Thanks to every one for tuning in to our roundtable discussing one of Hip Hop’s favorite emcees and singers as of late, Drake. My name is Kathy Iandoli, Music Editor at HipHopDX. We have Jake Paine (Editor-in-Chief), Omar Burgess (Editor-At-Large) and Steven Horowitz (News Editor). We wanted to discuss [Take Care], and there’s been a lot of back-and-forth on the rating, the reviewing of this album and what the public thinks about it. From a DX perspective, we’re back-and-forth on this album – half fans, half critics. On [So Far Gone ], we made it the Mixtape of the Year in 2009. Take Care is now rated 3.5, and somewhere in between was Thank Me Later at 2.5 out of 5.
Listen to this discussion here .
Drake’s Take Care
Kathy Iandoli: Let’s get the dialogue going, as far as this [Take Care] album is concerned. Just overall, what did we think about it?
Jake Paine: I think Drake demonstrated a lot of growth with Take Care. I think that the things that we weren’t ready for, as a Hip Hop audience with Thank Me Later, Drake executes very well. One of the things that I thought was cool with this album is its ability to fuse genre. I thought that last year we got a strong dose of that, both with Kanye [West’s] My Beautiful Twisted Dark Fantasy as well as albums from Big Boi and The Roots, as far as just getting some Rock, getting some Electro, getting some Experiment/Noise-sounding records. The interesting thing is Drake took his budget and made a project that whether you love it or hate it, I feel is worth buying. It’s an experience. In 2011, to pay $10 at Best Buy first-week or to get something for $16 later on at FYE, or you buy it on iTunes, you want an experience. And you want to make that decision. I think that’s why we’re all here talking about it today. I definitely commend Drake, 40 and Boi-1da on the growth demonstrated here. I don’t think it’s a classic album, but I think it’s the biggest album so far this year.
Steven Horowitz: Personally, I actually really enjoy this album. Compared to Thank Me Later, I think he really showed a lot of risk. And I think that’s important as an artist, particularly someone of Drake’s stature. Emotionally and musically, this album is very risky. And I think it’s very well executed to the point where both things really can’t be needled. Emotionally, he’s not afraid to talk about his experiences with women; he’s not afraid to take it to places where other rappers might be too “gangster” or too “thug” to take it. Musically, this is a very patient album. At times it requires a lot of time; you need a lot of patience to get through this. The pay-off is great. There are certain tracks that you may not come back to again, but there are certain tracks that have a lot of punch. On the flip-side, I think the fact that some of these tracks amble on for six and a half minutes kinda detracts from the overall flow of the album. But that’s part of taking a risk. People will enjoy it in some capacity, or they’ll delete it from their iTunes play-list. I think being in the position Drake is in, that was a very smart and ambitious move to make.
Omar Burgess: I’d have to agree with Steven that he took a risk. Conceptually, I’m not necessarily mad at anything Drake did because he could’ve easily not taken those risks and still got a platinum album out of it. Other than taking the risk, and definitely opening up a conversation about how emotional a rapper is allowed to be, there are certain things that are on that album that I can’t cosign, including but not limited to trying to make a ballad out of “Back That Ass Up” by Juvenile.
Jake Paine: That’s a good point.
Kathy Iandoli: I guess I’m gonna represent the female vote here. The thing I think about this album is that what Drake was doing was something that a lot of female rappers have done, and female artists. It seems like new territory, ’cause a guy is doing it. I cringe put to put them in the same sentence, but it is something similar to what Lauryn Hill did with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. There was this balance of trying to appease the mainstream public, this use of slightly-out-of-tune instrumentation, and then just lamenting about a variety of topics, but still – falling in love, falling out of love, having problems with distrust in the industry and problems with fame and things like that. I don’t think [Drake] is trail-blazing, but when you line him up next a rapper like 50 Cent or a Jay-Z, he’s exposing this side of a man in his work, something that the greater public in Hip Hop isn’t used to. I do think this album has a nice balance of things Drake fans, Pop fans and Rap fans can all collectively appreciate. But I think the interesting thing is, if you were to take those tracks, divide ’em up and hand ’em out to the respective fan-bases, those other fan-bases, would hate [each others’ tracks]. So it’s a total sound-clash in that respect. I’m sure the Pop audience shuns the Rap one, and vice versa. I think it’s a formula Drake perfects; he did the same thing with Thank Me Later. So Far Gone was a little bit different because we were just getting to know this guy.
