On ‘For All the Dogs Scary Hours Edition,’ Drake flops again
OPINION: More songs by Drake equals more wackiness by Drake.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
There are two things I will never understand. Why is Drake so mad, and why are some of y’all still saying he’s a great rapper? I was forced to listen to the new songs he put out with “For All the Dogs Scary Hours Edition” even though I hated “For All the Dogs.” Why did I feel forced to listen? Because people said, oh, Drake really rapped his ass off on these songs. I said, maybe they’re right. What if he did? So I listened. And now I have to come here to say do you guys listen to music, or do you just skim through it?
I dug into “Red Button” first. I read the lyrics and everything. Color me unimpressed. As usual, we have the slam-poetry flow where Drake seems like he’s talking more than rapping. He shows no deep or sophisticated relationship to the beat, and that, for me, is the core aspect of MCing. A rapper’s relationship to the beat is everything, and Drake gives me none of the verbal rhythms that I listen to hip-hop for. They say Beyoncé is always on beat. Why don’t they say Drake is always off beat?
In the first part of his “Red Button” verse, Drake is furiously rhyming a ton of words that end in -ated. In the second part, he’s rhyming words that end in -ation. To me, it sounds like someone wrote down a bunch of words that rhyme and strung them together. This is not how you write great rhymes. Great MCs tend to make words rhyme in ways you wouldn’t expect. They make pairings that a rhyming dictionary would never include. T-Pain is not a great rapper but he gave us a good example of this when he famously rhymed Wisconsin and mansion.
There’s a Dr. Seuss-ish simplicity to Drake’s rhyming choices that depresses the synapses in my brain. He’s never complex rhythmically; he’s just barely clever. And his writing? Oy. His metaphors are so corny. They’re evidence of simplistic thinking. He says, “I will f-in force a few shots like a vaccination / N-s f-in call me up to cap, this not a graduation.” He said guys call him and lie, aka cap, but they shouldn’t because this is not a place where you wear a cap and gown. That’s corny, my dude.
I really got stuck when Drake said “Taylor Swift is the only [n-word] that I ever rated.” I understand he’s saying she’s the only contemporary artist he considers as big as him. He’s saying she’s the only one he really respects. Ultimately, he’s dissing Kanye. I get that. But calling a white woman an n-word is so wack. In the hip-hop community that word means so much. Rappers often use that word as a compliment. He means it as a compliment. But you’re calling a white woman an n-word in order to diss a Black man. In what world is that not wack?
In the end, this song becomes a big Kanye diss. “Every time that Yeezy called a truce he had my head inflated/ Thinkin’ we gon finally peace it up and get to levitatin’ / Realized that everything premeditated.” In other songs on “Scary Hours,” Drake disses Joe Budden, Pharrell, Pusha, James Harden and more. Why is Drake dissing all these men? In other songs on “For the Dogs,” he’s dissing women. Why is he so angry? Why is he so pugnacious? I understand that battling and dissing is central to hip-hop, but not every rapper needs to do that. Drake is not a normal rapper. He’s a veteran, not someone on the rise fighting to get attention. He’s gigantic, not someone who needs beef. And in almost any beef he engaged in, he would be punching down. Having beef with so many people makes him seem angry. Or a perpetual victim. How could you have an insane mansion and your own plane and still be mad about something somebody somewhere said? Drake is so high up, I don’t even know how he can even hear Budden’s little chirps.
Look, I don’t mind if you like Drake. Like whoever you want. I like many Drake songs. But his music is more popular than it is great. There’s a big difference between how popular art is and how good it is. So when you say things like he’s a great rapper, or he’s one of the best, or he’s a GOAT, then I get triggered. Because he’s not even close to great. There are lots of technical things that very skilled MCs are doing with their pens, their voices and their sense of rhythm that Drake doesn’t even attempt. There are levels to this sport that he can’t even see. And the real problem when we elevate Drake above real MCs is that hip-hop loses. The standards of hip-hop are at stake. It’s one thing to like the guy, but when you say he’s one of the best, you’re saying this is the aesthetic standard of the genre. There’s no way the standards of hip-hop MCing can be Drake-low. The problem isn’t Drake; it’s the audience that argues that he’s the best we ever had, which is crazy.
Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of Masters of the Game on theGrioTV. He is also the host and creator of the docuseries podcast “Being Black: The ’80s” and the animated show “Star Stories with Toure” which you can find at TheGrio.com/starstories. He is also the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is the author of eight books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter.
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