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Depending on who you ask, Drake dropped some fresh heat this week (April 5) in preparation for his upcoming not-so-surprise album, Views From the 6, which is rumored to be released any day now. And regardless of who you ask, the internet has been jumping, buzzing and ablaze in anticipation.
As he likes to do, Drizzy added fuel to his own fire with two new singles: the posse cut “Pop Style” with Watch the Throne duo Jay Z and Kanye West, and the requisite pop-friendly “One Dance,” which will undoubtedly stay on the radio for a large part of the foreseeable future.
And yet, despite a hugely successful mixtape with Future (What a Time to Be Alive), a lopsided victory over Meek Mill and a single so infectious that it inspired a Super Bowl commercial (“Hotline Bling”), some people continue to spew blasphemy against the “6 God.”
At 33 years old, I am all too familiar with the tendency to place the icons of your own generation on a pedestal. Like Chris Rock in Top Five, I could spend hours on end embroiled in a passionate debate over who’s the greatest ever. And yes, my list mostly includes icons from the ‘90s: The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, Jay Z, Nas, Eminem, Ice Cube and you better believe Scarface is in that conversation.
Another confession: Like Nas, I was ready to proclaim hip-hop was deceased around 2006. With new artists like M.I.M.S., Hurricane Chris and Kia Shine proliferating a vapid and elementary style on the radio, I was starting to believe my tenure as a fan was over until Thank Me Later dropped — after which, nothing was the same.
One of the more common complaints about Drake is that some hip-hop fans don’t want their rappers to sing. But many of the most lauded MCs — including Biggie and Eminem — have dabbled in crooning. The only difference between Drake and those guys is that Drake is actually a pretty good singer. But for argument’s sake, take that out of the equation and focus on Drizzy’s flows. What’s left to criticize? His delivery: “Last name ‘Ever,’ first name ‘Greatest’ / Like a sprained ankle boy I ain’t nothin’ to play with.” His domineering cadence: “Oh lorrrddd, know yourself, know your worth.” Oh, and the one-liners: “I could teach you how to speak my language, Rosetta Stone.”
If you’re a classic, grade-A hater, you’re probably not impressed with any of the above examples. Thing is, there’s hundreds more where those came from on his records as well as his features. If you think Drake sucks, maybe you don’t like hip-hop as much as you thought you did.
“What about the ghostwriter thing?” I hate to break it to the golden era die-hards, but in 2012 it was revealed that Nas worked with a ghostwriter on his Untitled album. Dr. Dre has been using phantom penmen since he started. Kanye has even had several hits authored by Consequence and Rhymefest. Even pioneering trio Beastie Boys had some help writing “Paul Revere” from Run-D.M.C. But aside from that, if you break down Drake’s best bars, you’ll find his own name in the credits.
“But dude has no street cred.” Those days are over. You might even say they don’t have an award for that. Also, shocker: there were a lot of rappers from back in the day who never broke the law. Even Tupac Shakur admitted that he didn’t have a criminal record until he released a rap record. KRS-One, Nas, they never never did any serious time. Kanye might be one of the nerdiest dudes in the entire music industry right now. And converse to all this, some of the wackest MCs have the lowest-quality bars and highest number of convictions (sorry Chief Keef and Free Gucci Mane).
Like rock n’ roll and every other genre before it, hip-hop has evolved and styles have changed; the parameters of beef have been expanded from in person to on-wax to social media. So yeah, watching Drake vs. Meek Mill is not going to be the same as watching KRS-One battle MC Shan in front of a packed house. That’s the world we live in: the legends set the records before the rookies can break them. You can say Steph Curry isn’t as good as Michael Jordan, but if you say Steph Curry wouldn’t still be great in another era, check yourself.
Whether his naysayers choose to open up their mind or keep throwing sodium, Aubrey Graham is on top right now and his reign is about to get even stronger with Views From the 6. As painful as it might be for those that came up with hip-hop in the ‘80s and ‘90s, when that conversation of who’s the “GOAT” comes up, if you refuse to even let Drake in the discussion, I have to borrow one from the millennials and say, “FOH.”
(Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images)