With Take Care, it’s just total curiosity at this point. Would Drake go from a kid out to prove that he was more than just a sitcom-rapper to a kid who had this crazy amount of fame under Lil Wayne‘s cosign, now to this third project – we’re wondering, what is he gonna say next? Which proves great for his career, that people were that curious. But at the same time, when you have that level of curiosity, it’s only gonna leave people disappointed in the end. ‘Cause they’re always gonna think [that] either something really, really great is gonna happen on this next album or it’s just gonna really, really suck.
Jake Paine: I want to take something Kathy said and pose a question. I have a theory. You take somebody like Jay-Z or Kanye West, and they make albums – especially in the iTunes era, they’re trying to make music that doesn’t have a runaway single. Obviously, it has a foot in the door at radio, and video but that you look at it as a bigger project. I think with Cash Money/Young Money, you look at Tha Carter IV, Tha Carter III, Take Care or even Nicki Minaj‘s Pink Friday, I feel that their formula is to try to appease as many people as possible with a third or fourth of the album [each]. Do you guys think that it’s something that the A&Rs and artists over there are [deliberately doing]?
Kathy Iandoli: A lot of Hip Hop artists do this, where they make their street credability thrive on their B-sides. When you have something like Young Money, they’re gonna have to do that in a different way, just ’cause of Lil Wayne’s exposure, and now Nicki Minaj’s and Drake’s. Most rappers [do that]. I think the difference is [with most artists], there is no balance. In the aforementioned, it’s so Pop, so sugary and so mainstream that album cuts look like this huge contrast. When you have people like Kanye West, who you mentioned, Kanye … even though there are tracks that the public embraces, there’s still an air of purity to the tracks. When you’re dealing with people like Nicki Minaj, there’s nothing really Hip Hop about “Super Bass” except for the fact that she’s rapping on it, and they mention bass.
Steven Horowitz: Right. I’m not sure I exactly agree that this album kinda fits into that Young Money/Cash Money formula. You take a look at something like Tha Carter IV, and that just looks like it panders to mainstream tastes. You look at something like Take Care, and you’d be hard pressed to find a successful single that they put out. “Headlines” , it’s not necessarily doing that well. That’s no slight to Drake; the numbers just prove that. But you listen to the rest of the album, pick out how many songs really have potential as a mainstream single. Like maybe “Lord Knows” on urban radio; that’s a very non-traditional single. You can say the same for the rest of the album; it definitely operates with its own sphere. I think once again, that speaks to the risk – he looked at this album as an album, not a single-driven album.
Omar Burgess: I’d agree. I don’t think the pandering to different audiences is unique to Young Money. I’ve been very disappointed to a lot of albums compared to their mixtape counterparts this year. You can see it in Wiz Khalifa or Drake; artists are definitely under pressure from someone at the label to make that album a lot more palatable to different audiences.
Kathy Iandoli: Let’s go backwards to So Far Gone. When that mixtape came out, people were hearing about Drake. He was doing random remixes of tracks. People knew he was this Canadian teen dream star-whatever. When So Far Gone came out, people were really, really impressed. We had no idea that a kid from television could spit like that. It seems like that mixtape, by the time Thank Me Later came out, they were disappointed by that; they wanted lightning to strike twice. By this third round, what did you guys see as far as Drake’s progression?
Jake Paine: What I loved about So Far Gone is the same thing we’re talking about right now. Drake kind of reaction to 808’s & Heartbreak by Kanye West, I think, made talking about relationships in a tangible light really mainstream. That was only a mixtape, but it had singles. It was an emo-mixtape. Even though Drake was a Canadian star and this privileged guy, he was able to talk about things that most of us experienced. And at the same time, it had a Hip Hop backbone – he was talking about Slum Village, Phonte, Little Brother, these things. He was one of us. It walked the line between R&B and Hip Hop in a cool way – a way that I feel Frank Ocean does this year. What I didn’t like, and my biggest problem with Drake is his arrogance. I feel that Drake, because he was so successful prior to having a record contract, he started bragging. [Recently], there’s a debate about Drake vs. J. Cole. J. Cole’s getting to that point too, where he’s starting to brag. The success is trying to make [these guys] speak like a Jay-Z, a Kanye West or a Game, very early in their career. That egomaniacal stuff. With Drake, I felt like a lot of us – myself included, weren’t ready to hear that. “Dude, humble yourself. Yes, you’re on the best label commercially in Hip Hop, but keep that lightning in a bottle. Stay humble, stay tangible to all of us.” When Thank Me Later came out, here’s a dude talking about his watches, his cars, a different woman every night, and it just lost its soul.
Kathy Iandoli: Do you blame Drake for that or the landscape of Hip Hop? Remember when “Oochie Wally” came out? Everybody was like “Damn it, Nas.” You know what the problem is, and Hip Hop has a really, really bad habit of doing it these days. As soon as you show any slight, slight lyrical dexterity, you get completely cosigned by some crazy veterans in the game. That does something to somebody’s ego. The most successful artists in Hip Hop, in time, are the ones who are flocking to these newbies. We can’t really blame [the new artists] for getting big heads over it and wanting to put it in the music. They’re only a product of their new environment.
Steven Horowitz: Right. It’s funny, because a lot of times people will say that every new artist’s first album is like their entire lives leading up to that album. So they put everything into that album. So for someone like Drake, who was really trying to prove himself, and trying to break out of the Degrassi bubble, he really did put everything he had into [So Far Gone]. Like you were saying Kathy, he was trying to show that he was capable of being an artist. He had a lot to prove with that. With these next albums, the fame starts getting bigger and more illustrious, and he does start getting these cosigns. That does do something to your ego. He moves up from probably a tiny apartment in Toronto to a massive one. He’s able to take care of his grandma; he talks about that on the album. These are great things. But at the same time, it does take its toll on the artist’s ego, and I think it does play into how the audience looks at him and reacts to his music. If he’s going to be going around and rapping about hangin’ out with Jay-Z – which he doesn’t; he’s not a bragger, but he does talk about how wealth has changed him, how fame has changed him. You see how he reacts to everyday situations. It’s probably different than when he was coming up in the game and still very humble and eager. People look at that kind of behavior and it affects the perception of the music. When we look at an album like Take Care, how can we look at it as a stand-alone body of work when we already know everything that’s been going on in his life – regardless of whether or not he’s a private person, he’s entitled to live his own life, and he does. But we do know about these trysts with Rihanna. We see these things in the gossip blogs, and it really does change how we view his emotional capacity or his ability to make music. I do think that has an effect on the overall aesthetic of Drake.
Drake And A New Generation Of Privileged Rappers
Kathy Iandoli: The one that I did want to mention about Drake’s ability to brag and whine at the same time is, remember that video when he was like 15 years old and he was crying to his mother that she didn’t get him tuna-fish on a bagel? [Laughs] This isn’t the fiber of his being. He wasn’t exactly the most humble child. It’s not like he came from a tent and all of a sudden moved into a mansion. This is a kid, for all intensive purposes, has been privileged since he was younger. He was a TV star, so the dreams and the aspirations were something that made So Far Gone so great, but it wasn’t because he couldn’t afford a watch before that mixtape dropped. He had access to these things. The thing that irks me about Drake now is, he’s taking the same level of emotional distress that he had with So Far Gone and he’s applying to it this openly-lavish lifestyle. And he’s whining about nothing. “Uh, that stripper gave my leg a cramp!” [Laughs] “My Armani sweater’s itching. I’m allergic to wool.” Uh, we don’t need to hear that. The things that made him emotionally accessible are now making him emotionally repulsive.
Omar Burgess: Good point. I think there might be something bigger going on, when you point out his upbringing. I can speak for myself, for the large part of Hip Hop history, the most successful artists came from the point of struggle. It seems that we’re in this paradigm shift now – it’s not just Drake now, but if I look at a lot of these suburban teenagers that come out all tatted up, they don’t come from a place of struggle. And I don’t necessarily begrudge them for that, but there’s a definite shift if you look at the top 10 artists 10 years ago, how they grew up, versus the top 10 now.
