And with this, Doc Zeus will never speak of Drake again.
For a certain breed of hip hop fan, Aubrey Graham is the harbinger of doom. If you were bred on the subtle joys of casual misogyny that radiated through N.W.A and…let’s be honest, every other rap artist not named P.M. Dawn, Drake’s music speaks to the moral failures of a younger generation of fans completely unconcerned with the values of the generations before it.
Arrogant and guilty of the cardinal sin of emotional vulnerability, Drake is Galactus coming to swallow the carefully cultivated Ron Swanson masculinity that generations of swaggering alpha male rap artists (and delusional beta male wannabes) have worked so hard to engrain into hip hop’s categorically heteronormativist power structure. He is the darkness; the ceaseless void of corporate soul. He is Drakeseid and he must be stopped.
Admittedly, I’m not too big on the cult of Aubrey Graham, but he’s far from the worst artist working. While I enjoyed certain aspects of both So Far Gone and Thank Me Later, (primarily the swirling 808s & Heartbreak’s aesthetic and Trey Songz’ hook on “Successful”), I find Drake to be a largely harmless nuisance. Entitled, arrogant, basically like every other artist under 21. Youth music is supposed to be entitled and arrogant. It’s the whole point of the teenage experience. If you aren’t listening to music that pisses off your elders, you’re doing it wrong . You might as well enjoy a life of voluntary celibacy and Josh Groban.
Needless to say as I get closer to 30, I’ve become alienated by the many aspects of why Drake is Drake. He doesn’t speak to the sensibilities that I’ve grown accustomed to in my rap, but that’s actually okay. I’m 28. I love Wu-Tang and know the words to Masta Ace’s Disposable Arts by heart. Drake might as well be some smooth Kenny G soprano sax over some Perry Como crooning.
Here’s the thing. I don’t think Drake is a terrible rap artist because he’s soft. That’s a persistent, regressive idea and one at the heart of the Great Drake Debate. It speaks to an underlying blind spot within the generation of rap fans that I come from. Granted, the Drake is a pillowy, woodland sprite of a man trope is about as fun a meme as hip hop has had in a long time. Clowning Drake on Twitter for his perceived softness has unofficially become the fifth element of hip hop at this point. It’s juvenile and sophomoric, but it speaks to the basic truth that all men are essentially fifth graders and fifth graders understand the categorical truth that there is no higher joy than clowning your friends for being a girl. When Drake puts out an album and the cover has him hunched over a table looking like the saddest anteater in all the jungle, you instantly revert to it being hilarious to make fun of your friends for getting misty-eyed when Leo slowly sinks into the ocean in Titanic.
Rap has an unfortunate reputation of being hostile to women and homosexuals. This is part of the conversation. There’s something unseemly about scores of people ruthlessly mocking Drake for flexing his “feminine” side. It’s not a stretch to suggest that the controversy surrounding Drake’s music is an extension of hip hop’s longstanding issues with its internal sexism and homophobia. Ultimately, its probably a good thing that Drake is challenging traditional modes of masculinity in hip hop because its an issue that has been begging to be properly addressed by a mainstream artist for a long, long time.
That’s not to say that Drake is a great artist or his new album, Take Care, is really all that good. It’s not. While it’s totally okay to be the Kenny G of hip hop, let’s recognize that Kenny G still kind of sucks. Ultimately, what I dislike about his new album is what makes me not care for large portions of his previous material: he’s a smug and manipulative songwriter whose songs remains remarkably kiddie pool shallow and his basic flow, the dreaded hashtag rap, is still the worst thing to happen to modern rap lyricism since Jim Jones discovered he could get famous for yelling “balling” over other people’s tracks. Take Care might be the most brazenly cynical record to be recorded by a popular artist of all time. It’s entire existence is designed to validate the idea that Drake is a deep and important individual and we should totally feel sad for him (or if you a woman totally sleep with him) because his fame can’t allow him to feel feelings like a real boy.
Ironically, what makes Take Care such a cynical and manipulative affair is the precise reason (if for completely opposite reasons) that he’s so disliked by the hordes of his alpha male haters: his emotional nature. Drake wields his “emotions” less as a way to speak to a higher truth, more as a tool to elicit cheap sympathy for his inability to connect with women/people/society because of his massive wealth and fame. Its all “I’m sorry, my parents were divorced so I really didn’t meant to sleep with all those other girls baby” and no genuine, internal reflection. Its the same rhetorical ploy that men use to manipulate dumb and insecure people into sleeping with them repackaged as genuine emotion since time began.
On “Marvin’s Room,” Drake drunkenly calls an ex-girlfriend after a night of partying. It’s ostensibly about apologizing or trying to get her back, more about him wanting nts to mock her choice of a new boyfriend. That’s not the hallmark of a complex individual dealing with the pain of lost love. That’s a callow asshole trying to ruin the relationship of somebody he supposedly cares for. And that record is a fucking ballad! Why am I supposed to feel sympathy for him?
If there is a reason to hate Drake, its less because he’s soft but because his music is theme music for entitled narcissists everywhre. In Drake’s world, he can’t think of anybody but himself. Over Take Care’s hour plus running time, we don’t learn anything about Drake other than he likes money, sex and that he feels bad that money and sex make him jaded. He speaks vaguely of having love for his some mysterious crew of his boys from Toronto (curious because he spent his first two mixtapes distancing himself from his Canadian heritage as much as humanely possible). But they’re never given names, or faces, or even an amusing anecdote. Take Care is a towering monument to his own selfish ego more than anything else. Hate him for that.
Also, he permanently ruins “Back That Azz Up.” I didn’t think that was possible. You can hate him for that, too.