You might know him as Jimmy Brooks, the kid who was shot in the back on the TV show Degrassi: The Next Generation. But Aubrey Drake Graham has come a long way since starring as a basketball player in that popular-but-problematic Canadian high school soap opera.
Now known just as Drake, the actor-turned-rapper got his (second) big break when he released a mix tape heard by Lil Wayne. The rest is success-story history. Drake is now held in such regard by the music industry that he’s said to hold hip-hop’s future in his hands. And with first week sales of his debut album, Thank Me Later, nearing half-a-million units, those folks might just be right.
But Drake isn’t quite as cozy with fame and fortune as some of his peers. He’s wrestling with the trappings of success—even if he’s not especially fighting them. Thank Me Later feels like his self-reflective struggle to resist becoming old and cynical at age 23. Will he make it?
Drake seeks lifelong love on “Find Your Love” and “Fireworks.” On the latter, he sings, “I want to witness love/I never seen it close.” He also mentions caring and providing for his elderly grandmother. “Karaoke” wisely instructs, “Don’t be fooled by the money.”
On “The Resistance,” Drake laments his new lifestyle and realizes he’s changed for the worse: “The other day Lisa told that she missed the old me/Which made me question when I went missing/And when I start treating my friends different.” Still, Drake says he would be willing to die for those friends on “Up All Night.”
Drake seeks out casual sex on more than half of Thank Me Later’s 14 tracks. Narcissism, hedonism and selfishness are the name of the game on “Over” and “Show Me a Good Time.” “Fancy” is a tribute to ostentatious ladies, and on “CeCe’s Interlude” he lusts after a woman he can’t have. This and other tracks objectify women, but “Shut It Down” is especially heinous as the rapper instructs a woman to emulate a stripper: “Take those f‑‑‑ing heels off and work it girl/Let that mirror show you what you’re doing/Take that f‑‑‑ing dress off/… Nothin’ is what I can picture you in.” He also brags, “I refuse to feel ashamed.”
When abortion is alluded to on “The Resistance,” the only emotion Drake can muster is indifference: “Plus this woman that I messed with unprotected/Texting saying that she wish she would’ve kept it/The one I’m laying next to just looked over and read it.”
Language-wise, we frequently hear the f-word paired with “mother,” the s-word and the n-word. Women are labeled “b‑‑ches” and “hos.” We also hear graphic references to oral sex and masturbation on multiple tracks, especially on “Miss Me,” which also insults marriage. Alcohol is referenced on at least half the songs. Marijuana, cigarettes and possibly other drugs receive lyrical nods, too. “Light Up” touches on street violence and gunshots.
Drake is introspective enough to recognize that some of his choices are shallow and selfish. Ultimately, though, he’s more eager to keep embracing the “good life,” hip-hop style. And if we’re to believe his lyrics, it’s a life of pure hedonism. Drake may occasionally feel qualms about his choices, but he’s not about to let fame pass him by.
On “Show Me a Good Time,” Drake chants, “Call me overrated or created or too jaded/Because any way you put it, b‑‑ch, I made it!” And, yes, I would call him all of those things.