It rides. /end review
I was gonna end the blog post there, but I thought I’d say some more given the negative commentary I’ve heard about the release.
If you listened to rap before Eminem (well there goes 95% of my audience), then you’ll recall the genre as one of – sometimes angry – social commentary and, for lack of a better term, rebellion. Now that the genre has gone from being Public Enemy #1 in the 90s to the staple soundtrack of any decent party, newer artists are receiving a lot of flak from old school purists.
The party rap mainstream issue isn’t anything new per se, but Drake’s album isn’t that. It’s the kind of rap that happens after the party. And not the after party, but the sober nights when you’re up late thinking about life and relationships. Those usually aren’t happy thoughts, especially if you’re single and the other person’s moved on. This, my friends, is emo rap.
Rap as a genre is finally becoming comfortable with talking about the most difficult topic of all: affairs of the heart. And just like emo punk, emo rap is getting a hard time from hardliners who think it’s unbecoming for their beloved genre to adopt those affairs as a core topic as opposed to something that gets a cursory mention in a line or two.
I’m not completely comfortable with that myself. While I thought Do It All and Paris Morton Music – two extremely sad and somewhat angry tracks – were hot, I was alarmed when Drake dropped Marvins Room. Calling your ex about her current guy? Seriously? What happened to moving on with your own life?
I won’t attempt to explain or define emo rap as a genre, but what I will do is ask critics exactly what they expect Drake to rap about. Socioeconomic struggle? Selling narcotics? Drive bys? The hood? Eating cereal? The guy’s a TV actor who became a rapper. Most rapping careers go in the opposite direction. Drake’s career is not conventional and should not be expected to follow the usual path.
But what if Drake’s latest album is indicative of more than just heartbreak? What if – *gulp* – rap is actually starting to address an even bigger problem? A problem experienced by all strata of society but generally addressed only by the middle and upper class who have the resources to do so?
I’m referring to depression.*
Think about it: the most common criticism of him is that he always sounds sad. Even on party tracks, there are hints of regret and desperate hope. It’s as if he’s quietly shouting for someone to love him for who he is so he doesn’t have to maintain the public face that brings in the money and temporary attachments.
But wait, the critics say, Drake isn’t real hip-hop. He’s a fraud, a contrived heir to a genre he’s destroying. He’s only winning because people in power want him to win.
The answer to that is …
People seem to forget that the entertainment industry has never been a meritocracy. Nor will it ever be. Success has less to do with how talented you are than with how marketable you are to a particular demographic. And Drake has very wide appeal proven by his acting experience. Also because he’s an actor first, he can become anyone whoever pays him wants him to be.
Let that marinate.
It doesn’t hurt that his appearance is mild enough to be non-threatening to suburban folks but he spits hard enough to pick up the urban crowd. Taken altogether, the aforesaid make Drake the most flexible rapping talent in existence.
Once you realize that, something hits you about his “depressed” sound:
It isn’t (completely) real.
Nope. If you’ve been listening to him from his mixtape days, you’ll notice his tone has arced downward from celebratory and flamboyant to sad and moody. Simply put, Drake is packaged recession emo rap aimed squarely at the hearts of Millenials facing relationship, career and future anxiety crises. This is because misery loves company, and labels know that happy music can alienate audiences in rough times. That’s one of the reasons emo punk’s popularity soared after 9/11. It’s a documented fact that the recession has been especially hard on young men and even harder on young minority men. It makes total sense, then, that Drake would rap about girls lending him money when he needs it and moving out of his mom’s basement in between popping bottles and partying with models.
Personally, I don’t care whether Drake’s music is heartfelt or not. Music is a form of art, and in my opinion art doesn’t need to be validated by sincerity. If it sounds good it’ll be in rotation on my end, period. (I should also add that I live in own place and on my own hard earned money, haha.)
For those who insist on hating him, however, I suggest you follow the guy below. I went to school with him; he’s been featured in a very prominent business magazine which I won’t mention since his account is anonymous, probably for good reason. He’s also the biggest Drake (and Jay-Z and Kanye West) hater you’ll ever meet. Enjoy:
*Rap is also starting to address hardcore drug addiction in a dark light. For proof of that, check out Kid Cudi’s song Maniac, which sounds like the rap analog of 90s era Nine Inch Nails. No further explanation needed for that.