music, fashion, and all things they found interesting. A regular day on the blog could range anywhere from Oliver posting the newest Ransom clothing line release to 40 sharing Blackberry pics of himself and the crew in the studio, or Drake sharing a new project he’d personally been listening to.
The So Far Gone era began in November of 2008 with the song “Little Bit,” a remix of a song by Swedish recording artist Lykke Li. “This [‘Little Bit’] is a record off of So Far Gone, the new mixtape which I am in Atlanta finishing right now. I chose to leak this song so that people can get a vibe for the tape,” he wrote. “I am a true fan of this artist and I am looking forward to hearing what everyone thinks. ZS. Enjoy.” In December, he leaked “Say What’s Real” and posted the official So Far Gone artwork and that’s when things got real.
Drake had already built up a buzz, but fans weren’t quite prepared for what was next: the boy was about to rocket into stardom.
Many of us were already fans of Drake, but So Far Gone showed the world what many of his closest comrades were already aware of. Drake, at the time, was in his early 20s and a lot of what he rapped about was relatable to those starting to give him a listen. So Far Gone tackled love, lust, relationship issues, battling with success, and more. Drake told us his story, and through his songs, we felt like we were going through life right with him. “You just say the right things and they'll be like, ‘Damn this dude's a real person and I can relate to that,’ he told Complex in 2009. “That can make somebody's life, that can make somebody's day, that can be a line that they never forget. So I try to have as many of those lines as possible so that fans feel like, ‘Drake isn't only one of my favorite artists, I feel like he's one of my friends, he talks to me.’ That's one of the benefits of being honest with your music.”
He was right. To this day, So Far Gone serves as time marker in many fans’ lives and there are certain memories and moments that will always be attached to it. I’ll never forget walking around my university’s campus with it blasting in my headphones or downloading it to my computer to put it on my iPod. Like many day-one Drake fans, So Far Gone was my college soundtrack.
Drake and the OVO team began documenting the project on the OVO blog before we even knew the actual mixtape name. Around 2009, blogs were starting to dominate the internet and lead the conversation around who and what was hot. But to have an artist and his team join in was something new. A decade later, artists solely rely on their own storytelling for new releases; Drake had been doing it from the jump, letting fans in on the real him. Drake could’ve snagged a blog premiere for his mixtape, but instead, it was presented to the world on the OVO blogspot.
Although Drake had hesitations before he dropped So Far Gone, even his producer/engineer and longtime friend Noah "40" Shebib admitted he was nervous about “Best I Ever Had” being on the project. “I didn’t know it [‘Best I Ever Had’] was going to be big,” 40 told XXL. “I thought it was kind of corny. I thought it stuck out on the tape and I was a little nervous whether or not it should be on there.” “Best I Ever Had” turned out to be one of Drake’s first career top 10 hits, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. He scored his first two GRAMMY nominations for it,as well. He faced those initial fears of putting So Far Gone out and that risk paid off, something his fans would find even more relatable than the album itself. 24 hours from greatness, you could really be that close.
Fast-forward to late 2011 and the fangirl in me was at an all-time high; I’d been in talks with Drake and OVO to start a new fansite for them. Around the So Far Gone era, my name quickly became synonymous with him among my friends, associates, and anyone following online. Thanks to So Far Gone, I became the go-to source on Drake and people began to take notice—even Drake himself. The OVO blog had long been my online sanctuary where I was able to gain insight into Drake and OVO’s world, so that’s the energy I channeled into a site specifically for Drake fans. On April 4th, 2012, Word On Road was born. Over the last six years, Word On Road has become an outlet to give back to fans—to make them feel as included and up-to-date as I did throughout the entire release of So Far Gone. I was inspired by that era and, in turn, have used that very same inspiration to try and restore the feeling with fans in new eras.
Stream Drake's So Far Gone now.