“I Heard once, that they would rather hear about memories than enemies / Rather hear what was or what will be than what is / Rather hear how you got it over how much it cost you / Rather hear about finding yourself and how you lost you / Rather you make this an open letter about family and struggle and it taking forever / About hearts that you broken and ties that you severed / No doubt in my mind, that’ll make ’em feel better”
At the end of “Headlines,” the standout single from Drake’s 2011 album <em>Take Care</em>, Drake recited what in hindsight seems like a statement of purpose for his career. A formula for what he believes the people need, what they crave, what they’ve been (were) missing. In a rap game that’s been cluttered by artists with fantastical delusions of being drug kingpins (yes you, Rick Ross), Drake had the conviction to believe in transparency as the ultimate vehicle for expression. Four years removed from his speculative claims, it’s safe to say he got it right. He knows it too; there’s a reason he recently spat “Please do not speak to me like I’m that Drake from four years ago / I’m at a higher place.”
Thus, it comes as a surprise that Drake’s authenticity has come into question this week. Meek Mill currently holds the number one rap album in the country, but only with the help of the Drake Stimulus Package™. The Boy’s feature on “R.I.C.O.” undoubtedly raised the profile of the album, but Meek has opted to bite the hand that fed him by claiming Drake didn’t write the verses for several of his recent hits, including the feature he paid for.
To say that Meek’s shots are poorly aimed would be an understatement. Drake responded like a seasoned veteran: two songs and zero tweets. For someone being attacked on the basis of being a fraud, he had no qualms stepping into the ring while referring to himself as a “singin’ nigga” on “Back to Back.” Where Drake has shattered misconceptions of what it means to be a rapper, Meek Mill’s entire discography could be described as simply “loud”.
The irony of the whole exchange is that Drake is being accused of singing another man’s words, but it’s actually his shameless transparency that has led him to become the biggest contemporary artist in American popular culture. Surely a debatable title to bestow upon Drizzy Drake: a guy who once reenacted and recorded a drunk phone call to his ex, denouncing her then current partner … and put it on his album. Yet, the audacity to say what so many are unwilling to is what makes him America’s guilty pleasure. So many call him soft, but how many would stare down the barrel of the media in the way Drake approaches his music?
That Drake won the beef before it even happened was written all over <em>If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late</em>. The whole project was characterized by an incessant paranoia that can come only from being at the top: experiencing life as a living target (“Energy”), having difficulty letting new people in (“Legend”), and even the strain on his relationship with his mother (“You and The 6”). Every one of Drake’s moves is scrutinized with the utmost attention to detail, but no one really cares enough to fact-check the number of bricks Meek Mill claims to move.
Drake reached this position through brutal honesty at his own expense, and the consistency of his message throughout his various phases of life renders Meek the loser by default. Faced with defending his authenticity, Drake’s trump card is that his music is inherently an extension of himself. He refers to the various women in his life by first name on record, recalls Toronto streets and neighborhoods that he holds dear, and is often the guy that “says it” so you can take comfort in not having to. On the other hand, Meek Mill’s album could have very easily been made by plenty of artists, and it would have made an equal amount of sense coming out of their mouths (the entire MMG roster is virtually interchangeable at this point). Meek can yell and scream all he wants, as many have done before him, but he’s just another competitor trying to drain the reigning champ of his energy.