[Editor's Note: Fuck Guilty Pleasures celebrates the over-produced, commercial, artless, lowbrow music that we believe is genuinely worthwhile. Like, among the best music ever.]
At least on wax, Drake isn't a sympathetic, relatable or even very likeable guy. And everyone seems to have an opinion on his lack of cred; Pusha T went at him on his “Don't Fuck With Me (Dreams Money Can Buy)” freestyle, though nothing was as vicious as Drake's response: “I've never had any interaction with Pusha T, so for him to diss me would be purely issues he's having with himself.”
Meanwhile, a blogger pretending to be Ghostface Killah dedicates maybe 75% of his words towards besmirching the man born Aubrey Graham. The site's review of Take Care's first track “Over My Dead Body” begins: “[T]his sounds like the soundtrack to some Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants type shit.”
Indeed, all sorts of folks are piling on, and the criticism is building in advance of Take Care, which drops tomorrow. But I've heard it and I think it's incredible. In fact, though many readers will find this ludicrous, Drake is probably my favorite lyricist.
The horror! In fact, even those who praise Drake tend to hedge their bets. In his otherwise glowing write-up of Drake's debut Thank Me Later in Village Voice, Sean Fennessey quipped: “Drake is not changing rap, because the thing Drake is worst at is rap.” Pitchfork critic Tom Breihan, meanwhile, could only find a single decent punchline on Drake's mixtape So Far Gone. (“When my album drops bitches'll buy it for the picture/ And niggas will buy it too and claim they got it for their sister.”)
But why isn't Drake considered a good rapper? Critics key onto the fact that he raps about women — or as he puts it, “rappin' and bitches until all of it switches.” And it seems likely that he will likely never stop hashtagging. Also, don't forget that he infamously “freestyled” while reading off a BlackBerry.
Never mind that his passive-aggressive pandering is every bit as misogynist as what you'd find on a Suga Free record, you could catch him namedropping hip-hop nerd faves like Onyx, Bulletproof Wallets and Mac Dre, and freestyling is perhaps the lowest form of hip-hop.
The truth is, while many of the new vanguard are praised for their technique — like Freddie Gibbs, Big K.R.I.T., and Kendrick Lamar – why does so little of what they actually say stick with me afterwards?
As with Thank Me Later, Take Care is littered with rewindable punchlines that not only prove that Drake isn't some dolled-up platonic friend, but that he's actually a real asshole. (That shows he's not soft, right?)
Most remember the “Niggas with no money act like money isn't everything” line from “Up All Night,” but “Bracelet saying 'you should quit'/cards saying 'fuck your life'” is both a tremendously haughty rhyme and a subtly clever World Series of Poker reference.
On the towering “Lord Knows,” he beats his haters at their own game, claiming “Know I don't make music for niggas who don't get pussy/So those are the ones I count on to diss me or overlook me.” Should this be surprising, considering he ran away with 2011's summer jam (“I'm On One”)? And when ” target=”_blank”>Lil Wayne and Jadakiss presumably went at Jay-Z on “It's Good,” didn't Drake have the hardest bars (“Rikers Island on this flow”)?
In fact, more than a lot of rappers, you really get the feeling that Drake actually gives a shit about what he says. Not since Das Racist's “Sit Down, Man” — another act who's dealt with “not real rap” accusations — has there been something where literally every line stands to be quotable. Drake has double-entendres like “She said 'You're such a dog'/I said 'You're such a bone',” and lines that are unassumingly deep like “They got me on these white bitches like Seal, nigga/Slave to the pussy, but I was playing the field nigga.”
His unusual upbringing and oppressive self-consciousness makes him an obvious descendant of Kanye West. Likewise, he knows there's no such thing as bad publicity. Thus, being one of the game's most quotable lyricists and one of the best is one and the same for him. “I know all of the things I hear they be poking fun at/Never the flow, though/They know I run that.”