Horseman of Hip Hop Apocalypse: DRAKE

I'm "thinking"

Gosh, I’ve started about four posts I still haven’t completed, about legit topics such as WKW’s finest films and a movie I saw last weekend called “Un Prophete.”

But what I want to talk to you about now is how much I hate Drake. I take it for granted that everyone hates him, but then I realize that this is not entirely true. But, I mean, for serious, what’s not to despise? That slyly arrogant expression permanently plastered on his face? His meaning-devoid, self-aggrandizing ‘rhymes’? His middle-school-poetry-reading flow? His monotonous drone, which, after a few verses, bores into your skull like a dull knife–that is, slowly, ineffectually, and yet painfully?!?!?!

I have seen Drake described as “deft” and “affable” by Sasha Frere Jones. I mean, seriously, wtf. Have you heard the song FOREVER, Sasha?

Pfork’s review of Drake’s first mixtape was POSITIVE. But it also contained this thought about his rise to prominence:

Blame Kanye. Drake isn’t just a post-Kanye artist; he’s a post-808s and Heartbreak artist, possibly the first. On that album, Kanye drifted lazily from rapping to singing over a bed of rippling lush-but-sparse electro…When [Drake] swings from rapping to buttery teen-idol singing, it feels organic and effortless, like he’s just doing whatever makes the most sense at any given moment.

This strikes me as an extremely prescient observation about the moment in commercial hip-hop, but not really as an endorsement of Drake. Let me explain.

You see, Drake is spawned from the crass, disgusting materialism of the Lil Wayne Young Money posse. Lil Wayne, by himself, is a gifted spitter of nonsense; he’s the Joyce of hip-hop, a master conjurer of imagery via a totally psychedelic stream of consciousness; the big difference, of course, is that Joyce can sustain centuries of lit students doing close readings, and Wayne probably couldn’t explain what two of his words strung together were ever supposed to mean.

But Wayne is not remarkable, it should be noted, for the company he keeps. As Wayne has told us on many occasions, he is an “alien,” and all the more for it when compared to his associates (ie Drake, Juelz Santana, et al).

Peoplez was wondering last year if hip hop was dead (while others disagreed). Yet it is near consensus that Raekwon’s “Time Machine Back to 1995” album was the best thing to come out in 2009. Others pointed to unsigned, (technically DROPPED from Interscope), Gary-born old school gangsta rapper Freddie Gibbs as the best rapper to come on the radar in a while. These two facts, among others, make it seem like the best recent hip hop has not been innovative, but rather has fallen back on identity tropes (gangsta/balla/king/etc) and well-worn genres. Even Jay-Z rues the fact that he’s still on top of the game, and when kings, unconstrained by things like constitutions and term limits, are complaining about unrivaled sovereignty, you know you gots a problem. Hip hop no longer informs pop music; it looks internally, or worse, it looks to pop music.

Yes, Drake is tha billboard chartzz finest example of the hybrid indie/hip hop/r&b artist. While artists who R&B and rap at the same time are not the newest phenomenon (fuck, even Ghostface made an album like that last year), these folks’ unprecedented radio presence is new, along with their mopey, somewhat dreamy aesthetic (courtesy of 808s).

And Drake ain’t alone in this. There’s that guy Theophilus London. TL’s mixtape from last year was called This Charming Mixtape and the cover was a redux of Elvis Costello’s 1978 album This Year’s Model. He freely uses Smiths lyrics (“HumDrum Town”), he sings, and honestly he raps a bit like Lupe Fiasco. I wouldn’t mind if Theophilus got real famous, he seems so pleasant.

Then, of course, there’s Kid Cudi. Drake and Kid Cudi have a lot in common: so much so that one has appeared in the other’s video. They both have worked with indie acts (drake with lykke li, kid cudi with ratatat, etc), they both sort of sing, and they both don’t have anything interesting to say. (Kid Cudi uses his tear-soaked journal for lyrical inspiration [hence: “tell me what you know about night terrors: nothin’/you don’t really care about the trials of tomorrow”], while Drake just keeps reminding us that he got here by pulling himself up by boot-straps and that he never plans to leave us alone [hence: “Forever”]. In other words, they are pissing their young masculinity, and all the implied egomania, over the unwitting listener.) Most importantly, their identities wouldn’t make any sense were it not for the tight-jeans-wearin & genre-hopping sensibilities of Kanye.

All that the world hates about Kanye–his wily vulnerability, his never-ending masculinity-in-crisis mode, his lack of loyalty to a particular hip hop genre, and his mainstreamin–has been distilled by these young lads to its dumbest form. And it looks like it’s here to stay, for at least the next year or so.


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