Making Headlines: Drake and the new Jay Gatsby
No rapper requires sympathy. Even less deserving of pity is an artist critically and commercially adored; beloved and accessible to every tribe, regardless of whether you spend your spare time studiously browsing the blogosphere or taking pictures of your glammy babe friends sitting on the toilet in a club in Basildon. Despite these facts I can’t help feeling a twinge of pity for one Aubrey Graham, better known as Drake.
In a recent profile written by Paul Lester for the Guardian, cheekily and misleadingly entitled “Drake: Why do you hate me so much?”, the Canadian is said to have a: “tendency to make being a jetsetting superstar multimillionaire seem like the most sorrowful, isolating existence on earth” and attention is drawn to a line from ‘Marvin’s Room’: “I’ve had sex four times this week, I’ll explain/Having a hard time adjusting to fame” , on which Lester comments “that is, for some, too much to bear: not only is he meeting all these hot models, he’s not even enjoying it. Can he see why people might be annoyed?”
It seems odd to me that such a focus be placed on the Poor Little Rich Boy aspect of Drake’s persona, although it is an attractive journalistic angle given his middle class up bringing, role in a Canadian soap opera and accelerated success. The argument though is based on a false premise; that Drake has got a sick life and is enjoying rubbing it in everyone’s faces, a fact which totally ignores the desperate ex girlfriend drunk dial context of the track . Sure there are times when superstar bravado is his weapon of choice (he made an acronym of his name that stood for Do Right And Kill Everything for Christs’ sake) and is not totally adverse to the kind of cash, cars, hoes verses for which lesser rappers are rightly lambasted.
Embarrassingly he also became embroiled in a classically hubristic war of words with Ludacris, who was taking time out from his busy schedule of featuring on Justin Bieber records and making records that no one gives a fuck about, to try and claim the dubious honour of inventing “the hashtag flow”. Largely though Take Care is a record about the connection between loneliness and fame, about having everything and nothing at the same time, and ‘Marvin’s Room’ is perhaps foremost in examining these ideas.
It’s not exactly like such themes are revolutionary in modern American culture either; they are practically embedded in the psyche by everything from The Great Gatsby to all those films you watched when you were a kid where the main character is famous, has to go home for a contrived reason and then realises that their life of luxury was empty and sad anyway and home is where the heart is. I don’t hear any critics telling the cast of Mad Men to cheer up because they’ve all got lovely clothes. Wouldn’t it make that particular show a little less interesting if, instead of pondering the existential nightmare of his vacuous existence, Don Draper simply looked cheery and kept saying how happy he was that he was rich and a hit with the ladies?
I can’t find evidence of any boos at his stand up show when Woody Allen said: “Sex without love is an empty experience, but as empty experiences go, it’s one of the best.”; maybe they should all just get on with it?. The attention on the fact that Drake is a rich person that is also unhappy only serves cloud the debate about rap itself. I could dig out ten think pieces from papers and blogs that harrangue rappers, rightly, for misogyny, throwing money at the camera in videos or saying frankly bonkers shit like “I might be too strung out on confidence, over dosed on compliments”. If these pieces are valid we cannot then slate artists for showing a hint of introspection or vulnerability, for daring to suggest that actually they don’t like macking hoes or partying with air headed strippers, for venturing that fame and money hasn’t made them happy. Until then we will have a climate where, jewel boasting, gun toting , “fag” hating idiocy will prevail.