Drake is the worst. I’m an unabashed Drake hater.
And here’s why. It’s not because he airballed a shot in warm-ups for Kentucky, or that he regularly tries to high-five NBA players (although I was elated when favorite players Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant snubbed the rapper’s pleasantries). It’s not even that he has his own line of whiskey, the true mark of over-compensating for a lack of masculinity.
He’s just not that good a rapper.
To my mind, the mark of an artist is their ability to make the audience think. Ask anyone why they like Drake. Their answer will never be “lyrical ability” or “cultural significance.” It will be that classic line: “It’s music to turn up to!” In this sense, the existence of Drake’s success is predicated on people not listening to him and instead just dancing to him. Ain’t no problem with that. Where I start getting confrontational is when people try and put him into the upper echelon of emcees in general. Oh MAN - that gets me heated.
The dude sells records, and does absolutely nothing else. Drake is a perfect example of what UConn Professor and Head of the Africana Studies Department William Jelani Cobb calls a “rapper.” A “rapper” in this case is dichotomous to an “emcee.”
“The difference between an emcee and a rapper is the difference between smooth jazz and John Coltrane, the difference between studio and unplugged,” Cobb writes in “The Devil & Dave Chappelle.” “The Fresh Prince was an emcee; Will Smith is a rapper. Nas has been an emcee since he breathed his first, but the P’s (both Diddy and Master) are rappers down to their DNA.”
Where rappers are judged by sales, an emcee is judged “by their ability to move crowds,” according to Cobb. Most importantly, “the emcee writes his own material.”
With Drake’s already subpar, hardly-clever lyrics about money, money, getting with and breaking up with women and, oh yeah, money, it turns out Drake doesn’t even write his own bars. How bad could it get? With rappers like J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper and Big K.R.I.T. populating Hip-Hop’s current generation, how does someone like Drake continue to flourish?
He did, admittedly, slay Meek Mill in a rap battle. But Meek Mill was already inconsequential, and who knows if Drake even wrote the lyrics?
Drake is exhibit A of the United States of America’s consistent celebration of mediocrity. Not once has anyone needed to rewind the track to hear what Drake just said. Some will say he is talented for his singing or his flow, but that’s the bare minimum to be an artist. The general lack of caring for the fact Drake doesn’t write his lyrics is unconscionable. In a genre like hip-hop, where ideas and words are valued so heavily, Drake should be a nobody. He is instead an international superstar.
As a society, we’ve collectively come to accept stardom based on mediocrity, and we mistakenly equate money and fame for quality. Donald Trump is without any type of moral fiber or intellectual backbone, yet he is leading Republican polls due to his bombast and constant media coverage. The Kardashians and Paris Hilton are self-explanatory. In music it is most clear. Anyone who can be marketed – Taylor Swift, Katy Perry the list goes on - is suddenly skyrocketed to Grammy wins and notoriety. This is not relegated to hip-hop. Drake is simply the clearest model.
While emcees like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole are commenting on issues of race and personal tragedy, and imbuing their music with a level of depth and innovation, Drake is the same old story every time.
Leave Drake among the 2 Chainz’ and Rick Ross’ of the world - in other words, the standard-bearers for turn-up music without content, conscience or any semblance of craft. I’m just gonna hit you with a random Drake lyric from the song “Lose My Mind.” Call it out of context, but I believe its nonsensical, pointless nature is perfectly representative of his entire catalogue.
"Do I love these h*s? Kinda, sorta. I got em’ drinkin Sangria like it's f***ing water." Word.
Hip-hop is, right now, in the process of reinventing itself. It no longer belongs to a genre. New sounds and instruments are being utilized on every album. Entire projects turn into concepts; take J. Cole’s “Forest Hills Drive” which tracks his journey from his birth to his final, recent epiphany, denouncing fame and asking listeners to “Love Yourz.”
Drake’s gonna keep bragging and saying things nobody cares about, and people are gonna keep dancing to it. Me? I’ll be fine. I can find music with soul and without hedonism to dance to. I just needed to get this off my chest.
Sten Spinella is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.