Drake dropped this 17-track “mix tape” (he’s not calling it an official album) with no advance warning. And in just three days, fans snapped up more than a half-million copies, reinforcing Drake’s frequent claim that he’s the biggest thing in the rap world right now.
Lots of other rappers make the same claim, of course. It comes with the braggadocio territory. But Drake’s one of a handful whose sales the last few years put him in bona fide contention for the hip-hop throne (alongside older school heavyweights Jay Z, Kanye West and Eminem).
But is reigning supreme as satisfying as he’d hoped?
“Used To” suggests that being a rap monarch is a lonely thing (“They never told me when you get the crown/It’s gon’ take some getting used to/ … They don’t love you like they used, man”). And “Legend” hints that fame has made friendship difficult.
“You & the 6” laments Drake’s father’s failings, but also says that he should be forgiven. Similar forgiveness seems key to a struggling romance when we hear, “I done did everything for her/She forgave me for everything, this is a forever thing.” “Know Yourself” says, “Pray the real live forever, man/Pray the fakes get exposed.” “6PM in New York” observes, “Nobody lookin’ out for nobody,” then counsels, “Maybe we should try and help somebody be somebody.”
Drake compares himself to a deity on “Legend,” chanting, “6 G-O-D, I’m the holy one.” (The 6 here and on other tracks is a reference to two area codes in Toronto, the Canadian city from which Drake hails.) He then boasts, “If I die, all I know is I’m a m—–f—ing legend.” As for other contenders to the throne, he spits, “F— ’em all, they only p—y n-ggas shooting at the star.” “6 God” treads similarly “spiritual” territory, with wealth being the measure of self-made deity in this case (“Black Benz on the road, boy/Already had a Rolls Royce/Sold a couple Bentley last week, them were my old toys/ … I’m the real 6 god, boy”). On “Used To,” Drake narcissistically suggests, “Only see the truth when I’m staring in the mirror/Lookin’ at myself, like, ‘There it is there.'”
“Energy” whines about all the burdens of being a salvific megastar (“I got two mortgages, $30 million in total/I got n-ggas that’ll still try f—in’ me over/ … I got b–ches askin’ me about the code for the Wi-Fi/ … So tired of savin’ all these n-ggas”). “Know Yourself” insists, “N-ggas want my spot and don’t deserve it.” “No Tellin'” harshly criticizes the way other rappers live: “I mean, besides Ricky Ro$$, Aubrey [Drake’s full name is Aubrey Drake Graham] the biggest boss here/What’s the word these days/Buncha n-ggas chasing after all these women they don’t even know/Buncha out-of-season womem f–in’ off-season n-ggas to get the last-season wardrobe.”
As you’ve surely noticed by now, most of Drake’s songs are laced with obscenities and slurs, including frequent uses of the n-word, the f-word and the s-word. Graphic references to a woman’s anatomy and sex (including oral sex and a threesome) turn up on “Preach,” “Company” and “Star67.” Talk of strippers and centerfolds litter the landscape elsewhere. Drug and alcohol allusions throughout the album point to tequila, wine, Hennessy, Ecstasy, marijuana, cocaine, cough syrup (Promethazine) and Percocet.
On “Jungle,” Drake intones, “These days I’m letting God handle all things above me.” But what really does he feel is above him? Because the problem is, most of the time when Drake talks about God, he’s not talking about the Almighty, but himself.
Unintentionally, then, Drake offers a near perfect case study in what French philosopher Blaise Pascal called the “God-shaped vacuum.” Pascal said that only God can fill the void inside us, and Drake’s sonic self-portrait here certainly illustrates that reality. He insists he’s the king who’s worthy of adoration, but he can’t help but acknowledge that all of the sex, drugs, money and accolades tossed worshipfully his way aren’t filling the vacuum in his soul.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews.