At the 2016 VMAs, Drake professed his love for Rihanna in front of Jay Z, Beyoncé, Britney Spears, and the thousands of people watching at home. "She's someone I've been in love with since I was 22 years old," he said, standing beside her. "She's one of my best friends in the world. All my adult life, I've looked up to her even though she's younger than me. She's a living, breathing legend in our industry." And RiRi laughed like she knew this, because, well, she did.
Drake and RiRi met in 2005 — and Drake has been gushing about her in interviews since 2010. There have been ups, one or two downs, and, overall, a lot of flattery. Below, what Drake has said:
1. "She's just such an overwhelming and incredible person, and such a talented person, and someone that I was like, 'I can't believe I'm here talking to this individual,' that she just gave me that feeling like when I was 17 years old trying to take Nikki Ramos, this girl from Toronto, out on a date, and she never wanted to go with me. She never would go; she would have a million excuses why she couldn't talk to me. That's how [Rihanna] made me feel, she made me feel small; she made me feel nervous. It just put me back to the Acura in Toronto, feeling like Aubrey Graham, not Drake." —On June 6, 2010, to MTV News
2. Drake releases the song "Fireworks" on his 2010 album Thank Me Later with these lyrics about "the relationship that I'm often questioned about, and I duck and dodge questions about it." At the time, Rihanna and Drake were rumored to be dating after he was spotted making out with her at Lucky Strikes Lounge in New York City.
I'm just such a gentleman, you should give it up for me / Look at how I'm placing all my napkins and my cutlery / I can tell it wasn't love, I just thought you'd fuck with me / Who could [have] predicted Lucky Strike would have you stuck with me / Damn, I kept my wits about me luckily / What happened between us that night / It always seems to trouble me / Now all of a sudden these gossip blogs want to cover me / And you making it seem that it happened that way because of me / But I was curious and I'll never forget it, baby / What an experience, you could have been the one / But it wasn't that serious, there was smoke in the air before / That was me clearing it that felt good / All in all, I learned a lesson from it though / You never see it coming, you just get to see it go / Yeah, I shoulda looked up in the sky at first / Now I can see it in her eyes, fireworks!
3. "I was a pawn. You know what she [Rihanna] was doing to me? She was doing exactly what I've done to so many women throughout my life, which is show them quality time, then disappear. I was like, wow, this feels terrible." —On June 9, 2010, to the New York Times
Drake clarified that comment the next week, saying he didn't mean to offend Rihanna. She is so "beautiful and talented" that she makes him feel "small":
I'm 23 years old, and I feel like I'm on top of the world right now. And it's very rare that I feel small around anybody, especially, you know, a woman that I like. It's just I am in a confident position right now. And really, my whole purpose for putting that on the album was just to pay homage to the fact that she is an amazing woman that made me feel nervous, man. She made me feel small. She's an overwhelming being, like, she's beautiful and talented and her personality — it's almost like scary. And, for the first time, a woman just brought back that feeling of when I was 17 or 18, and I appreciate it so much because you get into this position and sometimes you just get numb to all those emotions that used to inspire you to write.
4. "I think that we have a connection that's established for life, and that is that I love her and support her unconditionally, and I like to think that she feels the same way. Do I fancy her? Of course, I mean, who wouldn't? Look at her, she's stunning. Of course I do. Yeah, no, she's incredible. But you know, it's one of those things that it's a maybe one day, maybe not." —On April 3, 2012, to MAX Choice FM
5. On whether or not they dated: "Yeah, great girl. We had our moment, and, you know, I mean, always support and have love for her." —On Sept. 20, 2013, to Ellen DeGeneres
7. "We do well together as a team. I think we do great music together. It's tough to do guy-girl collabs. I think [the chemistry] is what makes the records better, though. It's something genuinely there. We're not forcing some story on people. A lot of the music that we make and the energy that we bring is genuine. We have a lot of genuine energy between us." —On May 1, 2016, to Zane Lowe on his Beats 1 Radio's OVO Sound
8. When pressed by Ellen DeGeneres about his relationship with Rihanna: "That's friendship at its finest right there." —On May 15, 2016, on the Ellen DeGeneres Show
12. "If you've got love for Rihanna in NYC ... 'cause you know I've got love for Rihanna" —On Aug. 6, 2016, during his concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City
13. "The first time I met Robyn Fenty was 2005. She was shooting a music video at a restaurant called Avocado in Toronto called 'Pon De Replay,' and the director of the video was Little X. I was introduced to her as a kid who played background music at a restaurant as people ate pasta. It's hard to believe that 11 years later, that all three of us would come together to create visuals for a song called 'Work.' Today, the world knows Little X as Director X, they know me as Drake and not the kid singing while you order pasta. But 11 years later, they still all know Rihanna as the one and only Rihanna. Captivating from day one, the iconic being that is Rihanna was already at a place that most artists only dream of going. For them, that is often the peak, but, for her, that was the starting point that she has kept ascending to an untouchable level ever since. When it comes to music, she relentlessly takes over the charts with every release. When it comes to performances, they swarm in masses just to be in her presence, obviously. And when it comes to fashion and style, she makes it seem so effortless, until you try and do it yourself, which is when it gets a little awkward. What's most impressive isn't the endlessness of stats, awards, and accomplishments. What's most impressive is the person. Some artists need to play a character to achieve success; some need to downplay their own natural instincts to blend in. She succeeds by doing something no one in this industry does, which is being herself. This woman has surpassed all competition, while still being the same girl from Barbados surrounded by the same friends, speaking with the same accent, and never missing a Crop Over unless it's to come perform at OVO Fest. We love the music, which can change styles from album to album. We love the videos, which change their artistic vision from year to year. But, most of all, we love the woman who hasn't changed since day one. She's someone ... she's someone I've been in love with since I was 22 years old. She's one of my best friends in the world. All my adult life, I've looked up to her even though she's younger than me. She's a living, breathing legend in our industry." —On Aug. 28, 2016, before presenting Rihanna with the Vanguard Award at the MTV VMAs
14. "This is a night for us all to be thankful for what you have done for us! You have affected so many of our lives in the best way possible. Tonight we celebrate you! @BadGalRiri" —On Aug. 29, 2016, hours after the VMAs