Kathy Iandoli: That’s definitely true. Here’s the problem: God rest his soul, but Guru‘s dad was a judge. Look at Spike Lee. There’s a certain degree of struggle that’s been a part of Hip Hop’s history. But it seems that as of the past maybe 10 years, those who are the “prolific” artists of that period are ones that didn’t come from struggle. ‘Cause the thing is, respect to Jay-Z, he did come from a place of struggle, but when you’re making $10,000 a day on the corner, you’re not struggling; you’re dangerous, you’re leading a [interesting] life, but you’re not struggling. Stealing sewing machines to make Roc-A-Wear doesn’t mean you’re struggling. It means you’re street-smart. I think it all relates back to Drake’s tender factor. The lack of the masculinity is what makes this harder. If Drake appeared like this rugged dude, no one would wonder where he came from. Unless, of course, he was overly rugged.
Steven Horowitz: Even in this musical climate, I don’t think struggle has to necessarily play into it. You look at an artist like J. Cole or you look at Drake and these new-jacks coming up, these guys are all privileged, and they rap about their personal experiences in relationships and I think of the younger generation that really gravitates towards these new rappers are relating to these things. Look at a tape like So Far Gone, a lot of people might not have related to “Houstonatlantavegas,” which is about a stripper, and most can’t relate that to their life, but he’s talking about these experiences with women and talking about emotions that everybody goes through. I think that really is what makes him so relatable, and why people like him. To look at an album like Take Care, where it’s re-contextualized, he’s dealing with women who want to sleep with him but don’t expect him to ever call again. It’s a different type of relationship that the average joe, who bangs Wu-Tang, they’re not gonna be able to relate to that kind of thing. They’re not going to be able to look at the kind of relationships where people are trying to take advantage of you for your money or your connections. You listen to Take Care, and that’s exactly what’s going on. He’s a little bit paranoid, he feels sorry for himself. On a basic level, people relate to this. And it sounds good, pitted against these emotional landscapes. Overall, I don’t think the average person can relate to this, I think that’s where he’s airing into a negative territory.
Kathy Iandoli: But look at Watch The Throne. I don’t think anybody knows the designers that Kanye and Jay-Z mentioned.
Steven Horowitz: Right. But Hip Hop has been a materialistic thing. If you want to get into that, that’s a whole different sphere. I think people love listening to a Jay-Z or a Kanye West because they do rap about these extravagant, great things and they’re so gaudy and obnoxious with it. You listen to somebody like Drake, he’s not rapping about Givenchy or designer labels. He’s just not. He’s trying to rap from a materialistic emotional perspective. I think that definitely takes you to a different zone.
Kathy Iandoli: Do you think Drake’s rise in popularity and the content of his music is going to open the floodgates for a less harder version of Hip Hop, going forward for the new generation?
Omar Burgess: I think it already has… I’m not sayin’ that in a disrespectful way. But last year, when I saw GQ crown Drake, Cudi and Wale as “gangsta-killers,” and that’s a very respected publication, that kinda sets the tone. There are other people in there who aspire to be that, saying, “Okay, that’s the blueprint.” And they’re gonna push in that direction for better or worse.
Jake Paine: That’s powerful. If I can jump in, I agree with Omar completely. I give Drake and Kanye and Kid Cudi a lot of credit – Wale too, but I don’t see him as much a part of that – it’s the Mr. Me Too’s that blow me away. Like when people come around the corner and were hard rappers five years ago and all of a sudden are trying to “I’ll have what he’s having” into the Drake blueprint, that I cannot stand. As a publication, I think DX can’t stand it. It’s hard to always measure authenticity. But what I can say is that in the same way in the late ’90s that Puffy and Bad Boy had their “shiny suit” reign and meanwhile Master P caame out with the tank and the basketball court, that also yielded Black Star, Company Flow, Stones Throw, Atmosphere, like… I always think what happens in the mainstream will make the underground and independents that much stronger. I’m really excited right now, because whether you’re talking about Big K.R.I.T. or Roc Marciano or The Roots, there’s some amazing music in the underground, that even if it’s not considering Drake, it’s a part of it for simply not subscribing to it.
Kathy Iandoli: It seems like a level playing field now. Big K.R.I.T is allowed to share a table now, with the legendary. That kind of camaraderie that happens between the different sects of Hip Hop right now, it allows these voices to become more prominent. That’s where it becomes a gift and a curse in the case of someone like a Drake. Where you have a formula that The Roots have been perfecting for damn-near 20-something years, they’re allowing people like Big K.R.I.T. to share that voice. On the flip-side, you have a Jay-Z and a Kanye West and a Lil Wayne allowing Drake to share that voice. It’s passing the torch in a sense, the only difference is The Roots side of the spectrum is out-numbered. Everybody will try to choose the champagne over the orange soda. That’s where there’s an imbalance.
