Over the last year we’ve learned Drake can do no wrong, it’s almost like he has immunity. He continues to dominate urban radio while enjoying a distinct crossover appeal at the same time. Even after being exposed as less than the consistently brilliant lyricist with the limitless supply of rhymes we believed him to be, by an amped up but considerably less eloquent Meek Mill, Drake remained unscathed — and dare I say — his popularity seemed to grow even more. Aside from being exposed as someone who doesn’t write his own rhymes, something that would kill another lyrical rapper, Drake has been able to enjoy the best of what hip-hop has to offer without paying the price that others have had to pay for same indulgence.
Today, the only thing Drake the rapper has in common with the character Jimmy on “Degrassi” is the fact that Aubrey Graham appears to slip into character for both roles. “Started from the bottom, now we’re here,” are great lyrics that anyone with a rags-to-riches story in the last two years has enjoyed quoting. However, Drake or rather Aubrey Graham, didn’t start from the bottom. A middle-class Jewish kid playing on a public access television show is certainly not the same bottom that most of his peers rap about, but again Drake slips into the role of the emcee from humble beginnings that graduated to flashy “rap star” seamlessly.
The transition from a child actor playing a geeky high school student in Degrassi High, think weekly after school special, on a public access station, to rap’s biggest phenomenon is quite a feat in itself. The only reason Drake got a pass to join hip hop’s elite was because he was a lyrical beast, right? Or maybe becoming a “rapper” was equivalent to a bigger role with more perks.
After having one of the most popular mixtapes in music history, Drake was asked to join Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj to form Young Money, which rendered the three hip-hop’s most dominating trifecta at the time. Although Drake was loyal to Wayne and shouted Nicki out like a puppy dog in love, he somehow remained his own entity. Minaj was Young Money and Lil Wayne is Young Money, but surprisingly Drake is just Drake.
The transformation from geek to rapper has happened before, think Kanye West, but there is always sacrifice. Kanye’s transition was rough and his lyrics told the story of a wannabe rapper who was constantly blown off by peers like Jay Z. In observation, Drake’s transition was much smoother. Speaking of transitions, Drake recently started working out and began posting pictures of himself as #MCM aka #ManCrushMonday eye candy. While the ladies are loving the new look, a hip-hop artist playing up to the camera like Kim Kardashian is out of order. Yes, there are a few rappers that are more ladies’ men than lyricists, cue Nelly and/or LL Cool J — but no one is looking to either of them to be taken seriously as a lyricist. There was a price to pay for their pretty boy antics. Even when Drake took the better half of 2015 to be at every fashion show and tennis match for his purported girlfriend Serena Williams, and mysteriously took on a much more Serena-like athletic appearance, instead of being called out for transitioning for his latest alleged romance, he remains untouched. Some might’ve been clowned, but Drake’s popularity suffers no repercussions. (I would be remiss not to mention that if one was playing rap’s biggest star, I can’t think of a girl outside of Serena that would offer more urban credibility.)
It’s no secret many of his rap colleagues aren’t fond of him, in fact, Diddy slapped him in public. While Instagram made jokes for a few days, Drake’s popularity soon erased the infraction and things returned to normal. But that isn’t normal. Can you imagine another artist getting slapped in public by a respected elder and not suffering at least a credibility backlash? What if the injured party simply acted like it never happened? If they were a really great actor, it could be possible to convince the public it never happened, but you’d need to be very good.
Another fun fact is Drake’s recent endorsement deal on a lipstick created by Tom Ford. I’m not sure if any other male hip-hop artist has ever had a lipstick named after them. The last male I can recall with a women’s cosmetic product endorsement was Justin Bieber in his pre-teen “TRL” days. I’m not saying it isn’t smart business; I’m just saying that isn’t the way hip-hop rolls, or it hasn’t been thus far.
Hip-hop has continued to enjoy more commercial properties than in its inception. Artists have more endorsement opportunities today as the genre has become a predictor of pop culture. Still, Drake’s appeal has surpassed his colleagues and many would say instead of him potentially acting the part, the difference is his Jewish descent. Being the combination of an African American father and Jewish mother has at the very least given him the ability to relate to various audiences. He is cover material for GQ, Fader and XXL. Only time will tell if his appeal is strategic or truly representative of his talent. Anyway you peg him; actor, privileged Jewish boy or simply a dope artist; Drake appears to be untouchable in relation to his reputation and career.