Recently, I read an article that was posted to Mic.com that was titled “7 Ways Drake Revolutionized Hip Hop and is already a Legend”. Instantly, I knew that they were either too young or knew nothing about hip hop without reading the first line. These days, it’s hard to be a pioneer in doing anything when it comes to the music industry. The only thing you can do is break sales records. That’s about it. Otherwise, any other notable changes would have to be so drastic it changes the very foundation of the culture.
While I was a fan of Drake back in 07/08, it was about 2009 when my feel for his music started to falter. That was, of course, the year he started gaining massive mainstream appeal for his “mixtape”, So Far Gone. The album was good, but different. Not in a good way, either. It felt like a different person was rapping. Not trying to feed into the whole Meek Mill diss about Drake not writing his own lyrics, but I’d say that merit can be given to suspicion at the very least. His lyrics were less humble (which is expected…it’s hip hop, after all) and out of character. For instance:
Before, it was this…
“Uh, we know what you’re thinking love
You think we out smoking and drinking love
Pushing big whips, chains clinking love
But y’all don’t really know me like you think you know me”
– “Think Good Thoughts” / Comeback Season (2007)
…but then, this…
“I’m so high even when I’m coming down
Just met a girl say she from the H-Town
I say my name is Drizzy and ain’t nobody realer
Cup inside a cup, smoking Ghostface Killah”
– “November 18” / So Far Gone (2009)
See where the confusion can set in? Now, I’m not saying that Drake isn’t a great artist. He’d totally kill if he ever dropped a pop album. What I’m saying is that all of these reasons that Mic.com came up with can be dispelled by means of a solid Google search.
#1: “He opened the genre to a much wider variety of stories.”
I mentioned earlier how it’s pretty hard to be the first to do anything first in hip hop, especially 40 some odd years after its birth. Maybe we weren’t paying attention to Arrested Development or A Tribe Called Quest’s “The Low End Theory” (Arguably the best lyrical album ever made). Even Tupac was talking about his emotions before Drake. LL Cool J and all of that caking and lip licking. EMINEM! Oh, my gosh! How did we forget the patron saint of heavily emotionally charged rants over beats? Eminem is miles ahead of Drake in this section. I’m pretty sure every possible subject matter has been covered in some form.
Then, he went on to say this guy opened the door for Kendrick Lamar (ha!) and Nas (HA! HA!) to “open up emotionally” in their new material that was dropped. Please. Nas is too good to even mention someone other than Rakim or DJ Premier opening a door. Kendrick has been doing this on mixtapes for a while, also. Go back to The Kendrick Lamar EP (2009) or Overly Dedicated (2010). Even his REAL first studio album, Section.80 (2011). Why didn’t they do that research? Because, they thought he just started with good kid, M.A.A.D. city in 2012. This writer lacks enough hip hop knowledge to write on it.
#2: “He encouraged hip-hop to rethink the way it approaches women.”
Not knocking him for being a good guy, but he’s had his share of female dog references in many songs. Not to mention the least bit of attention to basically any conscious rapper who have a history of encouraging better attitudes toward women such as Common (“The Light”), Blackstar (“Brown Skin Lady”), or even Tupac (“Keep Your Head Up”). Let’s not even get into the female MCs before Lil’ Kim or Nicki oversexualized the image, like Salt & Pepa, MC Lyte or Queen Latifah who was NOT going to stand for you calling her out of her name. (“U.N.I.T.Y.”)
Seriously, I’m offended by the lack of knowledge and the hero worship of some of the younger generation of music listeners. Hip hop is more than the word of the most relevant person you get forced into your ears by big media companies.
#3: “He proved singing and rapping could work in perfect harmony.”
Maybe this writer only learned about hip hop from 2006 on up, because none of this is making sense. Even in the article, he named people that came before Drake that were known for successfully singing and rapping. His copout was that he was the MOST successful at it. Here’s why that’s BS: Success doesn’t constitute influence. Rakim influenced the entire industry with the creation of the “Hot 16” (16 lyrical bars of music) which has been the standard verse format for hip hop for decades. Has he outsold Jay-Z, Biggie, Tupac, or Nas? Nope. However, his influence still made a difference. Lauryn Hill probably won’t outsell Drake, but let’s not act like he was the first one. (By the way, let’s just stop listening to the things Kanye says because he’s just been talking reckless for the past few years, or so.)
#4: “He revitalized the mixtape form…”
Halfway agree with that. It defeats the purpose of a mixtape to make it in album format, though. It’s kind of like bring a gun to a knife fight. How fair is that?
#5: “…and the album.”
So, J. Cole drops 2014 Forest Hill Dr, virtually without any promotion, goes platinum, and does so without a single feature on the album (the first in 25 years to accomplish that feat, mind you) months before that “classic” If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and we recognize Drake for doing the same thing after someone else did it? Right. Look, it was apparently hot. All of his songs charted well, but that doesn’t make him the savior of hip hop album sales.
Big Sean had a major year. Once Kendrick Lamar dropped, the Internet went bananas. This isn’t a trickle-down effect. Every rapper doesn’t eat because Drake eats. I’m not trying to take any shine from Drake, but at least spread the glow to the other artists that deserve just as much praise for doing the same thing. C’mon.
#6: “He refined the art of the co-sign.”
Lil’ Wayne did it first. Remember back between 2006 and 2007 when Wayne was on literally every song in multiple genres? Look up all of those features. Sorry. It’s been done.
#7: “And he’s never taken himself too seriously.”
This article should be an eye opener to those who truly love the artform. It’s being interpreted by people who have absolutely no navigation of the hip hop genre. Drake is a rapper with excessive talent and
massive appeal. However, he’s literally had the yellow brick road to success.
Degrassi solidified his crossover appeal. He was familiar to the media and audiences, so getting his brand out was nothing. The “Wheelchair Jimmy” association was nothing but a stepping stone; no pun intended. Next, he had backing from Lil’ Wayne, who at the time was the biggest name in hip hop. After that, Drake “borrowed” Big Sean’s style (the one-word punchline) for his song “Forever” and that style got swagger jacked by the rest of the industry. So, he got unrightfully credited for indirectly influencing the game. That hindered Big Sean in the long run, in my opinion. Finally Famous was supposed to drop years before 2011.
After that, he won that Grammy for Take Care (not a classic, don’t eem try it, bruh) which had virtually NO competition. Now, all of a sudden, people want to peg him as a legend because he broke some newly relevant internet records. I don’t like looking at numbers like these in the age of the Internet. Music is more accessible worldwide. There are more people alive than there were the decade before. Record labels pay for radio play instead of letting the listener pick and choose what they hear organically.
Drake is arguably one of the most talented artists we’ve seen in years. He raps. He sings. He can act. He’s marketable. Maybe, he’s the gateway hip hop artist for mainstream listeners too new to the genre to know better. All I know is that he hasn’t revolutionized anything. He just reinvented the wheel. I know a legend when I hear one. I’ve heard them. He’s not one.