Drake Helping His Peers, While Accepting A Torch From His Elders’ Cosigns
Jake Paine: One of the things I salute Drake to, I love the “Buried Alive” interlude on Take Care. Kendrick Lamar‘s definitely an artist that’s emerged in the conversation this year that’s kinda got one foot in the Drake door and one foot in the underground door, and Drake’s aware of that. Even if it’s entirely based on his relationship with J. Prince’s son, I love the fact that pretty much every Rap-A-Lot release that comes out, Drake will be a part of – the same way Tech N9ne and Lil Wayne’s relationship is. It is a more level playing field, but I agree with you, Kathy, as there’s more bottles of champagne goin’ around. Orange soda’s filled up in the cooler still.
Steven Horowitz: Just to echo that point, with Drake or J. Cole or even a Wale, they really are being ushered into the upper-echelon of Rap. They’re getting huge cosigns. They’re selling as many records as [Watch The Throne]. They may not be selling as many concert tickets, but that’s neither here nor there. Look at what Drake’s been doing, his Club Paradise Tour, A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar and Chase N’ Cash, people are being given these opportunities – a hand to help them up. But they’re also operating great in their own spheres. K-Dot is doing marvelously. He’s still independent. A lot of these rappers are still independent; Big K.R.I.T. was doing it independent forever before he signed with Def Jam. All of these artists are getting the opportunity to take it to the next level; that also speaks to the major label system. But that’s a whole other conversation. I do think it evens itself out now. You can have a Drake and a Kendrick Lamar on the same bill, and people are gonna like both artists. That’s where Hip Hop is heading, thanks to a Drake or a J. Cole.
Kathy Iandoli: Do you think we’re at this period now where you have to pass the baton? These guys are turning 40…
Steven Horowitz: These guys are still going strong. You look at the old school contingency, and they’re still makin’ money off this. Maybe they’re making money off acting, like Ice-T or Ice Cube or any of the Ices. [Laughs] These people are still in the game, and they’re doing great and they’re still in the game, not only ’cause they’re giving these young guys the cosigns, but ’cause they’re doing great on their own. I think it’s a great reciprocal relationship.
Jake Paine: It’s an area that I can give Drake credit [in]. Drake’s musicality and his ability to sing and make softer tracks have allowed a longer end-game to other artists. You look at a Pharoahe Monch, who I don’t think is reacting because of Drake, but his Desire album, to me, was as much singing as rapping. I don’t think a Pharoahe Monch album, at 50, sounds good to me on paper. The same can be said of Phonte and Foreign Exchange or Heavy D, rest in peace. Heavy D was getting Grammy nominations for making a Reggae album [in Vibes] and at the time of his death, from my understanding, was making a R&B album. Queen Latifah, same way. Dre has brought the core Hip Hop fan to a place where they understand that emcees can rap their ass off and still do other things. Salute to Raekwon, but that might be a more likely end-game than being 40 and talking about being 25 and bagging up crack again.
Kathy Iandoli: [Laughs] That’s true. We’re presented with something interesting in Hip Hop. For so long it seemed that Hip Hop didn’t come with a pension. You have these old wives tales and urban legends of rappers being taxi drivers and rappers needing bills paid, or rappers being homeless. It was a concern. The rappers of the ’80s almost hit a ceiling in that respect. ‘Cause what did you do after that? I think that this provided a lot of opportunities in the ’90s, going into the new millenium. There is longevity going to that youthful glow in that records. It was always a young man’s game till the old men started making the money.
Omar Burgess: To speak to both of your points, I think Universal was the label that shelved Q-Tip‘s project when he tried to do the exact same thing Drake is doing, as far as expanding his profile, singing a bit more. They weren’t havin’ it.
Kathy Iandoli: That’s ’cause Q-Tip wasn’t in a wheel-chair on a TV show.
Omar Burgess: It goes both ways. I can’t front; a lot of the things I knock Drake for I love when Jay-Z does, when he’s rapping about it on “Lucky Me” or “You Must Love Me.”
Steven Horowitz: I think it’s easy to hate on Drake. Obviously, if you read the tweets, you’ll see plenty of that through any given day. It’s easy to hate him ’cause he allows himself to be vulnerable and like I said at the beginning of this conversation, he likes to take risks. If that risk comes in the form of the Cosby sweater, so be it. He’s opened himself up to criticism, and he’s really self-aware of that. He really doesn’t care. That makes him this really cool guy.
