The Pillage: Why Drake Is Bad for Hip-Hop

I have gazed into the abyss and staring back was Drake, smiling, encircled by fire and bathed in blood.

|
Sep 27 2013, 5:35pm

Illustration by Shea Serrano, whose book you should buy.

[Editor's Note: So, it is the end of Drake Week. We've had The Kid Mero and @Seinfeld2000 talk about him, made a dude listen to him for the first time, thought about his clothes, his hair, his music videos, and his sheer Canadian-ness. The week culminated in Grand Theft Aubrey, Drew Millard's profile of him. But we haven't heard the case against Drake. For this, we turn to Barry Schwartz, a man living in Long Island who once told us, "If Drake is the voice of your generation, then everything terrible people say about your generation is true." Here is why one man thinks Drake is poison.]

Three weeks ago in a moment of true inspiration, I discovered “Drake” rhymed with “break;” thus was born Drake-ing Bad, the sensation, the phenomenon. Within a week of its debut, Shea Serrano’s absurdist illustrations of Drake and his Cheshire cat grin in scenes from Breaking Bad were featured on Huffington Post, Nerdist, Mashable and even acknowledged by Breaking Bad itself.

“Congratulations,” said Shea. “We have officially gone viral.”

“Oh stop,” I said. “You did all the work.”

“But it was your idea!”

“You’re right! All the boners! I am famous!”

I am famous because Drake is famous.

*****

This week, Drake released his third album Nothing Was the Same. Like its contemporaries Magna Carta Holy Grail and Yeezus, Nothing Was the Same is as confounding as the person who made it. Consequently, everybody wants to speculate as to what Drake is really thinking. Well, good news: you don't have to speculate anymore. I have gazed into the abyss and staring back was Drake, smiling, encircled by fire and bathed in blood.

You know the scene in Independence Day where the alien telepathically assaults the president, inadvertently allowing him to access the alien’s thoughts and extract the details of the entire malevolent plot? That’s basically what happened to me. With the success of Drake-ing Bad, I enjoyed, if only for a moment, a small piece of Drake's fame: the attention, the adulation, the adoration. But this connection, albeit brief, also granted me a terrifying glimpse into the sinister machinations of the Drake industrial-complex. Faced with the horrifying precision, I came to realize the obviousness of the truth. Drake is our existential crisis: an Illuminati-sponsored Canadian Manchurian Candidate rap Mrs. Doubtfire and his music holds no promise for any future we want any part of.

Hip-hop, my friends, is in a state of emergency!

We are doomed, can’t you see?! Jay-Z’s “Mase the game/DMX the game” paradigm no longer applies. Once Drake has successfully and definitively “Drake’d” the game, which is all but assured, it will be irrevocable. Success validates success. It codifies and standardizes. Generations of children will come of age listening to one of Drake’s 19 studio albums. Soon, there will be infinite Drakes, and hip-hop will be rendered inert.

Hasn’t any of this seemed a little suspicious to you? One day we woke up and we were all suddenly expected to believe Wheelchair Jimmy was an elite rapper. Excuse me? Before anyone had an opportunity to object, and before he’d even released his first album, Drake had already been nominated for a Grammy and successfully homogenized the sound of mainstream hip-hop to accommodate him. Today, the industry has never been smaller, the machine has never been bigger and Drake is too big to fail.

With Nothing Was the Same, the final phase of hip-hop’s protracted death marchtoward oblivion is nearly complete. It’s as soft as the software it was made on, the soundtrack to Phil Collins’ lower back spasms. Its singles have been imported from another, much better album, and any suggestion of a direct Wu-Tang influence can only be described as an acouasm. Noah “40” Shebib’s aluminosilicate gorilla glass beats slog and plod and trudge while Drake’s vocals transmit from the cold vacuum of space.

Songs that show promise are immediately sabotaged. On “From Time,” Drake subverts the tenderness of Jhené Aiko’s heartfelt sentiments with a torrent of shallow insecurity and redundant catharsis. May we never breach the impenetrable fortress of Drake’s true humanityas he exalts in his goyim naches by day only to offer logorrheic accounts of his mass-sexting predations by night. This isn’t Jewish guilt; this is shame at its most grotesque.

Drake is an emotional anti-hero, but he will never break bad. Never truly. He’s the consummate leading man – charismatic and professional with a welcoming smile – a stylist of the highest order, all glamour and feigned sincerity. His digital affluence ensures he’ll remain a product of his own inertia, driven by the same sociopathy that compels Jay-Z to own sports agencies and Romneys to run for political office.

Perhaps nothing I’ve said is true. Perhaps it can all be dismissed and disregarded as hatin:’ the hysterical ravings of a lunatic out of touch with rap’s vanguard.

But you can sense it can’t you? The generations shifting. The wheel of time turns and ages come and go, and we find ourselves on the fulcrum of history itself. We cannot stand meekly by.

*****

I like Drake. I even like some of his music. I’d be a fool not to. “Hold On, We’re Going Home” is sublime.

But why is Drake funny? Why is making fun of him so easy? And how do we reconcile that while also acknowledging he’s among the best rappers alive? What does that say about rapping? What does that say about being alive?

“What do you do with a viral sensation after it’s gone viral?” I asked Shea.

“Nothing,” he replied. “High five yourself.”

We get the best rapper alive we deserve: an iPhone submerged in a glass of red wine.

Barry Schwartz is not his Twitter - @DiscoVietnam

[Editor's Note: So, it is the end of Drake Week. We've had The Kid Mero and @Seinfeld2000 talk about him, made a dude listen to him for the first time, thought about his clothes, his hair, his music videos, and his sheer Canadian-ness. The week culminated in Grand Theft Aubrey, Drew Millard's profile of him. But we haven't heard the case against Drake. For this, we turn to Barry Schwartz, a man living in Long Island who once told us, "If Drake is the voice of your generation, then everything terrible people say about your generation is true." Here is why one man thinks Drake is poison.]