The Emperor has No Clothes: The Unraveling of Aubrey Graham
It has become cliché to reference the 48 Laws of Power and apply it to real life situations. When there is a clear example that applies though, how can you not point to it? In watching how Drake has maneuvered through these personal attacks brought on by Pusha T, one lesson brought on from that book is clear: Isolation is dangerous.
This past week, Drake and Pusha T each released relatively scathing diss tracks. These diss tracks were a culmination of years of tension and subliminal insults. The issues between Pusha T and Drake predate those two themselves. The tension can be traced as far back as 2002, when the Clipse (comprised of Pusha T and his older brother No Malice) was featured on a song with Baby that was produced by Pharell Williams. It was rumored that Baby did not pay the Clipse and Pharrell Williams for his contributions, something that he has continuously been accused of by other artist and producers throughout his career. This has led to multiple subliminal disses between the Clipse and the entire Cash Money conglomerate. Eventually it all led into Pusha T releasing Infared on his album, Daytona and taking shots at Drake for his ghostwriting allegations. Drake responded with Duppy freestyle less than 24 hrs. later which was followed by Pusha T’s the story of Adidon on Memorial Day. For a complete breakdown of the beef’s origin, check out this link below where Hot 97 breaks down every single detail.
One of the most damaging and disturbing images outlined by Pusha T is the picture of Drake posing in blackface in 2007. This has thrown him in a tailspin within these past couple of days. In this climate, a picture of the biggest rap superstar in the world wearing black face leaves an indelible stain. This forced Drake to respond with this statement below:
If we are were paying attention, this unraveling should not have been a shock or a surprise. Drake has obtained unrivaled success in his run. He has been the biggest thing in rap almost immediately since the release of So Far Gone in 2009. He has shattered multiple Billboard and streaming records, and is the one of the few rappers that is palatable amongst every single walk of life in the world. Is his hubris warranted? Sure, but in a genre as competitive as Hip Hop, confidence is well suited but unchecked arrogance is dangerous. Drake wore his smugness as a badge of honor. He boasted about how all his accomplishments were of his own merit. He boasted about how he and his team have thumbed their nose at the industry and reaped all of the benefits of it. He did this, while ignoring how his aesthetic garnered him advantages that most rappers would never obtain. He is a light skin, rapper who also is adept at singing and creating melodies. He could fit into any scenario and any circumstance. He can wear a suit and represent the Raptors at a press conference, or he can sit next to the booth with sportscasters. He can record a video in Memphis in the south in the inner city but he can also joke about and play up his Jewish origins while hosting SNL. His versatility is a God given talent, but he never once seemed to attribute any of this to his upbringing and his entry from acting into the industry, an advantage that most rappers can only dream of.
This air of invincibility can be traced in many of his lyrics. From 5am in Toronto, (“A couple of albums dropped, those are still on the shelf, I bet them shits would of popped if I was willing to help”) to Free Smoke, (“I brought the game to its knees, I make too much these days to ever say poor me”), to 6 man (“No ho shit, no fuckin ho shit save that for your shit. I don’t need no fuckin body, I run my own shit) and Weston Road Flows (“…Feels like the difference between us is really startin’ to show, I’m looking at their first week numbers like, ‘what are those? I mean you boys not even coming close”), it was apparent that Drake felt like he reached a place in Hip Hop music where he was beyond reproach. Once he dismantled Meek Mill in their battle in 2015, he felt he earned the necessary stripes and he was unstoppable. There is nothing wrong with some mild arrogance or cockiness, Hip Hop was birthed on that attribute, but Drake started to feel different. Many rappers can brag, but he seemed to have so much success to support his assertions, that questioning any of it was taboo. From what was revealed this week, it’s silly that anyone with those types of skeletons could feel that way.
When Drake released Duppy freestyle last week responding to Pusha T, he made a grave mistake. He mentioned Pusha T’s fiancé, Virginia Williams, by name. The mention of her itself was not disrespectful, but most of the general public barely knew Pusha T himself let alone his fiancé. As a rap fan who is immersed in rap culture, I did not even know Pusha T was engaged. I bring that up to suggest, one of the first rules of engaging a battle is, we leave family members out. Once those floodgates open, then no rules apply. When Drake initially responded to Pusha T on 2 Birds 1 Stone, he also targeted Kid Cudi and took a personal shot at his mental illness. Certainly not out of bounds if you are ready for similar retaliations. Pusha T has shown us that Drake was not nearly as ready as one might have thought. The revelation that he has a child with a former adult actress that he has not acknowledged in public and the release of his pictures with blackface taken in 2007 has Drake stammering. The ill-conceived idea of the picture was reportedly Drake’s idea as a political statement on the difficulty and unfairness that black people face in modern day society including as actors. It begs the question, why only make political statements then, and refuse to make any meaningful political statements now when we need it the most. Drake is comparable to Michael Jordan and his whole career has been a personification of Jordan’s “Republicans buy shoes too” quote. Drake has never made a statement of impact or even divulged in matters of race. He has been amoral and apolitical throughout when the peers he is most compared to in terms of success (Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole) has done the complete opposite. His only desire has been to represent himself, those around him, and the city of Toronto. Why was it so important to make a statement then? Could it be that in 2007, Drake was struggling to make any sort of impact and his self-confidence reflected that? Could all this hubris and smugness really be coming from a half black, half white kid who never quite knew where he belonged? Drake is now faced with confronting these questions regarding his character in a public forum with a blood thirsty Pusha T on the other side.
I don’t think Drake is racist or even a culture appropriator. I readily admit that Im a fan of his music, talent, and what he has meant to Hip Hop music. I don’t even believe that he does not relate to many of our plights. Drake is a very calculated individual, but calculation does not equal to awareness. Drake has reached such a success that he has allowed himself to be isolated and clouded by his own ego. Pusha T has grounded him, and I for one hope this is a permanent wake up call.
Check out the diss tracks below and Pusha T speaking on the release of The Story of Adidon.