Jake Paine: Remember right before Jay-Z’s The Blueprint, when everybody was taking shots, from Prodigy to Jayo Felony? It seems that with Take Care, it’s starting to happen with Drake. Pusha T created a “did he mean or did he not mean” conversation with his freestyle. Hours ago, we watched Ludacris step into the ring. Do you think Drake is the biggest moving target in Hip Hop right now?
Kathy Iandoli: I think he’s the easiest moving target in Hip Hop right now. It’s like with Rick Ross, when they found out he was a [former correctional officer]. It’s easy for a rapper to not have to do any homework when it comes to something like that. The thing with Drake, is there’s always been these latent issues with his background, his life, his [image]. It’s really easy to pluck from almost every aspect of Drake’s life and find something to laugh at. Honestly, nothing about what Drake really represents is [surprising]. There were photos to prove Rick Ross [was a C.O.]. Drake just wore a sweater, and now it’s become “Drake is sitting in his room, petting his kitten as he’s watching Days Of Our Lives.” It’s all based upon a generation of people who are out to make memes, a generation of people who have a platform like Twitter to show off th
eir inner-comedian. I don’t think that there’s things that Drake really does at the heart of it all, besides complaining about this horrible, horrible life that he has. It’s mostly just imagination, and mostly just [exaggerating a really, really tiny fact] into an episode of The Office.
Omar Burgess: I say he makes himself a pretty easy target. Forgive me if this is nit-picking, but if you got played by Rihanna and you’re walking around calling yourself a pimp, that’s a violation. Heartfelt odes to strippers, that’s a violation. That’s not Pimp C-approved behavior. Stuff like that. It does make the conversation funny, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t make him any more authentic than Rick Ross. I look at this stuff like professional wrestling. But if people want to take those pot-shots at him, Drake doesn’t make it hard.
Kathy Iandoli: He also doesn’t care. He doesn’t care as much as somebody like Chris Brown. I don’t see Drake [flipping out] on Good Morning America. I think that the difference between Drake and all these other guys is the level of media-training Drake has had since he was a kid. He’s groomed for this shit.
Jake Paine: I’ve never met Drake. But every single person I talk to in this industry, you can literally be Pusha T, and from what I’ve heard, Drake is a true gentleman. I think back to when 50 Cent was the moving target. Unless you were signed to Murder Inc., I feel like you can walk up to 50. Think of all the times he has squabbles with Jay or Wayne or Puffy or Nas, and then they go make a song together. Drake is the exact same way. Drake’s apathy, I commend him for. Drake’s most embarrassing things are fashion choices or breaking his leg on stage. I’ll say it about Game. Game is one of my favorite rappers, but Game puts his foot in his mouth like 38 times a year. You really can’t say that about Drake. He’s admitted his mistakes in Thank Me Later, he missed out on putting Phonte on his albums, anything you can criticize him for, he’ll basically shrug his shoulders and say, “You’ve got a point.”
Steven Horowitz: I think that’s because he has a sense of humor about himself. He doesn’t take himself that seriously despite the fact that his music is incredibly serious. You take a look at someone like Kanye West after the whole Taylor Swiftgate happened. He was very apologetic for it. He made the music speak for itself. I think one of the more interesting things about his personality that makes this all interesting is that [Drake] is able to laugh at himself. When Kanye had [nude photos leak], he went on Angie Martinez’ [HOT97] show and [admitted it] unapologetically. When you’re able to not blow up over those sort of things, people are able to look at you as a normal person and not put you in the cross-hairs as much. Drake is really good at that too. Drake knows people are gonna make fun of him and pick apart everything – he knows people are gonna make fun of the fact that he likes to take candle-lit baths or he wants to start his own lavender bath salts line or whatever, but at the same time, you really can’t hate on him, ’cause he’s already hating on himself. That’s what makes him such a really strong character.
Kathy Iandoli: Don’t you think that’s become a defense mechanism in Hip Hop ever since Eminem’s final battle scene in 8 Mile?
Steven Horowitz: Exactly. That’s what made 50 so invincible when he was a moving target, as Jake was saying. He told everyone about his life. He has nothing to hide. Drake’s the same way. It’s what makes them these bigger figures.
