Let’s talk about Degrassi. Not the Drake-era Degrassi, but a later seasons. There’s an episode wherein a young woman, Zoe Rivas, is sexually assaulted at a highschool party. The rest of the episode follows Zoe’s ensuing reactions, from devastation to a sort of empowerment, climaxing in her public accusing (and subsequent arrest) of her attacker. The show goes to great pains to make a single point: it’s not her fault, regardless of how provocatively she was dressed or her flirtatious manner. Rape is the fault of the rapist, not the victim.
And you know what? This is really positive social work. The world is a better place because Degrassi exists. Victim-blaming, in cases like this, still exists in the world. Hell, we live in the world of Todd Akin and ‘legitimate rape’. There are terrible goddamn people in this world and I’m happy that their ideological positions are being refuted, even if it’s at the level of children’s television. This sort of ‘ideological refutement’ is antithetical to the entire career of Aubrey Graham. He seems to be a whole lot more interested in social conservatism; everything he says is carefully calculated to reinforce the current social stratification of Rap. He takes what his contemporaries are saying and doing and distills it into a commodity, without nary an original thought. Hell, a good portion of his aesthetic (and underlying misogyny) is cribbed straight from Kanye’s 808s and Heartbreak.
The cast of Degrassi has gone on to great things: Nina Dobrev is on the Vampire Diaries (widely regarded as ‘The Wire with Vampires’), Landon Liborion is on the perpetually-unseen Hemlock Grove, and it doesn’t matter what Jamie Johnston is doing because he is, and always will be, the greatest person ever born. Aubrey Graham, however, has taken a different path. Starting with 2006’s Room For Improvement, the newly-christened Drake assigned himself to the dregs of ringtone rap. He would periodically release new albums or mixtapes, each more abhorrent than the last. This ultimately culminated in 2013’s Nothing Was the Same, a staggering work of unbelievably dull minutiae.
It’s not that the music itself is bad; the production on his later albums is (while unoriginal) lively and almost always interesting, Drake manages to get some great features on his LPs (particularly Jay-Z’s legendary ‘Cake’ verse), and a third thing. It’s that Drake, himself, is a bad and uninteresting person. I spoke earlier of his lack of an ‘original thought’, but the problem runs deeper than that. Kanye West, for example, does virtually nothing original-he takes the works of others and covers in it a pop-sheen. The difference is that Kanye is at least taking the component parts and placing them in ways that are occasionally new and amazing, as in the case of tracks like Heartless or Monster.
Drake has no such luck. He’s more or less the Lana Del Rey of rap; someone who takes the work and aesthetic of better artists and does literally nothing with it. There’s a reason that artists like Death Grips get so popular. It’s not because what they’re doing is good (Death Grips missed a lot more than they hit) it’s because the public is so disaffected by this mundane crap that they’re starved for something interesting.
I was looking through the lyric sheets for Nothing Was the Same and it struck me how little actual content there is. Drake takes a line-Started from the bottom now we here-and then slightly expands on it-started from the bottom now my whole team here-and then repeats the line and expansion ad nauseum until the song just sort of ends. There’s nothing really going on in a lot of these tracks. They’re written as if the Drizzy Drake Production team wanted to get all the tracks done for lunch. I can only imagine how such a team would behave:
“Hey Jim, we need a single for Drake’s new LP. It’s called ‘Nothing Was the Same’. It needs to resonate with that thematically, while simultaneously being a total fucking banger that the kids can throw in the club. We need to do for Drake what ‘In Da Club’ did for fitty.”
“I agree. But how can we do that?”
“I don’t know. Has Aubrey‘s life changed in the past decade?”
“Well he used to be on Degrassi and now he’s not.”
“Wait what? Degrassi, like in Canada? Fuck that. It’s really amazing how Aubrey was up there at the bottom and now he’s up at the top of the world, in the greatest country on Earth.”
“Steve you magnificent bastard. He started at the bottom, and now he’s here. That’s our song right there.”
Everyone gasped and did more Cocaine.
“But it’s not enough Jim! Fitty’s song wasn’t just him in the Club-It was him in the club on someone’s birthday.“
“Steve, what if it’s not just that Aubrey started from the bottom.”
The room went silent as everyone waited for the next word to drop.
“Jim, don’t fuck me around. We can’t have this be like Marvin’s Room all over again. The next words out of your mouth better be pure gold or you’re fired.”
“Aubrey started from the bottom and now he’s here, right?”
“Yes I know.”
“Aubrey started from the bottom, and now his whole team here.”
The room exploded into delirious, screaming applause.
I don’t like Drake.
Aubrey ‘Drake’ Graham: 0.9/10
Jimmy Brooks: 7.2/10
Nothing Was The Same: 0.0/10