Aubrey Drake Graham was born on October 24, 1986, in Toronto, Ontario, to parents Sandi Graham (née Sher), an educator, and Dennis Graham, a drummer who worked with Jerry Lee Lewis. Two of his uncles, Larry Graham and Teenie Hodges, are also musicians. Drake's father is an African-American from Memphis, Tennessee, and Drake's mother is a white Jewish Canadian. He attended a Jewish day school and had a Bar Mitzvah. His parents divorced when he was five years old, and he was raised by his mother in two Toronto neighborhoods; he lived on Weston Road in the city's west end, until the sixth grade, when he moved to the affluent Forest Hill. As a youth, he played minor hockey with the Weston Red Wings. Drake has commented on the move to Forest Hill and his mother's struggle, saying that "She wanted the best for her family. She found us a half of a house we could live in. The other people had the top half, we had the bottom half. I lived in the basement, my mom lived on the first floor. It was not big, it was not luxurious. It was what we could afford." Drake then began attending Forest Hill Collegiate Institute, where he began acting, but did not graduate. It was the first of two high schools he would attend, as he later went to Vaughan Road Academy, describing it as "not by any means the easiest school to go to. It's a tough school."Despite dropping out of high school, years later, he graduated in October 2012.
At the age of 15, Drake met an agent, the father of a high school friend. The agent found Drake a role on the Canadian TV show Degrassi: The Next Generation as Jimmy Brooks. In the show, Brooks is a basketball star who became physically disabled after he was shot by a classmate. Drake describes how his early acting career affected his family, "My mother was very sick. We were very poor, like broke. The only money I had coming in was off of Canadian TV, which isn't that much money when you break it down. A season of Canadian television is under a teacher's salary, I'll tell you that much. It's definitely not something to go fucking get." He would continue his acting career on Degrassi: The Next Generation until 2009, when his character graduated from Degrassi. Overall, he appeared in a total of 138 episodes.
Looking back on his early life, Drake had to essentially live two different lives because of his parents' divorce; he lived in a very upper-class part of Toronto, and, when in Memphis, was told he was "the furthest thing from hood." He witnessed many life-changing experiences because of this, one being his father's arrest, which he describes by saying "The fact that I didn't have a father, because he was in jail two separate times. He did a two-year bid and a three-year bid, I was there when he got taken down. We had just gotten back from Memphis." However, Drake comments on his childhood experiences by saying "I've seen things that didn't make me happy. They were character building. That's why I think people in the hood can still connect with what I'm saying even though I'm not saying 'yeah I got crack in my pocket' 'cause that wasn't my struggle necessarily, [but] I speak from a place that's just human emotion." Drake stated that his parents' divorce greatly affected him as a person, saying, "I had to become a man very quickly and be the backbone for a woman who I love with all my heart, my mother." At the age of 24, Drake commented on his early life by saying "I've seen a lot, man. I've seen a lot of life, put it that way. I've been with the most blessed kids in the world. I've been with people whose life is right at the bottom of the barrel. I was on a TV show, I went to art school, I went to hood schools. I've lived. I've lived a full 24 years, man."