Drake & Struggle Rap In The Age Of Upward Mobility

Drake's arrival at the top of the charts with "Nothing Was The Same" may have answered a lot of questions about what kind of struggle we value as Hip Hop fans and consumers.

“I done done it all / From jackin’ and slanging, nigga trust that / Stealing cars, snortin’ dope, gettin’ bust at / Never going to school, all kinda bullshit / They callin’ my momma in, I got her looking unfit / It ain’t Cyn fault I turned out this way / It’s my fault, she told me right from wrong everyday / When my daddy got killed, I think that’s when I went astray / Mark, Nell, L.T. and me made niggas lay on they face…” –B.G., “Hard Times.”

Former Cash Money standout B.G. most likely won’t go down in history as the most lyrical emcee. But the above bars from his 1999 album, Chopper City In The Ghetto stand out as one of my all time favorite verses. This is purely subjective, and I’m not saying B.G.’s reflections on robbing, selling and abusing drugs should end up in some list of the greatest verses ever. But, despite having never robbed anyone or ducked gunfire, the palpable struggle, conflict and candor keep “Hard Times” in heavy rotation on my iPod 14 years after its release. Some of my favorite Hip Hop songs address the concepts of struggle and conflict, and I think that’s because they mirrored some of my own experiences. But even the tracks that address struggles different from my own are appealing when executed properly, and I assume the same can be said for Hip Hop fans across the globe.

When Drake, a representative of the new generation of Cash Money rappers, inevitably landed at the number one spot Tuesday with Nothing Was The Same, I think a lot of questions were answered as far as just what kind of struggle and conflict we value as Hip Hop fans and consumers. What kind of obstacles does an emcee have to overcome to earn our respect, and what variables should be factored into those obstacles? Back in February, when the single “Started From The Bottom” dropped, there was no shortage of backlash. What “bottom” had Drake, the former child actor from suburban Toronto ever experienced? Did it really matter?

The Stigma Of The Suburbs

“‘Everyone has their bottom,’ he says. ‘The three biggest misconceptions about me are that I’m a cocky asshole because I’m a famous male rapper, that any part of me wants to be gangster or hood, and that I grew up rich…’ Drake says he and his mom rented the first floor and basement of a house. ‘We were more or less broke, but my mom didn’t want us to live in an area that could create trouble for her son,’ he says. Meanwhile, as Drake grew older and eventually landed the Degrassi role, he became enamored of the good life.” –Michael Paterniti, June 2013 Profile of Drake for GQ magazine.

For all the ridicule and memes Drake gets (and if you frequent this site, you know I’ve been a part of that group), he raises an excellent point—everyone has their bottom. Over the years, I think we (or at least I) have become accustomed to equating struggle with things such as crime, poverty and violence. If we look at the pantheon of revered artists such as OutKast, UGK, E-40, Ice Cube, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and New York’s holy trinity of Notorious B.I.G., Jay Z and Nas, these themes are often reinforced. I don’t say that to build a straw man argument for Drake, but because history anecdotally bares this out. I think a lot of artists with ties to the suburbs have historically had their “struggle” questioned. Drake is the most current example, but he’s far from the only representative.

And I believe the fact that people have been talking about the authenticity of Drake’s struggle since February proves how much we as listeners are drawn to the success narratives of our favorite emcees. This is an issue much larger than Drake. As a fan of Notorious B.I.G., part of his appeal was the “ashy to classy” narrative. As a UGK fan, seeing the legendary duo go from what Bun B once described as, “two broke bastards from off the cuts” to getting long overdue mainstream recognition via an appearance on “Big Pimpin,’” an MTV Award and a Grammy nomination was a form of validation. We like to see our favorite artists win.

As a black man from a low-income area, I have personally gravitated toward many of the artists who I feel best articulate my own life. But over the past 40 years, Hip Hop has resonated not just in the suburbs but out to other countries where fans don’t even speak English. But I think Hip Hop can be a very insular culture at times, and we’re not really checking for the suburbs. If there’s a doubt about someone’s legitimacy in Hip Hop, we often find their background being questioned. I also think that insular mentality is why some rappers straight up lie and pretend to be from lower-income areas. I personally have had a bias against suburban rappers. In my mind, the area Prodigy rhymed about when he said, “There’s a war going on outside no man is safe from” doesn’t include manicured lawns and neighborhood watch meetings. So I automatically tuned out when someone like Chris Webby started rapping about the suburbs. Webby is aware of the perceptions associated with being a suburban, white rapper. And he was real enough to honestly address those perceptions when I asked him about “Crashing Down,” a song that references multiple legal issues, being kicked out of college and his own “inner demons.”

“People have all sorts of assumptions,” Webby said. “Yes, I’m from the suburbs of Connecticut, but that doesn’t mean I’m a rich kid who has this infinite safety net of money behind me. I’m a middle class kid. My mom was a math teacher at a public school, and my dad’s a guitar player. So he did weddings and stuff, and he gives guitar lessons now. But it’s not like I have some super-rich grandparents, and I don’t have some crazy family members funding my career. So [my parents] had the support and love to hold me down whenever I would fuck up. And if it came to it, it’s not like we had no money, so they would hold me down if I needed it.”

