Upon release of album three, what are we to make of Aubrey “Drizzy Drake” Graham, the Kleenex-soft rapper who claims he tops the mohs scale, the fake-friend paranoiac from the bottommost streets of Degrassi, who can’t step one toe of one Tim out of his condo sans posse, rap’s unchallenged king of the text message lament, who only buys Bugattis to tell his ex-girlfriend what he spent, at 5 AM both drunk and vuln on instagram, writing comments on her ’09 pictures like “remembr who i m?” is this the same rapper who dedicates albums to his girl from tenth grade, except that their whole relationship took place over AIM, and talking to her away message was the most he ever had her, so he started from the top-rung bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, with nothing but negatives to work with thereafter, no new friends, no choruses, no challengers accepted, from minute one till now he’s been uniformly rejected, called a pussy, a fraud, a studio gangster, the Morrissey of hip hop, the Dashboard of rap, a man not woman enough to take a Chris Brown slap, the queen of Toronto, the bitch of the north, in rap’s Game of Thrones: the softest man in Quarth, forget that, no, the softest girl in the game, who is Aubrey “Drizzy Drake” Graham to claim that Nothing Was The Same?
Get 30 seconds into “Tuscan Leather” and ask those questions again, because second 31 is where the questions end.
Except (don’t be ridiculous) the question still is: is Nothing Was The Same as strong as Take Care is? And, well, no, it’s less eager, more restive, a victory lap for a race that was always uncontested, because why would anyone rap like Drake if all it gets you is detested; yet therein lies the beauty of this wimpy, chubby Canadian: that no other rapper is bats enough to buy into the game he’s in. They’re not in the same casino, they’re not on the strip, they’re ex-ing out of Expedia before they even book the trip. Which leaves Drake with more confidence than he has any right to have, and now suddenly this guy who two albums ago couldn’t rap is spitting fire like Spyro and telling, not asking, you to live with that, telling you that every other rapper is a shit sandwich, crap, and Drake stands solo, willfully alone, cooing like McCrae on “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” Drake throttling whatever scraps Kanye left of Jay Z, Drake having the balls to title a track “305 to My City,” to claim Miami, Atlanta, Houston as his–is he fucking high? And, yeah you want to argue, but where do you start with this guy?
Obviously, you start from the bottom, exactly like Drake did, or claims to have done, but why the fuck does a rapper have to grow up poor to be the one? Why can’t it be this droopy-eyed emo bro consciously incapable of love, who’s as guilty, fake, and ill-fitting as OJ’s murder glove? Drake doesn’t ask for much, just a girl with credit good enough to lease a Jaguar. His fucking concept of struggle is missing curfew in his mom’s car. He’s not about reinforcing every caricature of The Other, proto masculinity, or The Black Man; imagine this: his lyrics hint that a woman can do anything a man can. So when he boasts he can go an hour on the beat, you believe him, since he just went for two about a club in 06′ that wouldn’t seat him.
Start to end with his producer, Noah “40” Shebib, a Lebanese Scot with MS, whose music justifies any and all of Drake’s success, whose talent offsets any residual Drake disbelief, then end with the rapper who prompts both eye-rolls and relief. He is rap’s Don Quixote, fighting windmills as he schemes, the man whose soccer mom arms barely fill out his sleeves, yet he is unashamed, unmoved, no one but who he is, with no desire to deceive, the one rapper who’s deluded himself enough because he wants you, not them, to believe.
Strawberry Verdict: 4 out of 5 Strawberries