Culture

OPINION: All Hail Our New King, Drake.

by Reginald Duvivier

Drake

Last summer brought as many live music festivals as it did mosquitoes. In such a crowded market it’s hard to separate them from the rest of the crowd, but Toronto’s “October’s Very Own” (OVO) was a success. Despite megastar crooner Frank Ocean cancelling due to sickness there was still plenty of star power to go around. Lil Wayne, A$AP Rocky, R&B star Miguel and surprised performer Kanye West performed for the enthusiastic Canadian crowd

According to reports the biggest reaction of the night went to the festivals creator, a man big enough to draw that level of rap talent AND still be able to headline the show himself, hometown hero Drake. His influence and popularity has grown to the point where even infamous egomaniac West acknowledged on stage “Me and Hov (Jay-Z) would have never made Watch the Throne if this n*gga wasn’t putting pressure on us like that.”

Rap superstars come and go in a pretty regular cycle, every five years or so. Usually the rapper du jour has a 2-3 album run where they are seemingly untouchable after which the cracks start showing. Some put out a mediocre rock album (Lil Wayne), become parodies of themselves (50 Cent) or just become old (Jay-Z). By that math, Drake’s time is about up. But it’s like he can’t do anything wrong, even when he comes out with a yacht rock song.

Drake’s powers are so large that even being associated to him brings you cred. Atlanta’s based rap group Migos’s retardo-rap anthem, “Versace” would not been much more then a regional hit had not Drake reached out and dropped a verse on their remix. His king making abilities are probably most exemplified with the Weeknd, who was an unknown singer-songwriter from Canada until Drake became his personal PR rep on twitter.

As a rapper one can lobby shots that his early work was a little too derivative of past hip-hop emperor Lil Wayne’s run (a favor returned when Wayne stole Drake’s hastag flow and flogged it to death on his rap downward spiral). Drake’s dabbling into heavily emotional tinged R&B probably wouldn’t exist without Kanye’s heart bleed album 808 and Heartbreaks. And while he’s the first pop artist able to sing and rap with in equal quality he’s not the first to effortlessly switch between hardcore rap-isms and pop R&B hook writing sometimes within he same song (something mastered by 50 Cent almost a decade earlier)

What makes Drake’s current reign special is that he’s done so by breaking the biggest rule in Hip-hop, by being UNCOOL. While there have been more then a handful of Drake impersonators selling derivative pop rap & blues to the Disney crowd it’s not as if anyone wants to necessarily style themselves after this guy.

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He’s a former teen television actor from a city not known for its rap music (at least in the mainstream) singing pop hits. He’s unpretentious; whining about a shitty love life when his peers find themselves so machismo’ed out they can’t even admit they love. He puts out a song called “Wu-Tang Forever” and immediately has members of the Wu-Tang distancing themselves from it.

Yet after these tweets Wu-Tang member U-God himself confirmed that they had gone in there to record their verses for the remix!

He’s the first signifier of the post hip-hop era of rap music. He’s thrown away the rules he didn’t like and kept the core values alive and vibrant in a time where they’ve become so cliché’e. And he didn’t have to do it by going high art or new wave.

It’s good being the king, baby.

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