As Webby’s example shows, if we’re looking at Hip Hop as both a culture and an art form, then elite storytelling and showmanship encompasses all types of struggles including but not related to: internal conflicts and external conflicts with the environment or others. The majority of Joe Budden’s Mood Muzik series dealt with his own internal struggles with mental health and addiction. Andre 3000’s early rhymes almost exclusively dealt with the typical struggles of a young, black man in an impoverished area. But as OutKast became more successful, we saw a shift in his subject matter. These days, it would be rather jarring to hear “Three Stacks” rhyming about getting drunk at a Howard Johnson with the hoochie he has on deck the way he did in “Player’s Ball.” Kanye West spent the bulk of Watch The Throne, Yeezus and his hour-long interview with Zane Lowe bemoaning the perceived glass ceiling and what it means to be successful and rich yet still an outsider. And, for the better part of his last two albums, Drake has struggled with how fame and wealth have changed him and those around him. Those aren’t things I’d pay 15 bucks to hear someone complain about, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t forms of struggle in and of themselves. And clearly there are plenty of other people interested in those subjects.

Drake & The Perception Of “The Bottom”

This week’s SoundScan numbers aside, it’s been interesting to hear what Drake’s peers think about him. “Started From The Bottom” was among the half dozen singles that Boi-1Da has produced to sell 500,000 or more copies. And while others include Eminem’s “Not Afraid” and as well as Drake’s “Over” and “Headlines,” his initial contribution to Nothing Was The Same resonates with him for a different reason.

“That song means a lot, because despite what anybody thinks about Drake and them making comments about how he didn’t start from the bottom, he did start from the bottom,” Boi-1Da noted in a March interview with HipHopDX. “We all did. We all started from a place that was not where we are now. A lot of people to say that, but it’s not easy for a rapper to come from ‘Degrassi’ and to make it mainstream as one of the biggest rappers in the world.”

The logical counter-argument is that “the bottom” is different from “a place that was not where we are now.” By the time the argument gets to the point of debating a rapper emerging from a rat-infested housing project (or no home at all) versus a rat-infested studio, are we just dealing with semantics? What, if anything does any of that have to do with being able to rhyme well?

“A lot of mothafuckas like to debate Drake’s place in Hip Hop,” Crooked I confirmed in an August interview with HipHopDX. “Drake is a genius. I don’t care if you don’t like his lifestyle and think, ‘Oh, he didn’t grow up in the Eastside of Watts.’ He’s a mothafuckin’ musical genius. Give him his fuckin’ credit…that’s it. We’re not here to analyze niggas’ lives and shit; we here to listen to music. And he makes some of the best music in the fuckin’ world right now.”

Maybe “Started From A Lower Rung On The Socioeconomic Ladder” just doesn’t have that same ring to it. Either way, if Drake is sitting on the number one album in the country, then Crooked I’s statement is true on a lot of different levels. Both paying consumers and Drake’s peers in the industry don’t feel his back-story is enough to dissuade them from enjoying his music. And whether we’re talking about Saafir versus Hieroglyphics in 1994, claiming Tajai “grew up with wing-dings named Buffy and Brad” or T.I. posting up outside of Bowen Homes during his 2008 beef with Shawty Lo, two grown ass men arguing about who grew up poorer is kind of stupid. Living in a low-income area is nothing to be particularly proud or ashamed of, but lying about it is. If Hip Hop has evolved as much as we’d like to believe it has, should it matter what income level a rapper comes from? Perhaps we’ll find out when the next emcee perceived as middle class emerges with a number one album.


Omar Burgess is a Long Beach, California native who has contributed to various magazines, newspapers and has been an editor at HipHopDX since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @OmarBurgess.


  • Anonymous

    Metaphor or not, the song title just shows how nave and apathetic Drake is to the fact that a large segment of the population started way beneath him from an economic standpoint.

