In the past year three very major things have happened to our hometown of Toronto:
- We became the fourth largest city in North America.
- Our mayor probably smoked crack.
- Drake became the biggest rapper in the world.
If early sales projections for the new Drake record, Nothing Was The Same are correct, then he’ll have outsold Jay-Z this year and landed a serious hat-trick, debuting at #1 on Billboard for the third time in a row.
To some Torontonians, Drake is an embarrassment, a rapper from Forest Hill that was on Degrassi. It’s true that Drake sometimes undermines his credibility by rhyming a word with that same word, but it’s impossible to deny that he is a very good singer. It’s probably this latter quality that’s earned him a dozen No. 1 radio hits and a Grammy. Case in point, Hold On, We’re Going Home is so far the most talked about, best loved track from NWTS. In a recent interview Drake explained that he wanted to make a timeless, nostalgic track in the style of something that his parents’ might have danced to at a wedding. If Hold On ends up being the biggest track off a Hip Hop record this year, it’ll seem like a bit of a cheat; it’s no secret that the average listener prefers a pretty melody to a clever rhyme. NWTS is bookended by tracks with great rapping, and contains a healthy dose of verses throughout, but between the production, the song structures and the overall mood it’s pretty clear that this is not really a rap record. It is, however, a great record.
For all his hubris and pseudo-gangster posturing, I get the impression that Drake’s actually just a slightly goofy, extremely hard working guy. Drake and his creative partner 40 (Noah Shebib) control every minor detail of the Drizzy sound from beginning to end, without anybody else laying hands on it. 40 was also a child actor who came up in Toronto, starring in an episode of the Goosebumps television show entitled Go Eat Worms. According to Drake, sometimes 40 will work through the night on a track only to be found still at it in the morning. 40 sometimes takes breaks to make an amazing cup of coffee and build an airplane out of lego. So basically he’s a nerd. As for Drake, the guy’s an actor. He plays the role of inflammatory rapper well, but you can tell that it’s an act. I don’t doubt that Drake drinks Hennessy, smokes weed and sleeps with scores of women, but I feel like he also knows how to clean up his act and put in his hours. A lot of the time I feel like he’s putting on the bad boy mask for his fans, like Bruce Wayne drinking ginger ale out of a champagne glass. The new video for Hold On in which Drake, A$AP and the OVO posse strap up some uzis to go shoot up the bad guys is proof that Drake looks funny holding a gun. I swear there’s a moment when he pulls off his balaclava where he looks just like Michael Cera. Once you stop thinking of Drake as Drake, he becomes much easier to like. Just think of him as Aubrey Graham, an extremely talented child actor from Forest Hill. And sure, he didn’t exactly start from the bottom, but becoming the most played rapper in the world is still pretty impressive, even if you started from the middle.
Drake’s career at this point largely consists of celebrating the city he comes from. The video for Started From The Bottom features Shopper’s Drugmart, Drake ghost riding a luxury automobile through a blizzard and also, Drake co-piloting his private jet past the CN Tower. This summer he brought TLC, Kanye and best of all, Diddy and MA$E to the Molson Amphitheatre. Despite his international fame he has chosen to live and work in Toronto, breaking apart the East Coast/ West Coast dichotomy by adding the equivalent of a North Coast. If you live in Toronto and hate Drake prepare to be annoyed for at least another couple of years by people who equate your giant city with that half black kid from Degrassi.
At least he’s better than our crack smoking mayor.