If modern Hip-Hop were a movie set in a post-2Pacalyptic world, Drake would be the drone manufactured to rule it all. He is a gifted actor with Hollywood looks and the charisma to boast with Jay-Z or croon like The Weeknd from track to track. He has detractors for many reasons, but up to this point it’s been “never the flow though, they know (he runs) that.” Did he write it though? As the response to his mediocre Meek Mill diss track showed, it doesn’t matter.
There was a time when the current accusations against Drake would disqualify himr from being in any serious fan’s “top 5”, and many people share Funkmaster Flex’s sentiment that he’s a “fraud” since being exposed for having a ghostwriter. That sounds well and good, but it bears importance for them to look around the genre they spectate. In just one week, Ghostface Killah called out Action Bronson for being a Supreme Clientele cover act, “father and son” Birdman and Lil Wayne allegedly became mortal enemies over money, and 50 Cent has claimed dual titles of “richest broke/brokest rich” rapper. It’s all a fraud.
Funkmaster flex noted that “where he came from” Drake should no longer be considered a lyricist after Quentin Miller’s reference tracks came to light. In an age where legends like GZA are lamenting the lost art of lyricism, does not being a lyricist even matter? Flex “comes from” an era where authenticity and lyrical ability were the prevailing factors that determined an MC’s merit, but those are now ancillary-if not archaic-metrics. Holding today’s Hip-Hop game to the standards of it’s golden era is setting oneself up for constant frustration.
When corporate America sunk their claws into rap music during the 1990s, it transitioned from a culture to a business. Jay-Z admitted “I dumbed down for my audience to double my dollars”, and that was it. He vocalized what no one else at the time had the heart or wit to, and might as well have released a video for “Moment of Clarity” that looped Vince Carter’s “it’s over”.
Once the game’s chief tastemaker admitted that money was his motivation, his peers followed suit and the OK was there for less talented, logic-deficient MCs to pop up rapping that they’re “not a rapper” and “can make a million saying nothing on a track”. In Drake’s “Charged Up” song, he doesn’t deny the ghostwriting accusations, but mentions his $20 million Apple deal as if that matters when he didn’t earn it on his own merit. Hip-Hop always had a notable amount of hustler ethos, but the major labels worked double time to slowly devolve rap into nothing more than a
In 2015, the version of Hip-Hop that corporate America presents us is-like so many once great American artforms-an enterprise that feigns cultural sanctity by exploiting it’s purest elements for cash.
Today, mainstream Hip-Hop “culture” is typified by BET cyphers where MCs need 64 takes to get through their prewritten verses. Today, Hip-Hop’s inclusive, “every man deserves a verse“ nature has been taken advantage of by the cultural appropriation of artists like Iggy Azalea. Today, the organic buzz around upcoming artists has largely been supplanted by “industry plants” who use choice connections to be smuggled to stardom.
The amount of sheer fuckery in Hip-Hop last decade alone has desensitized us all. In modern rap, none of what is presented is as it appears, and we’ve learned to accept it. Most fans just enjoy what their favorites put out and ask no questions. Drake’s carefully curated career has benefitted immensely from the newfound apathy. No matter how slickly he triumphs over beats, there’s a new reason to ridicule him seemingly every couple months. The hoopla never lasts though. He is the cell phone-freestyling, blatantly hypocritical, “simping”, started-from-the-upper-middle-class champion of his time. Perhaps millennials see themselves in Drake, an awkward, unlikely hero who’s carved his own space despite myriad imperfections.
Whatever the case, short of a legendary record, Meek Mill’s response won’t matter. Drake has more fans, and they already have their mind made up. Drake will continue his Steve Urkel/Stefan Urquelle act, go on to sell millions more records, and Meek Mill will continue to be shamed with ad-hominem insults and charger emojis for exposing what was once a cardinal sin. Meek thought ghostwriting allegations would mar Drake’s status, but he merely invited himself to be burned at the stake by a new generation of fans who care more about memes than artistic integrity.
If we ever needed a reminder that things done changed, the past week has been just that. It’s appropriate that the OVO sound is defined by subaqueous EQing, because Drake’s superstardom is the product of a wholly watered down era.