For the past two years, Drake has been one of the hottest acts in hip-hop. From high profile guest appearances to a ubiquitous presence on urban radio, it is nearly impossible to follow hip-hop and not get regular doses of the Toronto-born rapper.
I hate him.
There I said it.
To be clear, I don’t have any personal beef with Drake. While I’ve never met him, I don’t doubt that he’s a decent and well-intentioned person. Still, I hate him. And you can’t stop me. Why? Because he represents several things that I find troublesome about the current mainstream hip-hop scene.
First, there’s the music. While there’s no doubt that Drake is very gifted— even if he too often wastes his talent making radio-friendly confection—he leaves much to be desired as an rapper. Instead of relying on his intellectual and artistic gifts, he too often resorts to tired concepts, lazy punch lines and predictable one-liners. This wouldn’t be such a problem if he weren’t constantly being hailed by the rap world as a dope lyricist rather than what he actually is: a pop song writer.
To call Drake an MC in a world that still includes Black Thought, Lupe Fiasco, Jean Grae, Pharoah Monch, or even Eminem is an insult to people who think. As evidenced by his humiliating Blackberry “freestyle” on Funkmaster Flex’s Hot 97 radio show, Drake has mastered neither the art, science, nor stylistic etiquette of MCing. From his frantic attempts to stay on beat to his inability to improvise even slightly, Drake represents a dangerous historical moment in hip-hop culture where rapping has overshadowed other dimensions of MCing, like freestyling, battling, and moving the crowd.
In addition to his lyrical deficiencies, there is something naggingly inauthentic about Drake. And nope, it’s not because he’s a half-white Canadian named Aubrey whose original claim to fame was playing Jimmy Brooks on the teen drama Degrassi High. While such information does nothing to enhance his street bona fides, it certainly doesn’t merit missing him outright. After all, some of hip-hop’s greatest talents (whether they admit it or not) have come from a variety of privileged race, class, and geographic backgrounds. Also, despite being a running buddy of Lil Wayne, Drake’s raps don’t include drug dealing, poverty, violence, or any of the other stale tropes of ghetto authenticity found in mainstream hip-hop narratives. Still, his persona and music feel like the product of industry cynicism rather than an organic outgrowth of hip-hop culture.
From his faux-Southern accent to his corporate-funded “street buzz,” Drake has been perfectly prepped to become hip-hop’s version of a boy band. Take one look at Drake and you can almost hear the calculations of greedy record execs looking for the next crossover act: Preexisting white fanbase: check. Exotic Ethnic Background: check. Light Skin: check. Celebrity Cosigners: check.
And the list goes on… Sadly, such paint-by-the-numbers thinking not only forces Drake into the public sphere, but also excludes more gifted artists who don’t fit neatly into the prefigured boxes of industry honchos. Read the rest at TheLoop21.com.
Marc Lamont Hill is Associate Professor of Education at Columbia University. He blogs regularly at MarcLamontHill.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.