  • Its not where your from, it's where your at

    Some of these responses just romanticize the past. Hiphop was born in the South Bronx - sure. But before gangsta rap took over and along with it, the romanticization of ghetto life, rappers backgrounds were not as scrutinized. Drake grew up mostly in a rented half-house in a rich area. Plus he grew up in Toronto, Canada. America cities like New York are wealthier and have more access to the music industry than Canada. Plus Canada is still derided as not an acceptable place for a hiphop artist to be born from. By all standards, he wasn't born into extreme poverty but there also a myth that he grew up rich which is BS and overcoming his Canadian background/perception as a teen actor and making it in hiphop is a big feat. I think it's fair to say at the very least, he grew up not that different than a rapper from long island. At any rate, put the magnified glass to your favorite MC and they are all kinds of exagerrations. Even Biggle Smalls "Juicy" is well-known to filled with exagerations about his poverty which his mother has validated are not true. But no one criticizes Biggie. Dr. Dre talks as if he was a gangsta - yet he is well-known to have never been a gangsta. No one doubts his legacy. Hiphop has gotta be real with itself ; it's never had a perfect relationship with authenticity. So many try to dismiss Drake as another Nelly/Ja Rule but lets be real - when Drake rhymes he has serious skills that true hiphop heads can appreciate but he also has poppy sounding singing songs that a Mile Cyrus fan can appreciate - this is the true source of the frustration. Haters want to box him in and find ways to dismiss him - "he is a rich kid so he can't be hiphop", "he's Nelly", "he sings so he can't be hiphop" etc. The truth is he blurs the line and there have been poppier artists or songs that have still earned respect in the long run. The last time I remember the venomous hatred for hiphop heads towards an artist , it was biggie Smalls / Puffy. Puffy came out with that "every breath you take " ode to biggie and that was straight pop man. No clever lyrics , nothing...just as many hated "ready to die" as loved it. You had Jeru, OGC, De La Soul and the Roots taking shots at Biggie as if all that money-boasting, Italian-mafiaso referencing and champagne-popping was not "real hiphop". Tons of my boys vehemently refusing to listen to Biggie in preference for black moon, jeru, other stuff they thought was more street shit. I think history will be kinder to Drake.

  • g.d.stubbs

    smart piece. a relief to read. but referencing a white suburban rapper, semantics of "the bottom" and whatnot dances around the issue that rap was born in urban poverty, not appalachia or the native american reservations. rap was developed by young black and brown people who society looked on as stupid, illiterate, criminal, and sociopathic. generally speaking, hip-hop in the US used to be an expression of the IMPOSSIBLE: spinning on the "wrong" body parts, painting entire subway cars overnight, making music from other music with the "wrong" technology, and demonstrating superior imagination, verbal intelligence, and charisma. ironic that the commercial success of rap involved promoting those artists willing to EXAGGERATE the performance of stupidity, illiteracy, criminality and sociopathic behavior. in the beginning we called it "gangsta rap," but within a decade it had become all the drug/guns/strip club stuff that culminates in the likes of Rick Ross, etc. Drake, with his "bitch this" and "nigga that" and hollow threats is just a PG-13 version of earlier rap characters. financial success in the rap music business requires that the imagination, verbal intelligence and charisma that still defines a "true" MC be replaced by a kind of fake documentary narrative about sex, shootouts and snitches... basically the same formula as reality TV, but even cheaper to produce and profit from. COPS, DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER and YOUNG JEEZY are/were all popular for exactly the same reasons. but these rappers, largely independently it is worth noting, GOT RICH FOR REAL and nobody should hate on them for rapping their clever reflections on the ups and downs of success because the story IS the product. though it's not like making cars, it is like making consumer electronics. todya's rappers are PRODUCTS and BRANDS that are incrementally upgraded like iPhones. the popular liquor, drug or sexual act they rhyme about is just like an app you install and delete later. Drake is huge because he, just like Elvis before him, is like training wheels for adolescents who are ready to fantasize about sex and a consumer lifestyle. he is reinforcing a fundamental pattern that is being sold across the entire spectrum of popular culture. different versions of his attitude and narrative can be found in movies, sitcoms, and other genres of music. The fact that his narrative is about being young, black and rich is incidental... I mean come on, how many songs is he going to write about ex girls and dudes who doubted him? He writes "gangsta romantic dramadies," rap equivalents to korean soap operas, and since nobody had hit that territory before he's going to drain that well just like you would if you stumbled onto something that paid you handsomely for very little effort. paraphrasing Drizzy: you don't have to do it first, you just have to do it right. us old heads are on the out anyway. and in the end it doesn't matter because we live in an era where we can not only keep listening to our old school stockpiles, but use all kinds of Internet resources to find new young artists who are staying true to our roots. I don't see why we have to even pay attention to commercial rap when there are so many options open to us!


    CHINGY THR GOAT holiday inn was song of century!!!

  • Anonymous

    Who is Kendrick lamar? He is Nick Carters lil bro? www.eminemalbum2014.com

  • Rosa B. Tompkins

    until I looked at the bank draft that said $4691, I didn't believe that my neighbour was like really erning money parttime on their laptop.. there uncles cousin has been doing this for less than twenty two months and just now repaid the loans on there condo and bourt Lancia Straton. more information http://www.youtube.com.watch.qr.net/k7I2

  • Yeah Ok

    I understand the payola that goes behind everything, but to call this the "age of upward mobility" when its wrought with gentrification and constant destruction of the lower classes is missing reality by a damn long shot. Moreover, upward mobility is NOT being promoted when rappers who have easier access to funds are the ones who have easier access to the airwaves. There's a shit ton of broke niggas out here who are way better but were not given access to the same connections Drizzy was able to develop over time. He's not a TERRIBLE rapper, but to act like he's "the only nigga still known for the music" when his face was on Nickelodeon makes any argument about his "U.S. Janitorial Salary" quite loaded. He had much more promo than a lot of artists who are really busting their ass to get their names out there, and obviously a lot more luck than hard work went into it. Don't deny reality just cuz an artist consistently pays to make himself look good, while playing into the hype and tabloid machine he pretends he wants nothing to do with.

