So look, I come from a land called the '90s where referencing the Internet (or being birthed by it) was seen as a move for anyone who couldn't get the streets to love them. Back in the day, rappers would do things like "battle" each other in forums and message boards (otherwise known as keystylin'), send other rappers they never met bits of music to string together as a song (calling that a "collaboration"), and even have entire Internet fan bases comprised of people who only knew each other by screen names and handles. It was low key viewed as the corniest thing to ever happen to hip hop technology, considering the real dream was for most of these dudes to hop offline and sustain real life careers. Did that happen? Eh, sometimes? But let's face it, Internet thug life has a short expiration date before the world starts asking, "Uh, so what else do you do all day?"
Almost 20 years later, Drake has changed all of that to become the first rapper to cross over into the Internet and do it so damn successfully that the Internet is finally cool and a safe haven for rappers to act all the way up like they have no digital morals.
Well done, Drizzy.
This has been a work in progress, really. Drake's first foray into the Web space came from the "Jimmy From Degrassi" memes, where a photo of Jimmy (Drake) in his wheelchair on the basketball court gave way to a slew of Drake memes that varied from more Degrassi photos to even flicks of a young Aubrey, tagged with the line, "They say they want the old Drake. Girl don't tempt me." The attempt was to son the 6 God and suggest he was soft, but he pulled a reverse half-nelson on them all and ended up back on top by being a part of the joke. It was similar to the move Eminem pulled during the final battle scene of 8 Mile, where he laid his insecurities out onto the platform so that Papa Doc couldn't. It was a move that earned Drake his Wi-Fi bars and so began his intense relationship with the Internet. From his own search engine, Let Me Drake That for You to the hashtags #S**tDrakeSays and #DrakeThatTypeOfN***a, plus the Twitter account Stuff Drake Does, Drake became the quintessential Internet rapper, but in a whole new way. And he totally embraced it.
Then, of course, came the feud with Meek Mill, where Drake leaned heavily upon the Internet, dropping diss track after diss track to his Soundcloud, along with posting diss memes to a large screen during OVO Fest. It was as if Meek Mill's one tweet to the Internet — an attempt to own a turf Drake has long since claimed — got Drizz "charged up" enough to annihilate Meek in front of the whole dot-com-osphere. It spilled over into his Future collaborative mixtape, What a Time to Be Alive, where the diamond-encrusted artwork led to Drake's woes and the Future hive uniting under a diamond emoji and blasting Meek Mill's Instagram like the Bey Hive during open season.
What. A. Time. To. Be. Alive.
That whole project is another testament to Drake's strong Web ties. The mixtape title came from Internet journalism god Ernest Baker, who got his first massive name check when Drake posted a photo of himself on Instagram with the caption "Walk in like I'm Ernest Baker." And the mixtape felt like a figment of our imaginations at first, considering there were dispelled rumors, fake track lists, alternate cover art and everything else that would suggest the Internet ultimately willed it into existence. Naturally Drake remains on top, where even a digital project that sounds like he's playing second fiddle gets touted as something entirely of his own, fueled by a series of memes surrounding the project (that he gladly reposts to his Instagram).
So yes, with all due respect to the former breed of Internet rappers, Drake has beaten you all at your own game. He didn't have to slide through UGHH.com forums with the handle AubreyGotBarz or hit up Anticon for a "fire collaboration." He mastered the Internet without surrendering to it, and now he's a better person because of it.
What a time to be online.
(Photo: Scott Legato/FilmMagic)