Tuesday, March 9, 2010
A Few Words On Drake
Let’s face it: Drake is a rather unlikeable dude. Regardless of how you feel about Aubrey Drake Graham’s music, it’s hard to root for the guy to succeed. For one, he is a Canadian teen soap actor who by all accounts decided to arbitrarily start a rap career simply because he could. This dude should have been subject to damning Brian Austin Greenian ridicule the moment that asinine idea floated through the space between his off-puttingly bushy, caterpillar eyebrows. He’s too pretty, too Canadian, too much of a Weezy biter and his music is liked a little too much by teenage girls. No! Just no...
With all that serving as a caveat, last year’s mixtape, the “So Far Gone,” was quietly if shockingly excellent. Borrowing heavily from the spacious, sad synth minimalism of Kanye’s “808s & Heartbreak,” Drake captured an unabashedly pop melancholy that seemed strangely addictive and charming. Drake is not a great rapper and yet “So Far Gone” works without a single great or memorable line to its credit. What works is the way that Drake is able to breezily switch from rapping to this mournful teen pop falsetto and how tightly structured each of the songs on the tape are produced and written. Drake is an atomic grade hook writer and you’ll find yourself humming the melodies and words to nearly every one of these songs. The songs don’t break ground thematically as it deals with the same pitfalls of fame material that “808s & Heartbreak” dealt with but Drake manages to somehow sound less cloying and whiny than Kanye did on the record. It’s goofy if shallow fun. It’s like some sort of weird synthesis of Nelly and Slug (and miraculously not nearly as awful as one would imagine that would sound like.)
Honestly, Drake should abandon any aspirations of being a traditionally “great” rapper because whenever, he tries to rappity rap he almost always sounds ridiculous. Take Drake’s latest single, “Over”, as an example. The production is as typically immaculate as nearly everything he’s been releasing the last year but the only thing remotely memorable on Drake’s part is the hook and bridge of the song. The verse is lifted straight out of the Lil Wayne playbook of forced and awkward punchlines but unlike Weezy, Drake lacks Weezy’s natural effortlessness in his delivery to compensate for his lyrical clunkers so Drake ends up sounding...well, forced and awkward. His confidence as a rapper seems unearned so he ends up sounding like the musical equivalent of that cocky asshole that needs to constantly validate his manhood by hitting on everything with a functioning pair of legs. Drake plays against his strengths when he tries to really, really rap.
The best moments of “So Far Gone” are the moments he let’s his guard down like on “Lust For Life’ where he is lamenting about the expectations of being continually approached by groupies for sex and he kind of croons the line “And who the hell am I to say no, no, nooooo.” It kills me everytime because it expresses a weary trepidation about the direction of his life. I relate to that even if that his problems sound like the problems I only can dream about. When Drake is swaggering over “Over”, he’s totally unlikeable but on “Successful” when he’s expressing his desire to get famous he seems like a genuine human. Call me crazy but that seems like a virtue an artist should strive for.