    • Jay

      I wonder if Drake woke up on Degrassi. He had to put in work to get that gig. And now folks want him to be ashamed of not growing up in the projects. Forget where he grew up. If you like his bars, listen to him. If not, find an artist you like. The mans past is irrelevant to his skill as a rapper

  • A Person

    Honestly, I really don't care about an artists background at all, just as long as the music is good and makes me think. So yea, the reason I don't like Drake is not because of his background, it is what it is in all reality, its just that he isn't that great a talent and there are other artists who I feel are more deserving than he is. I will say this, he isn't utterly terrible, (that is reserved for Lil Wayne and a few others), but he doesn't really give off the vibe that he lives, eats, breathes and sleeps hip hop culture (in terms of his pen game, and the tone he takes, mostly with regards to how he flaunts opulence). This is just the lens I look at this stuff in personally, obviously, there are those that would disagree with me, but as far as new releases (of 2013 anyway) go, Drake really didn't do anything special. I would rather listen to Guilty Simpson's Highway Robbery, or Czarface, or Capture the Sun, or Legends Never Die, even Event II and Wise Up Ghost are compelling releases. Then of course there is Nickle and Dimed which I really enjoyed, and definitely Run the Jewels, point is, it isn't bad to enjoy Drake, he has his place, but as far as my personal tastes go, he doesn't fit in anywhere as I don't find his projects nearly as compelling as the aforementioned.

  • JhonDaAnalyst

    Good shit man.....nice work.

  • Mack

    I'm the first one to say I'm no Fan of Drake, his content is from a perspective I've never resonated with: suckers. Take "Marvins Room", I've personally never needed to persuade a girl by hating on another nigga; that's grade A bitch shit. But lets not be stupid drake Sonically makes good music; no doubt about it. Coupled with modern cultures youth and their inability to critically comprehend(My reason for their lameness) and voila! they cant tell he is a wack as a person, they only hear good beats and great melodies. Great write by the way ol' chap

  • abisheck

    you suck nd ur song re beat...

  • Anonymous

    You can try and explain it away however you want but no way you explain it takes away the fact that Drake knows nothing about "The Bottom"

    • Sorry

      but there is a context for everything. Simply put, he's making music about his struggle to be relevant in music and saying he started from "the bottom" but there's people in way lower echelons in society struggling through much more who also struggle to become relevant in music and who happen to be much better than Drake is. The problem is that you can't claim to start from "the bottom" when your "debut" mixtape (because apparently Comeback Season is now an afterthought) had all the cash for placements behind it that it needed for him to become relevant with a certain level of immediacy which is unavailable to 90% of the population who don't have his connections. Stop acting like people are claiming that "only hood/broke niggas should make hip-hop". People are saying that he's lying about how he got where he is because he IS. Sorry to burst bubbles homey, but think critically. Nobody cares that his mom was sick in a country with universal health care, and there are people who did have their fathers around who had it way more rough than him and actually can tackle concepts without making every single last song have some mention of money and problems with women that men can easily attain with the wave of a billfold.

    • real

      People in Africa can say you know nothing about the bottom. The bottom for him could be his struggle to become relevant in music. Those who are poor or in the hood dont hold a monopoly on hip hop and what can be said. Single minded young ass need to kill that ignorant talk. Those in the hood are not the only ones struggling in this world. You can struggle with many other things other than poverty.

  • Anonymous

    Forgive Ghostly, who has resorted to ad hominem tactics and has only one train of thought. Keep moving on everyone, he's just a troll...

  • Anonymous

    Kendrick is from Compton. What are you talking about?

  • Nick

    Hip Hop started in the streets and it will forever be in the streets, the fact of the matter is. Nobody in the streets is listening to kendrick or drake, only kids from the burbs. I ain't feelin their music, i don't care how lyrical they are, it's fuckin wack in the streets. Only people in the urban community (not suburban ) should have say to what is dope hip hop and what isn't, this is NOTHING special. Kids from the suburbs tend to think just because a rapper is "lyrical" that makes them great! 2Pac , Too Short, Eazy E, and many many others weren't the most complex rappers but they are more legends, why? Because they kept it street. These underground, and lyrical cats can rhyme as many words out of the dictionary that they want and it is still wack in the streets why? Wack subject matter, wack beats, nobody wants to listen to any of that. People wake up, street hip hop (biggie, 2pac, big l , jeezy, dmx) any rapper that reps the streets, YES even Waka will have more respect than these lyrical cats, because hip hop IS the streets, and if the streets aren't feelin it, than it doesn't matter how versatile you are, wack is wack no matter what!!!!!!!

    • g.d.stubbs

      if you are on the internet *and* on the streets, which is possible with your smartphone, you are in a new place that doesn't obey the rules of either one 100%. nobody who isn't from "the streets" cares about "respect" ON those streets, just like i don't care who is the top dawg at my local county jail. but the fucked up thing is that people from "the streets" look at and want the material wealth of the suburbs... what did "street" people go after during the NYC blackout in '76, the LA '92 riots and Katrina? remember prodigy's ice cold line? "no matter how much loot i get i'm staying in the projects / forever" ... o'really, dunn? "street" rappers are telling their audience what they think they want to hear. just like the way Fox or MSNBC slants the news. and you know *why* "street rappers" make sure that they get "respect" in "the streets?" so kids in the suburbs who are "looking in" will actually buy the music that "the streets" are too broke (or smart) to! aside from his alleged drug trafficking, JEEZY doesn't make any money off of "the hood," because "the hood" is broke, or downloading like everyone else! look at the larger game.

    • real

      Nigga you a fool. I am in the streets everyday. I still chill in the hood I grew up in, and niggs is bagin Kendrick & drake. Speak for your lame ass hood. And every song Big, Pac, Jeezy have made have not all been street. They have made songs for the ladies, uplifting cuts for the youth, and radio cuts. So, speak what you know not the bullshit

    • jd3uc3

      stop talking about the street while you post on a internet blog. you're not "in the streets" youre on the internet. go check your facebook.

  • Ghostly

    This is complete bullshit, and drake is trying to justify himself for being a suburban bitch. So let me get this straight drake... if i grew up in the basement of a mansion, i'm still from the bottom???? LOL the words he is speaking is absolute shit. I guess even paris hilton has her bottom days too huh...

    • Poor Ghostly

      People like Ghostly clearly have some form of personality defect. Anonymous was just responding to Ghostly's (poorly formed) statement, but Ghostly can't handle that. He's that kid who probably made fun of the smart kid in school because he felt inferior about his own ability to effectively communicate without needing to resort to cursing someone else, or resorting to gay jokes. But alas, I'm sure Ghostly will soon be telling me how I'm a dick-rider and don't know nothin' 'bout no struggle. People need to grow up. HAH!

    • Anonymous

      and bruh when your making an argument, can you actually make an argument instead of just calling me a dickrider or retard all the time for real atleast i can make a solid argument instead of having to call the other person a dickrider 5 times to make a point.

    • Anonymous

      and do you even know what a dickrider is? Im not endorsing Drake whatsoever, i dont even like drake im just making a point.

    • Anonymous

      Did you even read what I wrote because your still not getting my point.

    • Ghostly

      There you have it. Drakes own words... 'more or less broke'. What other shit you gona bring up dick rider???

    • Ghostly

      Argument of bullshit??? You are fuckin dumb LOL. You have twisted my point, and now trying to create a separate argument. You fuckin pest lol. If you READ what drake is talking about he is talking about not having shit! I'll even highlight it for you dumb fuck. And OF COURSE people have there downs and out moments no matter what they earn. THATS COMMON SENSE. lol fuckin retard. Drake says he and his mom rented the first floor and basement of a house. We were more or less broke, but my mom didnt want us to live in an area that could create trouble for her son, he says.

    • Anonymous

      No he doesn't, but everything you were saying was incorrect and the argument you were making for it was complete bullshit so I had to say something. If your going to make an argument you shouldn't have to make up a bunch of bullshit to make your argument just make your argument off bullshit. You need to just chill bruh, im not even saying he comes from the hood or he is a great artist, I'm just saying everyone has a bottom where they can get depressed and not be in a good place. The bottom of a poor kid in the hood of the US would look like heaven to a lot of kids in Africa. You act like money is the only struggle their is too like you can't have other issues.

    • Ghostly

      No matter what I say to you, a dickrider is always a dickrider. Drake is NOT from the struggle, so stop trying to act like he was. Does he need to be, for you to respect him? If not, then shut the fuck up.

    • Anonymous

      Oooooooooohhh Kill Emm!

    • Anonymous

      he didn't grow up in the basement of a mansion. He wasn't poor but his absolutely wasn't rich because his dad was in jail, his mom was sick, and the salary of a tv star in canada is the salary of a janitor in the US. And people have other problems than money. Who is closer to the bottom, the poor kid that is amazing at basketball and has tons of friends or the fat rich kid getting bullied everyday and wants to die? There are many different bottoms and money is not the only bottom so you need to learn what your talking about before trying to act like an expert.