Jake Paine: Across Hip Hop. No matter whether you’re talking about a self-deprecating Kendrick Lamar or you’re signed to Cash Money or Bus Stop Records, humility and self-deprecation and being able to handle that is a driving force in being able to connect with your fans. Critics, fans, whoever have those things.
Jake Paine: Take Care does kinda look like Master P’s MP da Last Don. There’s so much jewelry and gold. It’s very Liberace.
Kathy Iandoli: Pen and Pixel should be demanding their royalties. How did everybody hear about Drake? If you say Degrassi, this conversation’s over.
Jake Paine: I didn’t know Degrassi existed. I’d see the name of it on the TV listings and thought it was a finance show or something on Nickelodeon. The first time I heard of Drake was just days after So Far Gone released, just around Valentine’s Day, 2009. Shake, from 2DopeBoyz.com, who was working at DX at the time as a Media Director, told me. I heard the tape. I was impressed and interested in hearing more.
Omar Burgess: It was So Far Gone. I will say after not liking So Far Gone, I went back and heard Comeback Season and Room For Improvement. I like those way better. I still listen to those today, that might just be a matter of personal taste though.
Kathy Iandoli: I would like to go on record and say I hated Drake from the moment I heard him. When he jumped on the Santigold track, at a time when I thought she was the wave of the future, when he was remixing these things. I remember he had his first showcase at S.O.B.’s and the line was wrapped around the block. Every person on that line looked like Jodie Sweetin from Full House. Who is this guy? It was one of those things that I put in the far, far back of my head because I refused to acknowledge his existence and then I ended up getting a job at a digital radio company. His track, “Forever” was one of the most frequently played on the air. “Who is he?” As a music journalist, you’re supposed to know and care about these people. I was just like, “I can’t take him. Why does he have so many important friends?” I finally, finally gave him a really listen when I heard “Over” . I had to go backwards. It was really technically “Over” that I acknowledged that Drake had a pulse.
Kathy Iandoli: What do we think are Drake’s chances of becoming Top 5 Dead Or Alive?
Steven Horowitz: Hmm. Hmm. I think it’s too early to tell. I didn’t chime in [on the last question]. I’m looking at my iTunes, not to sound so self-important, but I definitely had The Comeback Season on my computer before I heard So Far Gone. I definitely listened to it. I think he’s only three full projects deep. I don’t think he’s really reached his full potential. He’s said it himself, he was disappointed in Thank Me Later. Take Care is a good album in my eyes, not every one agrees with me. He could tighten up certain things. He can maybe dig a lil’ deeper. Maybe there’s other things he hasn’t touched on yet. I don’t think you can put a time limit on when he’s going to achieve what he’s fully capable of. But I think he’s shown enough that he might be capable of getting there years from now.
Omar Burgess: I’d agree with Steven. I think Drake is gonna create a new lane. I wouldn’t put him on the Top 5 within the current lexicon, but I think we’re witnessing some of the ideas about authenticity, privilege and what it means to be emotional in Hip Hop change right before our eyes. I think he’s going to carve out his own niche and remain at the top of that class until he decides he doesn’t wnat to rap anymore.
Jake Paine: I don’t think that Drake will be a popular vote for the people that consistently ask each other “Top 5?” I think that Hip Hop is about five-to-10 year spans of domination. Jay-Z’s seat is perhaps soon to be left empty – that’s not a shot at
Jay, entering fatherhood. At this moment, I believe somebody like Big K.R.I.T. could be a Top 5 Dead Or Alive emcee, but he’ll never reach the commercial success Drake has – I think Drake will be who we’ll remember about this time in Hip Hop that we’re living in. The same way we can remember 1998, Puff Daddy and Ma$e. I agree with you Omar, I hope Drake gets the credit he deserves in time. Maybe it’s because I’m a much bigger fan of Kanye West, but 808’s largely lathered up the face of Hip Hop that Drake has now shaved.
Kathy Iandoli: Thanks everybody for tuning into our discussion. Wanted to give an extra thanks to our producer, Mike Sheehan, for handling this whole roundtable and recording and production. Take Care is available now.
Follow HipHopDX Editorial Staff on Twitter (Kathy Iandoli – @Kath3000, Jake Paine – @Citizen__Paine, Omar Burgess – @FourFingerRings and Steven Horowitz – @SPeriod)