First, a palate cleanser by Bulu, an apologia for making a post about Drake.
Bulu – Pussy & Weed feat. Devin the Dude
The fact is, anyone who knows my whole style in this music shit knows that I’m actually a big proponent — contra Serg — of 4theladies tracks and softness in general. My favorite era of rap was the late ’90s/early 00s, when popular rap and popular music were one & the same, when girls & guys at a party all knew the same words to the same rap songs. Hard rappers could spit over soft tracks; folks had given up on hating on R&B and the genres seemed to flourish simultaneously, and by the early 00s had entirely locked down the pop charts with a nice balance of the male and ‘feminine pressure.’
Also, growing up in Chicago, I’ve always been heavily into house music, spent a fair amount of time getting into weird German house around the middle of the decade, fuck with disco/old school, listen to Ginuwine & Aaliyah, etc. So I guess I just don’t see, for myself, anything all that adventurous in Drake’s willingness to sing & not be ‘hard.’ As my dude Jordan pointed out, Puffy already incorporated the slick romantic ~vibed out~ sound in Last Train to Paris. It’s not like Wiz Khalifa is out there banging, unless the Taylor Gang is actually an offshoot of the Black P Stones that I’m not aware of. I can’t deny there are some beats on this record, and it’s earned its acclaim to a much greater degree than the previous one–but Drake is still off-putting to me as a personality, and it’s something I’ve had trouble putting my finger on.
I do think people give him way too much credit in the thoughtful-progressive-male department, when a lot of his swag seems like simple middle-class signifying. I think the other problem is that, in hip-hop, your arrogance is justified by your struggle. Starting out as a pretty-boy TV star, with all the money and connections in the world, makes it hard to justify the bragging, to justify calling out haters as guys who aren’t getting laid. I mean, I do aite, but it’s not exactly an accomplishment to be getting it in more often than I am; not everyone is built to be Wilt.
It’s not that Drake is inauthentic; it’s that he’s co-opted the swagger of the ‘authentic’ — meaning, a language sourced from struggle, the narrative rappers construct that gives the sense that they’ve earned their arrogance — & tried to convince us that being ‘soft’ (aiming for a female audience) and not having a street background is a struggle all its own. I don’t really buy that, though; if there was a single label head in America who shut a door to an attractive TV star whose elevator pitch was ‘R&B records with hip-hop swag targeted at the ladies” because the artist didn’t live a “Juicy” life, then he’s the dumbest man in America.