  • Anonymous

    Listen, the average fan, let alone the majority of the rest can NOT RELATE to what some of the rappers are talking about! Not everybody has "racks on racks", Bentley's, Mansions, etc... Let's get real now! They're selling that vanity shit to struggling Americans! Majority of Hip Hop fans like to live in fantasy land and front like they're "about that life" (LMFAO)... Funny shit is they're too broke or cheap to spend $12 on an album. This is only in Hip Hop and R&B. Every other genre of music is doing great numbers because the fans of those genres support... Hip Hop fans front like they can relate but can't even afford an album! SMFH! No the white people are taking over and making money and now everybody is crying... Minorities kill everything they create or let the white people benefit more from their cultures and creations and cry and complain about it all day! Fucking sad! And NO I'm not white! Just calling a spade a spade!

    • g.d.stubbs

      1) you need to put some numbers up to back up that claim about every other genre of music being supported by its fans. Everyone downloads, and if you want to be real, recognize that it isn't that rap fans are cheap/broke, but that it's the only genre that GIVES ITS SHIT AWAY as "mixtapes!" why should i pay for the album when an artist has delivering lyrical murder *FOR FREE*. it's a totally jacked up economic model: imagine being a dealer in a drug game where you have to give away your product for a year and the only thing that differentiates yours from the next guy is the color of the top or how cool the name is. now imagine that one rule of this game is that at the end of every year you have to charge actual money for your drug. what will most fiends do? only those truly loyal to the top color and the name will buy it. the rest will switch to whatever dealer is still giving it away, even if every year the colors of the tops and the names get more and more similar. to further complicate things, imagine that the drug kills its user after three years of addiction and the dealer has to either find a new crop of fiends or fade away. that's what the modern rap game is about. LL and Big Daddy Kane don't have mixtapes out, do they? and you wonder why at one point in time a rapper could make more money off their ring tone than the track itself. that shit was genius! 2) you said: Minorities kill everything they create or let the white people benefit more from their cultures and creations and cry and complain about it all day! Only the richest of these rappers are complaining about "white people" benefitting because they can't get into the fashion shows or film festivals that they think their multiplatinum record sales (or samsung scams) have earned them. That's why you get records like "Slave" and "Niggas In Paris" from the likes of Jay Z and Kanye. Angry, somewhat justified, but pretty damned thin. I don't remember ANY of the indie rappers that came up in the 90's complaining about white people benefitting from what they made. Here I'm thinking about mostly the labels and crews that came out of the South. do your history and recognize that it's because of Dungeon Family, Cash Money Records, and cats like Master P that all the rap we complain about today is commercially viable! I don't like all the rap that is out now, but it's clear that rap isn't dead. and like i said elsewhere, today you don't have to listen to anything you don't like. Like Ice Cube said: "turn off that bullshit / turn off that motherfuckin' radio"

    • Real

      You cant argue with an ignorant ass leaving comments like Ghostly. People with limited intelligents believe the only way to struggle is financially. And yes Drake said they were more or less broke. Most people can relate to that. Most people parents wer enot dead broke but their parents didnt have money just to go buy whatever they want. They lived check to check. Living check to check is being somewhat broke. This notion if you aint struggled financial or grew up in the hood you cant be a relevant hip hop artist is bullshit

  • Anonymous

    Ooh Kill Em's first verse > Forever's last verse.


    CHINGY the GOAT, he is the greatest rapper of all time. why don't we all stop frontin, ain't no future in your fronton. I SAY AGAIN: CHING IS THE G.O.A.T.

  • Anonymous

    Ooh Kill Em is the song of the year.

  • Anonymous

    how is meek mill not more popular? I hate the album that he released, but all of his other work is solid stuff.

  • Anonymous

    Ems Relapse sold 2 million, Recovery Sold 4.5 Million. Why?, Relapse was disappointing. Interscope had a version of Relapse that could of sold easily 4 million. Check out this site to hear it. www.eminemalbum2014.com

  • Tim

    Let Drake be Drake!!! LOL its funny how perception of an artist affects how people perceive him or his music!! IDGAF, make music, ain't nothing special about being from the hood or the suburbs!!

  • Anon

    I could care less if he struggled, just stop with the emo, estrogen filled RnB singing shit. The kid can rap, but he can never make a real hip hop classic if half his albums are fkn singing. This is why Kendrick has more respect than him..

  • murdock

    this guys struggles are like a dude whos dads a doctor...cant ever take him serious hes a lame.

    • real

      But his father wants a doctor and his mother wants rich so whats you point. You are a lame for think that a person struggles are always financial and that that is what gives MC's credibility in rap. Murdock this nuts in your mouth lame

  • Anonymous

    Ems Relapse sold 2 million. Recovery Sold 4.5 Million. Why?, Relapse was disappointing. Interscope had a version of Relapse that could of sold easily 4 million. Check out this site to hear it. www.eminemalbum2014.com

  • DavidDanielz

    This site fails to be a creditable source of information. Like The mag "The Source" they make shit up and try to make artist seem bigger then they are. Its just pure trash journalism honestly.

  • yea

    in other news, the new Deltron album is out

  • Anonymous

    Boi-1da Did NOT produce "Started from the bottom" No credibility, put me on this site watch me takeover the editorials.

