Drake hits close to home

By Tyler Panlilio , Columnist

Drake’s been around for a while now. It’s been almost a decade since he left “Degrassi” to pursue his rap career, for those of you who remember him as a disabled former basketball star. From his humble beginnings as a 15-year-old TV star in Toronto to his latest studio album released this spring, it’s clear that Drake has garnered a lot of fame over the years.

But Drake wasn’t Drake until he dropped his first real single that solidified his spot in rap forever; he was still Aubrey back then. “Best I Ever Had,” along with the rest of “So Far Gone,” was essentially the spark that garnered international praise for him. Before that, he released two other mixtapes that never really saw the light of day. The single was nominated for two Grammys — despite it coming from a mixtape — and sold over two million copies across the United States.

Drake wasn’t a good kid from a m.A.A.d city; he was a good kid from a respectable, diverse area. He didn’t grow up with drug and gang relations, nor did he experience much racial tension in Toronto. He was a middle-class kid experiencing the aftermath of his parents’ divorce while trying to make sense of love and relationships.

Now, I’m not trying to undermine his hardships and experiences. It’s more to divide him from the rest of the rap scene, and for good reason.

What really separates Drake from the rest of the scene is his lyrical transparency. Some critics say that he’s a softie, which, in all honesty, is true. Drake is the type of guy that raps about his feelings, his heartaches and his personal life. This kind of lyrical vulnerability was unheard of; only a handful of rappers had exposed themselves to that type of transparency before — Tupac and Eminem were early pioneers of this.

Drake entered the rap game and single-handedly shifted the norm from getting money, objectifying girls and having nice clothes to a more relatable subject matter: relationships.

At some point in their life, almost everyone has had a breakup, or a relationship that didn’t go as planned. Drake made it okay to listen to rap for its lyrics, rather than for how good it sounds. He made it unquestionably normal to rap about emotional turmoil, and the whole world praised him for it. That’s something that resonates with all of us.

Author Shea Serrano said it best: “Drake commoditized the investigation of heartache better than any rapper had, and that made it an acceptable business model.”

Look at “Take Care” for example. The follow-up of his debut album, “Take Care” was widely received as the album in which Drake embraced his introspective nature. Many of the themes throughout the album encompass uncertainty, loneliness and heartache. Topics on the album portray personal issues, like his mother’s illness and alcoholism. But, at the same time, the album doesn’t stray from some of the more predominant rap subject matter, such as wealth and materialism.

Seeing how this won a Grammy for Best Rap Album of 2013, there’s no doubt that Drake’s success stems from the relatability of his work to such a wide audience of listeners.

Any rational person can look at Drake’s timeline and see that the next five years probably won’t be as good as his last five. Despite the release of “Views” this spring — which still succeeded commercially — even casual Drake fans can tell that it lacked the luster of his second and third studio albums.

The thing is, Drake’s already done his job. He forever changed rap as a genre by broadening what you can rap about. And you can definitely tell, because everyone raps about their heartbreaks now.

Tyler is a freshman in Media. 

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