SO FAR GONE: How Drake has lost his way.

by Jacob McKay

I used to love Drake, man. Late middle school me knew and still knows every single word to every verse on Forever, Best I Ever Had, Over, Fancy, all of them. Drake captured the hip-hop world with confident vulnerability, which was previously unheard of in a genre where people try to call each other out for supposed weakness literally every day. Drake somehow insulated himself from that while making bold claims alongside some of the biggest rappers in the game from the get go. Drake is only here in front of us because of his original association with Lil Wayne and Young Money, (a division of Cash Money Records). Lil Wayne was still an unquestioned powerhouse whose word carried a lot of weight in hip-hop in 2009. It was the post-Carter 3 Wayne that was confident and also bored with doing things that traditional rappers do. That’s why we got a Lil Wayne rock album, (which I won’t say bad things about because of how good Prom Queen kind of is), and that’s also why he signed Drake. A Canadian jewish kid who was on a tv show called Degrassi as a teen but who had a pretty marketable package as an artist and had the perfect delivery for hip-hop’s transition into the dominant form of pop.

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Lil Wayne saw the pliable storyline that one could craft from an actor so talented, and instead still let him tell his own story. Wayne was relatively hands off in Drake’s development, which is partially why Drake is at the point he is now. Drake makes songs opportunistically and remix’s them even more opportunistically. Drake remixed Tuesday, made iLoveMakonnen a thing, and then dropped him when the hype died. He’s added on or stolen from multiple rappers over the years since Take Care dropped and won him the Grammy that cemented his greatness. He is addicted to being Drake, which is understandable, but he’s also a guy who is making music for himself in a world that needs much more. I know his music is relatable and has touched millions of people, but I quite honestly think Drake’s going to make whatever the hell makes him money. That’s why he’s so deep into the dancehall sound, and why he hopped on the grime wave last year. Does he have a nose for talent? I would say so. We both found Skepta around similar times and once I heard him rap I knew that his energy was one of a kind special. I love him for never letting Drake get a feature on his album because he wanted his work to be his.

Screen-Shot-2015-07-12-at-02.35.07-620x390.pngDrake Drake with Skepta
When you work with Drake your song becomes his song, and that also can be in terms of money and royalties earned as well. When D.R.A.M. made Cha Cha, he did not anticipate that Drake would flip it into Hotline Bling and go number 1. He deserves  some of the credit for a Drake hit even though he never met Drake and never worked on that song with Drake. That’s because Drake is a cultural leech. As producer Zaytoven recently said, when you work with Drake you don’t really work with Drake. You email beats and he raps on them and then you just worked with Drake. Drake is a king in a very comfortable castle built on emotionally vulnerable and honest bars about an upbringing that we still don’t know everything about in a city that most of us have never been to, in Toronto. He’s built himself an incredible house of cards here that we are fully behind and in support of with no verification of authenticity other than whatever he was comfortable telling us.  We don’t actually know if Drake really got to understand what the streets were like during his child actor days, but what we know now is he’s certainly acting like it on songs with Future and Gucci Mane recently. Those men are the kings of Atlanta and they couldn’t resist the Drake Wave. Drake cosigns you, you can’t afford to say know because of how big he is, and how much a potential friendship could mean to you as an established rap artist who needs to keep people excited. You’re not worried about Drake stealing your record then, you just want people to know that you’re friends with the guy, because he is more relevant now than most people are at the peak of their careers. Gucci is over that hill even now.   Rappers like 2 Chainz rely on Drake features to give their songs a national appeal they may have lacked. But Drake doesn’t care about 2 Chainz and Game and Gucci.the_game_and_drake_shoot_100_video_in_compton.jpg Drake and The Game081616-music-Drake-And-Gucci-Mane.jpg Drake and Gucci Mane

They make him look cool and give him credibility with the cache that still cares about the old way of the industry. He didn’t care about Makonnen, or D.R.A.M., or Dave (The British rapper behind Wanna Know). He is different than Kanye, who used Desiigner’s song Panda for a sample on his album, and helped the 18 year old from Brooklyn turn it into the number 1 song in the country after signing him. I’m not saying Drake hasn’t signed people to OVO Sound and helped them flourish. Partynextdoor is proof of that. But what OVO Sound is now is an amalgamation of all the sounds Drake didn’t get bored of, and they’re all similarly somber and full of emotionally stunted complaints about women. Drake is fake man. I didn’t believe it after the Meek Mill thing, and I don’t think he writes most of his stuff anymore even if he did at one time. That’s not why he’s fake though, because a lot of people do that now. He’s fake because he’s always kind of been acting. The Drake that we know now is different than the Drake we knew in 2009, not because he evolved and matured but because he had to keep up with what was cool over anything else. He does this all while playing mostly safe cards in order to not subject his credibility to close cross-examination. I hate how he smugly lacks substance in most of his music now and knows you won’t care. He knows he’s rich for life now because he’s got you, and he just wants more. We found out that this week he could be planning a Taylor Swift hip-hop/r&b album because why not? She’s huge, this would give him more publicity, and she probably wants to do hip-hop records because that’s what people want. But she can’t make hip-hop because she’s not from that. She’s an opportunist, sort of like Drake. Except, here we have an artist who has culturally appropriated before, a country artist who clearly has no knowledge of hip-hop, who calls Drake asking for help stealing black culture and the first thing he thinks is, “Wow this is gonna be big online”.cccsJJVN.jpeg

I don’t care what you say in an interview, actions speak and so does money. Drake is selfish and shameless about how he’s just milking the culture for everything it has without any regard for what its doing to the culture. The worst part is I’m listening still. And Drake is a media clown, who knows just when to self-deprecate to his advantage but also how to just smile his way right out of a serious interview. Last night at a recent Raptors-Warriors game he wore a sweatshirt with a  picture of ESPN reporter Doris Burke captioned “Woman Crush Wednesday”. That is the cheesy humor of my adolescence yes, and that’s not a thing that a rapper like Gucci or Future or 2 Chainz would ever do. Rappers aren’t supposed to be dancing up and down on the sidelines heckling Kevin Durant and taking up half of ESPN’s airtime but Drake does because he can and it won’t matter. He’s the kid in the sandbox who built the biggest one and we’re letting him do what he wants so he doesn’t kick all the others over. Nobody wants to be Meek Mill and he’s married to Nicki Minaj. That’s all Drake’s doing. That’s too much power for us to leave in the hands of the Canadian with a fondness for short relationships with Hooters girls and for some reason the Kentucky Wildcats. The history of Drake the bandwagon fan is a whole other novel that I might write. I’m just saying we need to check ourselves before this guy lets Taylor Swift paint hip-hop with a very bland, white brush that will probably sell even if its just auto-tuned screams at this point because why not. Drake literally alienated himself from himself by not evolving past the stage he was at with Take Care fully ever. None of his old love was ever requited and he didn’t really mature about how to handle it either. He went away from forging new ground and relied on the streets to set the sound while he picked and chose what looked and sounded cool. He lost who he was somewhere in there, or maybe this just who he is. He is getting fat while people starve in this business because of his greed. I am not behind it. Drake-Doris-Burke-2-645x356.jpg

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