  • Anonymous

    Good points in a bad piece. Drake's not a good rapper, but he's doing well. That's all I've ever thought of it and all I will until he does something better.


    This is actually one of the better articles I have read on Hiphopdx. Kind of surprised to see it. I expected more Drake dissing. Only wish it could have also outlined some of the bullshit relating to where some hip-hop legends really grew up. There is plenty of assumptions and phoniness especially when you look at the past. Hiphop purists live in a false word where every MC was some rough-neck ghetto hoodlum. Its a complete lie. Its just not true at all. Drake's background is really not that unusual or odd economic class-wise for hiphop. His background is even typical other than him being Canadian and on a Canadian TV show. He's a drop out. His parents split when he was young. His dad did jail time. He grew up middle-class. As I have lived in both Toronto and New York City, I can tell you his income from Degrassi was likely not much different than mediocre construction job. In fact, I garuntee it. Most guys on Canadian TV shows still live at home with their parents for real. They aint living large at all. Its just like working at MTV, the incentive is that "you get to be on TV" or "work on TV" and your salary is lower because they feel they are giving you that priviledge. Drake, more than anything, had to overcome being a Canadian rapper which will always be the butt of jokes to some people everywhere in America. That's a feat in itself.

  • Rodney C

    I live in NYC. A huge percentage of Blacks reside in public housing. Hip hop started in the projects of the Bronx and lower class inner-city. In the 80s and 90s, most rappers who made it to the top were poor lower class individuals who had no pot to piss in growing up, now if u want to get signed to a major you have to be a middle class kid from the suburbs with some kind of connect, or if not you have to imitate the suburban swag. The few inner city kids who are trying to rap are putting out music without any content. Why? Because the radio and record labels have stopped promoting the AZs a d all that shit that was hot in the golden age era. The kind of music we have coming from these lower class youth are the Chief Keef, Trinidad James, French Montana, sounding jams. Songs that don't have any meaning behind it. The suburban kids who are getting deals now are the nerds who claim to be influenced by the golden era. Which is not a bad thing. But when was the last time a kid from the projects made it to the top of rap and established a good rap career. probably 15 yrs ago. Now all we have is the J. Cole's and the Drake's and all that miidle class kids running the rap game.

    • Rodney C

      Do u know even know what an urban enclave is? Long Island ain't a rural area, dude. I know cos I've been there. What was ur point about Rakim being from Long Island? He def does not fit the category of the suburb stigma as the article talks about. As someone above pointed out I was wrong about someone from the projects not making it in the rap in the past 15 yrs. But my point is that struggle rap of someone at the bottom or the hood as most people call it, not the bottom that Drake or Tyler the Creator, is not seen in todays rap. I ve never been to Toronto but we all know the bottom over here, wheter it be city or suburb or town, is someone from underclass/lowerclass/working class background.

    • Anonymous

      Bunch of bitches. drake is sittin on millions and dont even know u guys exist. lol


      No one is saying Rakim was from a rich neighborhood. But he wasn't from an urban enclave either. He was raised in the suburbs. Wealthy, working class, poor whatever. The suburbs. This article seemed to be challenging hiphop and its urban/suburban myths and class myths. Drake grew up partially on Weston Rd (a poor part of Toronto) and another part in Forest Hill (rich part, yes) but in half a house that was rented. Im sorry no one in Toronto can objectively call that affluent/wealthy. Renting half a house is not wealthy even in Forest Hill. His mother was a single- mother school teacher. I can garuntee if you actually went and visited his neighborhood, it would not look like some wealthy place like Beverly Hills. It's just a boring middle class upbringing. In fact, I can even bet rent was cheaper than many parts of Harlem. Truth is Canada does not have crime-ridden slums like the USA yes but the kid didn't grow up like some sheltered rich kid in the hamptons / even places like Brooklyn heights - that's just a huge myth. At any rate, It's all relative. I know Africans who laugh at poor African-American's complaints of poverty - they call them spoiled because they live in a rich Western democracy. I don't agree but everything is relative.

    • John

      Again, this has nothing to do with where Drake lived or anything. Every new artist starts from the bottom when they come into the industry. Just because you have a lot of money, you think you going to be a superstar in the rap game.

    • Bronxite

      Nicki Minaj is from the projects, 50 from the projects, but I get wait u saying Rodney C. The fact is that golden era shit is past tense and Ny rappers aren't putting in much work, as other cats and I'm from NY. The kid from the projects now are lazy as fuck.

