Meaning of “Know Yourself” by Drake
As explained by Drake, “Know Yourself” was inspired by 2010’s “Black and Yellow”, i.e. Wiz Khalifa’s signature song. The latter most notably serves as a shoutout to Pittsburgh, which is Wiz’s hometown. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a popular city, but not necessarily like that.
Or another way of looking at it is that to this day, over a decade after “Black and Yellow” dropped, Pittsburgh still isn’t considered a major city in the world of hip-hop.
So with “Know Yourself” coming out on 13 February 2015, a bit earlier in Drake’s career, the way he saw it is that if Pittsburgh deserves a rap song of its own, so does his base of operations, which is Toronto, Canada.
“Know Yourself” did not go on to become as big of a hit as “Black and Yellow”. But in a way it has proven more popular. But one similarity the two songs do have is that neither directly mentions the city it is dedicated to.
Lyrics of “Know Yourself”
So the lyrics of this track don’t really have anything to do with ‘knowing yourself’, nor is the titular phrase found in the song. Within the context of the outro especially, the title of this song reads like an alternative way of Drizzy saying that you shouldn’t sleep on his hometown, “the 6”. Or put otherwise no one should come to Toronto trying to front, because it is a legitimate ‘hood, if you will.
As for the verses, they do feature some of the wealth-based braggadocio that Drake is known for, but this represents one of the milder cases of that phenomenon. More to the point obviously is the rapper using the opportunity to give a shoutout to his local homeys. This includes the likes of “Ethan”, “P Reign”, “Chubby”, “TH”, “Winnie” and “Jibba”. Indeed, even up until this present day, Drizzy has a tendency to individually reference his close friends in song. But in this case, he goes about acknowledging a bunch of them.
With that in mind, Aubrey has revealed that the line “running through the 6 with my woes”, as found in the chorus, is also meant to allude to his crew. Or as he explained in more detail, “woe”, as utilized in this song, is actually an acronym which represents the phrase ‘working on excellence’, i.e. the standard which he and his people strive for.
“I was runnin’ through the 6 with my w–s
You know how that s–t go
You know how that s–t go”
As for “the 6”, that’s a common reference which has permeated in Drake’s lyricism even into the 21st century. It is a colloquialism pointing to the city of Toronto. We can’t say that this song in particular made that slang term popular, though Drake has implied that it is the first he has dedicated to his ‘hood. But since he has continued to shoutout “the 6” throughout the years, these days just about everybody in the world of hip-hop knows what it stands for.
Furthermore, it has been pointed out that Drake used the term “know yourself” prior to this song, most notably on his track called “0 to 100 / The Catch Up”, which dropped in 2014. That time around, he proceeded to elaborate that what he’s referring to is “know(ing) your worth”.
Indeed, the phrase “know yourself, know your worth” is considered to be a bonafide Drake slogan. So it is also arguable that the title of this song doesn’t really have anything to do with self-knowledge on the part of the addressee but is another way of shouting out Aubrey’s homeys as individuals who do know themselves and know their worth.
Facts about “Know Yourself”
The producers of this song are Syk Sense, Vinylz, Allen Ritter and Boi-1da, the latter of whom is acknowledged in the intro.
Despite not being released as a single, “Know Yourself” appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart, in addition to peaking at number 8 on the US Hot Rap Songs list and being certified double-platinum by the RIAA.
The four producers of “Know Yourself” are also given songwriting credit alongside Quentin Miller, Drake and Jan Stoeckart (1927-2017). The latter is actually the author of “Tinted Glass” (1980) by Network, a song that is sampled into Drake’s track.
The labels behind this song are as follows:
- Republic Records
- Young Money Entertainment
- Cash Money Records
- Universal Music Group
Besides “0 to 100 / The Catch Up”, the phrase “know yourself” also popped up in Drake’s songs “From Time” and “Jodeci Freestyle”, both of which were released in 2013.
This track is from Drake’s highly-regarded mixtape “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” (2015). And to note, despite the aforementioned success “Know Yourself” has achieved, it wasn’t released as a single.