A Reluctant Argument For Why Drake Is The Greatest Rapper Of All-Time (Video)
Aubrey Drake Graham is one of the most polarizing Rap stars of all-time. A top reason behind these strong opinions is because Drake transcends the title of “rapper.” A whole generation learned about the artist through his acting role on Degrassi. In the late 2000s, when Drake burst onto the music scene, he was part singer and part rapper when that was still the exception, not the apparent rule for many new hopefuls. During that period, Drake was co-signed and groomed to the game by Lil Wayne, another polarizing figure, especially to some Rap purists.
Later this month, So Far Gone turns 10. That project, which included the Grammy-nominated single “Best I Ever Had,” marked Drake’s arrival in the mainstream consciousness. An artist whose early mixtapes included work with Nickelus F, Elzhi, and Phonte was suddenly the new face of the genre, thanks to radio, web coverage, and almost instant crossover into other sectors of entertainment. In the decade since, Drake has suffered all of the slings of any Rap artist on top: beefs (both on wax and physical), scandals, critical push-back, legal woes, label drama, detracting peers, and a ton of gossip column glory. He’s still here, and he’s still winning. In less than a week, Scorpion, Drake’s fifth album, will compete for “Album Of The Year” at the Grammy Awards. Meanwhile, “God’s Plan,” marking a new direction, is up for both “Song Of The Year” and Record Of The Year.” Together, those are three of the six Grammy nominations tied to the three-time winner.
Justin “The Company Man” Hunte looks at Drake’s stat sheet in the latest episode of TBD. Once a reluctant Drake fan, he lays it out on the table, and makes an argument for why the rapper so many people either love or hate, belongs in the G.O.A.T. discussion.
Hunte begins with looking at a 2018 that would have had almost any artist up against the ropes, thanks to Pusha-T’s offensive that attempted to smear Drake’s character, verbally attack his friends and family, and may have pulled the plug on a multi-million-dollar Adidas deal in one 10-day swoop.
Hunte looks at how Drake maneuvered Push’s last and most scathing advance without a reply. Such a move usually spells curtains in the competitive sport of Rap. However, Drake flipped a 2015 ambush by Meek Mill (getting a Grammy nomination for a diss song, no less) into a win. Common, who squared up on wax with Ice Cube, did not get the dub (at least according to Drake) that so many, including Hunte at the time, rooted for. Again, “Stay Schemin'” became a hit, seemingly getting the bigger and the last word.
“This is the first G.O.A.T. piece where I’ve spoken of the subject this critically, for this long,” Hunte admits, in a series that has examined Scarface, Black Thought, and Redman, among others. “There is a reason. This is truly remarkable: there was a period between 2014 and 2016 where Suge Knight was threatening Drake on TMZ, Birdman was [allegedly holding] Drake’s royalties, and Puff Daddy punched Drake in the face, literally.” Hunte says that Drake returns every metaphoric punch with a more lasting response.
The Company Man argues that 2009-2019 puts Drake in a class of his own, simply through endurance and sustainability. All of his albums (and plenty of unofficial and collaborative releases) have reached #1. Drake has evolved and tapped into other genres with varying levels of Rap backbone. Few, if any, rappers can ever claim to be more quoted than Aubrey. Drake has arguably surpassed Wayne as “the stimulus package,” helping take other artists up the charts strictly through his feature. Drake owns the distinction of being the all-time best-selling male artist in the US—and he’s Canadian.
Hunte spends several minutes on that last aspect. Drake has masterfully put on for Toronto in an American mainstream that is often resistant to new markets, especially across borders. Through OVO and other channels, the 6 has become a breeding ground for stars in music over the last decade. Drake led the class. Moreover, when some members, including Tory Lanez, dissed him, Drake was unaffected.
In his wrap-up, Hunte returns to the detractors against Drake. There are widespread allegations that Drizzy has hired other pens for elements of his songs. The episode also argues that Drake falls short as a storyteller. While Biggie, Slick Rick, Nas, and others have successfully told engaging Rap tales in the third person, Drake’s focus is usually personal. The piece includes a clip where Drizzy explains this being by design. However, the biggest knock against Drake may be his lack of a reply to Pusha in what certainly is 2018’s biggest beef, and stands as one of the highest profile attacks since JAY-Z vs. Nas. To make matters more complicated, folks including Drake’s mentor, J. Prince (who ordered him not to engage further), have hyped up an allegedly withheld reply as career-ending.
However, even without a response to “The Story Of Adidon,” this TBD charges that Drake may have the upper-hand as it applies to Kanye West’s creative concerns. West seemingly cannot turn the page from a bizarre 2018 without getting an apology or acknowledgment from the same artist he worked with 10 years ago on the “Best I Ever Had” video. Meanwhile, Drake and every “KeKe, do you love me?” meme seemingly basks in it, perhaps as revenge for the attempted crash on his 2018 party.
“The truest measure of greatness isn’t only about how much you win, but also about how many times you can recover from your losses,” concludes Hunte. With that rubric set against 10 years of dominance, hate or love it, this video asserts that Drake deserves to be in the G.O.A.T. conversation.