Drake, “5AM in Toronto” (Nothing Was the Same(?), 2013)
No one is rapping better than this.
Drake, “5AM in Toronto” (Nothing Was the Same(?), 2013)
No one is rapping better than this.
Just what you wanted: More Drake/Take Care talk!
First, props to Sean for this interview and just doing great work over at GQ. Anyway, I really loved this interview (here’s a link to GQ’s Drake interview, too) because it reaffirms what we already know (but sometimes ignore/forget): Drake is and always will be an R&B dude! That’s why all of his albums have that snail’s pace (the lean and weed play their roles, of course) and plenty of songs directed towards women. He’s talked in the past about really needing to hone in on his rapping ability, and it’s because the R&B stuff comes so naturally. "Brand New," still one of Drake’s best songs, was what got him noticed as something more than the novelty of being “that Degrassi guy.” And this talk with 40 just hammers it all home — Drake and his closest collaborator are suckers for good (and cheesy) ’90s R&B just like the rest of us.
I sent a Take Care .zip link to friends (the same ones that love to talk Wayne), raving about it, calling it my favorite album of the year. And they came back with the same problems they had with Thank Me Later: “too slow,” “not enough bangers,” “I wish he would just rap,” etc. Anthony compared it to “R. Kelly’s talk-rapping.” I see their points, but I’m not buying. The pacing is in the pocket of what Drake and his Toronto brothers have done all along. These guys know what they’re doing and they execute it with taste. There are plenty of times Take Care could’ve spiraled out of control, in love with its own world, but there’s restraint around every corner. Don’t let the long-running time fool you.
I have a million more thoughts on Take Care. They will either stay in my head or spill on to the page, but the fact that this record is all I’ve thought about (Penn State excluded) shows this is an album not to be taken lightly, especially on some “it’s just more emo Drake whining about fame/strippers” bullshit. It’s deeper: My mom just visited — I normally see her once a year — and “Look What You’ve Done” has brought me close to tears at least twice since she left.
With this record, I knew I couldn’t talk about “Oh, I miss my old friends.” On Thank Me Later I said something like “I wish wasn’t famous. I wish I was still in school.” At that time that was really how I felt. But when I listen back to it… I’m more confident now. I just got my mother into a nice apartment. And she just got surgery and she’s healthy. And my friends all have money and they’re getting their own places. I can’t do another album about wanting to go backwards. If I do that, people are going to be like, “Man, f— you! Tell me what’s real. Tell me what’s good about this s—. Make me want to chase this. Let me know the ups and downs of this shit for real. Don’t tell you about what you miss.” That’s why I came back [to Toronto], so I couldn’t say, “I miss Toronto.” I have one song that’s sort of about that, but this album isn’t about missing anything. This album is about living it and owning it and letting you know exactly what I go through. It’s not Drake on So Far Gone and it’s not Drake on Thank Me Later. I can’t go back to the old me. It’s impossible. I’m proud of who I’ve evolved into, for sure.
I got car money, fresh start money
I want Saudi money, I want art money
I want women to cry and pour out they heart for me
And tell me how much they hate it when they apart from me
And lately I do bitches the meanest
Tell ‘em I love em and don’t ever mean it
We go on dates, I send a Maybach out to neighborhoods that never seen it
That shit is dangerous but it’s so convenient, I ain’t lyin’
Yeah, and comfortable I sit
That manual Ferrari, Italian, some fly shit
It’s sitting at the house like I bought in ‘96
'Cuz honestly I'm too fucking busy to drive stick
I swear, too fucking busy
Too busy fucking
This n——‘s girl but to me she wasn’t, but hot
But 40 opened doors for me
Preheat the oven, I’m in it so
But I ain’t finished, though
It’s been a minute, though
My newest girl from back home got issues with parents
and some charges, how the fuck can I get her to Paris?
Luckily I’m the greatest my country has ever seen
So chances are I get to board it and issue me clearance
Dreams money can buy
Everybody yell, “Surprise!,” but I wasn’t surprised
That’s only because I’ve been waiting on it, n——
So fuck whoever hatin’ on a n——, of course …
Did this after watching the “Made Men” video for the fifth time. I thought, “Damn, Drake killed that.” And then it hit me: this is nothing new. Here are my favorites.
Lil Wayne, “With You (Chopped Not Slopped) (feat. Drake)” (2010, DJ Lil Stevie I Am Not a Human Being: Chopped Not Slopped)
Lil Wayne — “Right Above It” (feat. Drake) (produced by Kane Beatz)
from the forthcoming I’m Not a Human Being (via)
Looks like September is heating up: Gucci’s The Appeal, Jeezy’s TM103, Waka’s Flockaveli tape, and Tune’s 10-song EP (is EP even correct? Ross just dropped an 11-song LP) on his 28th(!) birthday (Sept. 27). “Right Above It,” the EP’s first single, is all regal strings and the-king-is-coming horns while maintaining a cheap Casio undertone (not a bad thing). Drake drops his Westwood bars (many commenters are upset that they’ve heard them before and I’m not sure why; it’s obvious Drake isn’t a prolific enough writer to throw away lines), but they feel lukewarm compared to Wayne’s.
