In Defense of Drake
This week, Drake released his third full-length studio album, Nothing Was the Same.
The album has garnered positive reviews from critics thus far and was commonly recognized as one of the most highly anticipated releases of the season. Honestly, this isn’t surprising. Drake is talented. He’s a skilled rapper with an easy flow and a fantastic team of producers. He’s an indisputably gifted performer. In spite of these facts, many people just don’t like Drake. I’m not positive as to their reasoning , but I’ve given it a lot of thought. It could be his lack of street cred or the fact that his favorite topics seem to be love and relationships. It could be the fact that half the time he’s singing instead of rapping, or that he moves his hands when he performs. We could speculate for days on just what their damage is, but is it really worth it? As an unabashed Drake fan, I think he deserves far more recognition than he gets. Let’s be honest—making it in the rap game is not easy. Of all music genres, rap has by far the most pervasive reputation, and fitting the mold can be incredibly difficult. Somehow, Drake has managed to prove himself on his own terms and this should be celebrated. This week, I’m breaking my typical playlist format to give you my five reasons that Drizzy deserves to be respected as a musician.
For those of you who weren’t watching “The N” back in middle school, it’s important to know that Drake had a past life. From 2001 to 2008, he played star-athlete-turned-wheelchair-bound-artist Jimmy Brooks in the Canadian TV series “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” Under the name Aubrey Graham, Drake spent eight seasons at television’s most controversial high school as one of Degrassi’s most prominently featured characters. Now, it is completely possible to argue that this pre-established fame gave Drake an unfair advantage. Contrary to the title of his 2013 hit, “Started from the Bottom,” Drake actually had a pretty wide fan base in the preteen community when he released his first mixtape. When you think about it though, this makes being taken seriously in the rap industry just as, if not more challenging than it would be if he started as an unknown. To much of the world, Drake was already established as an actor in a high-school drama, i.e. possibly the furthest occupation from “rapper” that there is in show business. Getting people to acknowledge him as more than the guy in the wheelchair from Degrassi could not have been easy, but he did it. Somehow, Drake made a smooth transition from a star of Canada’s biggest melodrama to a member of one of the U.S.’s most prominent new rap crews.
In a general sense, Drake does make rap music. Listen closely, though, and you’ll hear something so personal and unique that it’ll be impossible not to respect his creativity. As I mentioned previously, Drake loves to talk about love, but not just any type of love. Drake’s wheelhouse is failed love, complicated love, hard love. His songs deal with bitterness and heartbreak and yearning from a more honest angle than most artists are willing to try. He is a chronic oversharer and his fans love him for it. Add in his intoxicating mixture of soulful singing and hardhitting rapping as well as his woozy, background tracks and it’s impossible not to feel somehow in touch with his emotions. Drake has created his own subgenre of rap. Rather than making the dance-worthy club music on which some of his peers focus, Drake makes songs for the end of the night, when it’s 3:00 a.m., the buzz is fading, and you just don’t know what you want anymore. For a taste, check out “Marvin’s Room,” “Take Care,” and “Girls Love Beyonce.”
The Guest Feature
A big part of rap is being a guest on someone else’s song. I personally believe that a lot goes into making a perfect guest verse. A great guest rapper will make a distinctive impression without stealing the spotlight from the headline performer. They will keep with the tempo of the song and make sure that their lyrics deal with a relevant theme. When done right, a good guest verse can result in an amazing collaboration between artists. Drake has this down pat. In every song on which he is featured, Drake manages to stay true to his own persona while respecting the fact that he is in someone else’s territory. He keeps it smooth and never does more or less than he should. Best examples: A$AP ROCKY’s “Fuckin’ Problems,” and Lil Wayne’s “Right Above It.”
We all know that there’s nothing worse than an overexposed celebrity. After a while, the same antics become exhausting to hear about over and over again, and you begin to question whether the star in question has a serious problem. Let’s look at Nicki Minaj. As much respect as I have for Nicki, I’m getting tired of hearing about her. Through her several commercial endorsements and her overdramatic stint as a judge on American Idol, she has managed to wear out her welcome in the limelight for the time being. Now let’s look at Drake. There’s no way that you could call him overexposed. Aside from an unfortunate club run-in with Chris Brown (who, let’s be honest, is always looking to start something), he has managed to be only as present as he needs to be in the media. This lack of constant attention seeking suggests that Drake is confident enough in his work to let it stand on its own.
This could be a sweeping generalization, but I’ll risk it. Of all the rapper’s presently recording, Drake is the classiest. He manages to hold himself with a dignity that not many celebrities can achieve. Think about it: no highly publicized beefs with other rappers, no embarrassing Twitter feuds, a minimal amount of gauche shows of wealth. Even his bragging is somehow more tasteful. Whether or not you like him, you have to acknowledge that the man carries himself with dignity. In this day and age, I think that’s something we should all appreciate.