The rapper recently signed to Lil Wayne's label, but he got his start on Canadian teen soap ''Degrassi: The Next Generation''

By Leah Greenblatt
July 17, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT

From Canadian teen-soap actor to big-league Billboard player: the rise and rise of rapper Aubrey ”Drake” Graham.

As Seen on TV
The Toronto-born 22-year-old spends eight years on Degrassi: The Next Generation playing basketball star Jimmy Brooks (he graduated from the show in ’08). In the meantime, he begins releasing mixtapes, starting with 2006’s Room for Improvement.

On Wax With Wayne
Lil Wayne’s cameo on the ”Man of the Year” remix, from the 2007 mixtape Comeback Season, instantly ups Drake’s status; while still unsigned, he works with the likes of Jay-Z (on The Blueprint 3) and Mary J. Blige (on already-leaked track ”The One”). The major-label bidding wars begin; rumors of a romance with Rihanna don’t hurt.

Sign O’ The Times
Young Money/Universal Republic wins the battle, signing Drake in June. By then, single ”Best I Ever Had” has already hit No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 (Kanye directs the video), and Young Money’s ”Every Girl,” on which he appears, also goes top 10. Look for his upcoming official debut, Thank Me Later.