Yes, you read that title correctly. A writer for Cypher League, a publication that prides itself on sifting through the dreck of popular hip hop, is endorsing perhaps the most polarizing figure in all of hip hop music (maybe outside of a certain rebellious youth from inner-city Chicago).
Ever since the 2010 release of Thank Me Later, Drake has become the exemplar for all that "real" hip hop fans view as detestable about the genre today. He has become the mascot for oldheads complaining about what the game once was, material for hack comedians, an easy target for a rapper trying to garner controversy to sell his new LP, and, indeed, the symbol for the ultimate devolution of hip hop as a genre from hard-hitting Rakim and Biggie to a lineup of poseur R&B singers that wear crewneck sweaters and hang out with Justin Bieber.
Well, I for one have had enough of it. I love the music of one Aubrey "Drake" Graham and I am not ashamed to say it.
First off, it is important we separate Drake, the persona, from Aubrey Graham, the person. Aubrey in his personal life is, to put it best, a bit naïve. Aubrey gets into bottle fights with Chris Brown at nightclubs, or something like that. Aubrey treats YMCMB like its an unstoppable collective, when in reality it consists of him, Nicki Minajs buttcheeks, a syrup-fried Lil Wayne, and a relative pupu platter of mediocre rappers (In this analogy, Gudda Gudda is definitely the soggy egg rolls). Aubrey persists in the inexplicable belief that him and Aaliyah are doing pottery to Unchained Melody while he puts out half-baked remixes of her unreleased tracks. And yes, YOLO was funny for about a week until drunk white girls began to treat it like it was a sacred (and contradictory, as the slogan can also be flipped to preach the values of excessive safety) credo on how to spend ones existence. However, just as we ignore almost everything Kanye has done in the public eye over the years, let us focus only on the music of Drake and not his personal life.
First of all, most Drake haters enjoy ignoring one massive fact about his material: his music is actually good. Thats right, its true. Perhaps part of the reason that many hate Drake is they only hear the big radio singles and see his music videos (videos are Drakes artistic Achilles heel) and dismiss him as an artist. However, virtually anyone who listens to an actual Drake album, especially Take Care, actually enjoys it. While he does benefit from the steady hands of producer Noah "40" Shebib, Drake has managed to eke out a singular sound that is one part the XX, one part Aaliyah, and one part depressed Diplomats. Drake also has the Kanye like ability to seamlessly integrate indie samples into his music without it seeming pandering or forced (Chiddy Bang anyone?) and his ability to make his albums seem like actual albums instead of just a collection of singles is what has earned him critical lauds in addition to his big sales.
But this is hip hop, the only genre where you are judged not just by how talented you are, but by a host of other factors as well. Therefore, Drake is hated not so much for his music, but for what he represents, the ultimate pussification of hip hop.
First of all, the idea that hip hop should be divided into two separate camps of a proleteriat of oversaturated ringtone rap consumers and a small bourgeois of overly serious, "conscious" quasi-Talib Kweli's devalues everything about the genre. Leaving that discussion aside, one of the major knocks on Drake is that he paints himself to be something he is not. He asserts that he started from the bottom, despite being raised in what seems to be a middle-class area of Toronto before breaking it big as an actor on a teen soap opera. No matter how many black football gloves he wears in videos or threats of "catching a body", he will always be Weelchair Jimmy, the smiling, freestyling basketball player on a cheesy Canadian soap who just wants that girl to notice him in the cafeteria.
But, allow me to ask, since when have real gangsta credentials ever been important for actual hip hop? Rappers ALWAYS exaggerate the poor circumstances of their origins, as they do with the number of women they bang or kilos they pushed or cars they own or literally anything. It adds to the drama of their meteoric rise. Lil Wayne was plucked out of the hood for the luxurious life of the Hot Boys at around age 12, so how much corner pushing could he really have done before his voice got low and he started to like girls?. ODB grew up in middle-class Newport News, VA (no disrespect to the Ol' Dirty Bastard though). Weve all bought into Rick Rosss gangsta fantasyland despite the ubiquitous fact that he worked as a correctional officer in Dade County. Exaggerating the poverty of their upbringing is a standard practice for most rappers but, of course, we buy into it. It makes their now dominant position seem even more hard-earned and powerful. If the so-called "credentials" of a certain rapper do get called into question, we end up with the basis for every annoying 50 Cent feud ever, and it all becomes a hazy world of maybes and secondhand stories.
In addition, if we need our rappers to constantly back up their claims of slanging bricks and banging bitches, we also cannot turn around and criticize Chief Keef when he pulls a gun on a police officer or films an interview at a gun range. By those standards, Keef is just living the life that he portrays in his music, fulfilling all the negative messages therein.
We now turn to the other favorite claim of Drake haters, the pussification argument. Of course, there is some truth to this. Drake is a big fan of self-pitying, heart-on-sleeve oversharing about his relationships with strippers and various celebrity girlfriends. His love for talking about his problems borders on narcissism. But, in many ways, what Drake is portraying is more real than most of the rappers we love. Granted, Drakes problems are usually ones that come with being a famous performer in our hyperactive 21st century. But the emotion at the heart of his music is still true.
Almost every hip hop fan has the urge to live out some of its wildest fantasies, one where we are just like the characters created in our favorite songs. This is true regardless of your race, class, or anything. We all want to walk up to that person we hate and be like "Its my block now, aight kid?" like Juelz Santana in "Dipset Anthem". We want to have fucking bitches be our only fucking problem and big booty hoes for our birthday. We even want to be in Paris getting drunk off bottles of Cristal and scotch from the 1920s with Kanye and Jay-Z. But, the truth is, life is just not so simple. When the lights have faded and the party is over, real people get hung up over girls, can feel insecure about who they are, and just want to feel like they are worth something. This is especially true for the youth and twentysomethings of the world, the people Drake truly makes music for. Drake gives us the outlandish boasts and the rich lifestyle that we often crave in hip hop, but he also tells us about what he feels at the end of the night, about how feeling used by women, about wanting to break up with a girl the right way, and about hoping that somebody out there is just right for you after all the others have passed. Write that off as oversensitivity if you want, but youre only lying to yourself.
Recently fellow Cypher League writer MyAcquaintanceSkinny said that A$AP was the perfect exemplifier of our capitalist generation. With all due respect, I have to disagree. In my view, the voice of our "generation of, not being in love, and not being together" is this Canadian, half-white, half-Jewish solipsist. Today we live in a world where we share everything, as we Facebook and tweet our daily lives, or post Tumblr rants of our deepest thoughts or make our dessert look vintage on Instagram. And nobody does obsessive oversharing quite like Drake, as he appeals to the struggle that many young people feel in our modern, overly personalized technological world. So even though he might not evoke the values of what is "real hip-hop", even if he can be an self-pitying egomaniac, and, yeah, even if his sweaters look dumb, I am not ashamed to say that I love the music of Aubrey "Drake" Graham.
Long live Drizzy, the rapper we deserve, if not the one we appreciate right now. YOLO.