The woman behind Drake’s finely tuned croon isn’t his mother, even though she gets mistaken for her from time to time. In an interview with Jezebel, Dionne Osborne, who has been Drake’s vocal coach for the last four years, shared tidbits about her work with the Toronto recording artist and what makes him stand out as a singer.
Osborne, based in Atlanta, is a colleague of veteran vocal coach Jan Smith, who has worked with Usher, Keri Hilson, Justin Bieber, TLC, Whitney Houston and many more. Drizzy’s management reached out to work with Smith, who was on tour with Bieber at the time, and Osbourne went in her place.
On working with one of the biggest rappers in music, Osbourne revealed an interesting goal that she had for Drake. “On our first session, I told him that my goal was to make him a singer who raps, not a rapper who sings,” she said. “I know Drake loves rapping, that's his first love. But the road is just littered with rappers who sing. They all try it. If you love music, you love singing, but not everyone succeeds.”
Her initial impression of Drake, back in the days of his So Far Gone mixtape and into his first album, was that he already had the talent for singing. “He has the most comfortable voice. It wasn't showy, and it had a very nice tone: it sounded so conversational. He wasn't singing at you, but singing to you. A lot of singers overdo it, try to bombast you, but Drake doesn't. And the average person can sing Drake's songs, and that's part of what they love.”
That’s not to say that he didn’t have his shortcomings. One of the first things that Osbourne worked on with him was perfecting his live singing voice and transforming him from sounding like “an uptight Jewish dude.” Plus, she keeps his diet on point and makes sure that he's mindful of his asthma and allergies when setting up dates to tour.
Drake has said that Osbourne changed his life, and she’s not shy about telling him to watch what he puts in his body. Maybe that’s why people thinks she’s his mother, Sharon Graham, despite looking nothing like her. One night in the VIP area of a club, Osbourne basically treated Drake like a parent would by making him drop the champagne bottle for some H20. “I’m like, ‘You don't think you're gonna drink this whole thing, do you honey? You can have a glass,” she recalled. "He looks at me like I'm crazy! So I call over the management and tell them Drake needs water, and they bring me a whole case! There are more and more people crowding in here, I'm getting crowded to the back, so I start passing a bottle of water through the crowd. His bodyguards are all looking back at each other, like, ‘What is this?’ And I'm just mouthing, ‘Give it to Drake.’"
He may not have liked the idea of switching up his beverage selection, but Drake knows who's boss. "Finally it gets to Drake, and the bodyguard just points right at me. Literally, Drake's shoulders go down six inches. Totally resigned. But, he drank the water. He got it!”
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(Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images)