These Kane Beatz beatz are uncomplicated but effective, with a constant .99 cent snare and a catchy stuttering synth. Wayne finds a pocket similar to “Steady Mobbin’” (another Kane Beatz production), where he can clearly enunciate his punchlines (choice: “All of my riders do not give a fuck / X games”; “You niggas cannot see me but never overlook me”; “Limping off tour because I made more off my second leg” — think of that imagery) and Auto-croon his hook in a seamless transition. Another thing I love: Wayne could have looped the final hook but sings it in a higher, more forceful pitch (similar to the final chorus on “Single”). It’s a detail that makes a repetitive beat seem OK because he’s announcing its climax with his greatest asset, that still incredible voice. It also explains why he wears a light sprinkling of Auto-Tune better than his contemporaries — mutations aside, he knows he must carry the track on his own.
This isn’t a game-changer but that’s not the purpose. It’s a first taste of an EP, which is being released to merely remind fans that the guy is getting out of jail in six weeks (as if they didn’t have the date circled already). If “Right Above It” were Tha Carter IV’s first single, eyebrows would be raised, skepticism would permeate. But it’s not, so instead we bop our heads and eagerly wait.
(I was going to write more about Drake’s lyrics on Thank Me Later but then the Internet busted a huge critical load this past week, with thoughtful analysis (positive and negative almost equally) and the usual wonkery. It was a great week to care about this kind of stuff, but the last thing we need is a “look how vulnerable/soft/corny/inspiring Drake’s bars are” blog post. So instead, here’s an explanation of my favorite guest spot.)
(Young) Jeezy on “Unforgettable”: Hands down my favorite song on the record. Others may “mean” more (“Karaoke” and “The Resistance”) or may later be remembered for their shaping of rap’s future (“Shut It Down,” Jay’s tutoring/baton-passing on “Light Up”), but “Unforgettable” feels impeccably constructed, from the Aaliyah sample to Drake’s memorable one-liners (the “I’m Single” wink, “I’m looking forward to the memories of right now,” “And all the girls that played me eat your motherfucking heart out”) to the sustained synth when the chorus hits. But Jeezy steals this song, with one of his strongest and most vivid verses he’s dropped in a long time.
He paints a dichotomy: His brash lifestyle may not get him many years, so he’s “gonna need a thug wife / I’m talking his and her firearms” (how great is that?), yet the love of his life is “the game.” If his “thug life” is his reality and future, fine, but that doesn’t stop Jeezy from ending the song with a small hint of regret: “Pain hurts like a cut from a beautiful knife / Just know she right here on my hip / My beautiful wife.”
He kept looking to the window," Drizzy described. "He’d look up at the window almost like he’s looking right through it. It’s frosted, so you can’t see out. I was like, ‘Why does he keep staring through the window? There’s nothing out there.’ To him, there’s a whole world moving out there that he hasn’t seen for so long. He was just like, he told me something I never thought I’d hear him say, which was, ‘You’re the ultimate artist. You’re better than me. You don’t have the tattoos, you don’t cause any trouble. People like you.’ He was like, basically, ‘Look at me and look at you.’
What is jail doing to Lil Wayne?
First off, I don’t need you second guessing me
Jail is like third base, I’m coming home eventually (via LifeFiles)
Late Tuesday night, the most anticipated rap album in years leaked. Thank Me Later, Drake’s 14-track major-label debut, was the talk of Twitter and blogs, with the mixed feelings you’d expect from a record with so much hype. There was little surprise: Fans felt it; detractors had more shitty one-liners to hold up as evidence this 23-year-old Canadian rapper/singer sucked. (“I’m a star, no spangled banner” is an instant classic for the wrong reasons. “I carry the weight for my city like a cargo ship” is a dreadful simile.) It’s the type of discussion many of us love about Hip-hop: "This dude is a cornball. What’s wrong with y’all?" "Damn, Drizzy is the truth." "He’s got the same flow on every song!" "I hate when he sings." "This shit needs 5 mics."
I’ve listened to the album at least 10 times, and have found plenty to love and things to cringe at. It’s not an “instant classic” but it certainly delivers on the promise Drake has shown in his young career. Yet what I’ve found most interesting about the discussions is the flaming pitchforks hurled at Drake’s lyrics. This blog post seems to echo a lot of rap fans’/critics issues with Drake. (And many of these critics hold opinions that I value and love to regularly read.) And yes, like many rappers, you can take Drake’s worst, most eye-rolling lines and bold/underline/blow them up to 96 point Futura and you’ll have skewered the young boy good. But Drake’s appeal has never been his lines per se. His best songs are conflicted collages, featuring defiant boasts, weed-induced paranoia, lustful fucking, distrust toward women, loneliness and failed relationships (romantic and familial).
I can understand listeners not connecting with a child actor with a middle-class background who earned much of his rap credibility from a Lil Wayne co-sign, but to disregard him as a lyricist is selling him short. It could be because we’re the same age, but I immediately connected with certain lines and short anecdotes on the album. And even when his stories don’t reflect my upbringing, I can find the empathy (through other friends’ lives) to feel Drake’s sadness, pain, confusion.
I keep reading complaints about Drake’s whining about the good life (Models! Money! Champagne! How dare he!) — and he’s young and emo (but rarely, if ever disingenuous), so there’s moments of that — but he has plenty of lines that strike me as honest and engaging, and at his best, brutally disarming. And those are the lyrics I hope to point out because it doesn’t feel right that an abundantly talented artist is being painted as a taller Gudda Gudda, grocery bags and all.
via The Fader