    • Anonymous

      Joey Bada$$ & pro era outta Flatbush, TDE movement in LA; talent is still being promoted from the bottom; 15 yrs ago? gtfo

    • Anonymous

      What are u talking about. Rakim wasn't from a rich neighborhood like Drake. A lot of working class African American neighborhoods are in Long Island and I'm sure Wyndach is one of them. Long Island doesn't automatically mean rich the way Brooklyn doesn't automatically mean poor. Besides this was the eighties when the Keith Murray, Flava flav and a whole lotta of rappers are from the hood in LI. Living in the city, doesn't make one affluent as it is in Drake's case. And who told you there ain't ghettoes in Long Island. When I say suburbs, I was kinda of referring to class and status (Drake is actually not from the suburbs if we look at it the way u look at it). Guru wasn't a gangsta rapper, his content was more on the socially conscious side. All I was trying to say in my comment that the inner city hip-hop which was prevalent in the 90s has been missing in yrs. When Drake says started from the bottom it might be true in a sense but when we look at where hip hop started or where its early stars were from it is ridiculous to say that a posh neighborhood in Toronto is the bottom, unless maybe they were squatting. Drake makes good music, i am knocking that.


      @ Rodney. You are half right but you really underestimate how much early MCs came from the ghetto vs. Long Island or have shady pasts that they don't own up to. There is just a phony myth that so many lengendary hip-hop artists are straight hood. When you put a magnified glass to the history - its spotty. Most of them would be found out if they were birthed in the current era. Plus plenty of legendary MCs are well-known to be from the suburbs. Are you going to dispute that Guru from Gangstarr (whose Dad was a judge and who went to elite Morehouse ) is not hiphop? How about the Beastie Boys who yes grew up urban but also as millionaires (even Mike D's dad got them a record deal)? (These days that would blasphemy). How about Rakim who grew up in Wyandanch, New York ? How about De La Soul? Kanye West? Drake actually grew up part in Forest Hill (which is wealthy Jewish area but also has cheap housing like everywhere in Toronto) and part on Weston Rd. Toronto (which is not considered rich at all). In addition, being from Canada, means yes - less homocides -but also much lower salaries. Its a different system than the USA. Its not like he grew up in Beverly Hills. In Toronto, rich people and poor people live much more amongst one another. I am sure salaries in Harlem destroy much of middle-class Toronto for sure. The problem is no one is living in reality. No one wants to accept that Dr. Dre can be dope artist even though we know very well he is faking his gangsta criminal life-style. People want live in the myth.

    • drizzy!

      Anonymous you would have a point if they owned the house. They rented the basement suite of the house. They didn't own a property and that was deliberately done to ensure that he didn't grow up in a bad neighborhood. Moreover, Forest Hill is one the most Jewish areas in North America.

    • Anonymous

      u hit the nail on the head. how did drake start from the bottom living in the richest neighborhood in toronto. his wikipedia page mentions that explicitly.

  • triPAUD

    Good article. There's also the issue of him not being from US, which is something Americans can't really understand-and part of the misunderstanding of Drake's presentation. Canadian rappers have been tryin to break through for more than a decade and its always been fleeting. Canadian rap industry in Canada isn't supportive, so he had to grind in an infrastructure that's nothing like what's been around in NY and LA since the mid to late 80s. Most Canadians didn't take Canadian rappers seriously, even after Kardi landed a breakout hit. Shad, Swollen Members, k-os and K'naan went mostly ignored. And this whole thing about suburbs and hood is a myth, which is made worse when emcees lie and exaggerate. Even if they were in the hood, its more complicated than that. Many people, if not most people in the suburbs are running a debt. Prodigy's grandmother ran a dance school and he wasn't initially (if ever) from QB. Capone, Ice Cube, and others contradictions and juxtapositions like this are common. Not sayin prodigy wasn't hood, but its not so simple to put people in boxes.

    • drizzy!

      Completely agree. You have to have some understanding of Canadian hip-hop history to understand the signifcance of what Drake has accomplished. A lot of Canadian rappers have had moments where they had big hit songs and albums internationally and got some shine--but not like Drake. It's definitely one of the reasons why he bigs up Toronto so much. It's much harder to get discovered doing anything outside of hockey here. Ask Steve Nash, dude should have been playing at Duke instead of Santa Clara. Wiggins playing some high school in the States definitely helped his stock.

  • bass

    Weak article. Just played with the same idea. D

  • RGeezy

    If Drake is a rapper than so is R Kelly.

  • trey

    its content like this that make hiphopdx the best hiphop site on the internet

  • OVO

    If there was a special on the History Channel that counted down the realist niggas throughout the history of humanity, Drake would be Top 10 no doubt. He'd be up there with Ghandi and MLK. If there was a special on MTV counting down the realist, most talented and influential musicians of all-time Drake would be Top 5 no doubt. Right up there with Miles Davis, Michael Jackson and Frank Sinatra. Real talk.

  • Joanne S. Gibson

    uptil I saw the bank draft which said $7776, I have faith that my friend was like realy bringing home money in their spare time on their computer.. there friends cousin haz done this for under eight months and as of now repayed the morgage on there villa and bourt a top of the range Lancia. my response http://www.youtube.com.watch.qr.net/k6th

  • Warren

    Drake is still a bottom, I had some of his booty last night, nigga can squeal & sing like a angel with a nigga pumpin him hard.