A few months ago, I asked for help understanding the masses’ love for Drake. I recognize there’s a generational disconnect between he and I, but still…it can’t be that huge. I’m not that old.
I am old enough that I don’t keep up with the kids musically anymore, so today was the first time I listened to “Marvin’s Room.” Suckas are in style, ha? Whiskey.Tango.Foxtrot, people?
I don’t have anything positive to say, other than this song could have been fantastic if the rapper behind it had a modicum of dignity. And yeah, I’m going that hard, and this sort of stuff is what annoys me so much about Drake and leaves me confused about why people are all over this dude.
My problem, as stated before, is that he’s soft. That’s not to be confused with him being emotional. Emotional I can live with, and emotion is what I’m in music for. The feeling may come from a sound, an aesthetic or something raging inside the artist, but I’m not down for anything that isn’t evocative. I want something to move me, to make me better understand something about myself while hearing from an artist.
All I learn from Drake is that I don’t do enough volunteer work to instill the right values in the youth.
Go back up and listen to this “Marvin’s Room,” man. I’m fighting the urge to enumerate my gripes because individual issues — like the basic premise of spittin’ game that so prominently involves another man — because they don’t matter that much. For me, what matters is the overarching air of phony emotion we get from Drake.
Awww, he feels bad cuz he misses a girl. So what does he do in such a situation? He gets on the track and whines. Just whines. That wouldn’t be so problematic except there’s nothing behind it. So the song’s about him being drunk in a club and thinking of what he lost.
OK, so what’s next? Nothing, from what I can tell.
Here’s the part that really bugs me: part of why I don’t listen to as much rap as I used to is a lack of vulnerability. The music based so much in outsized manhood. The refusal to allow a woman to make one weak, the nobility of being intractable and other blaxpoitation-esque calling cards of hip hop often make it difficult for me to find things I can relate to after being through enough life to say I know what’s going on out here. I’m more into melodies and stories that speak to the sort of life I live now, where loving nary of ‘em has precarious long-range consequences.
But this stuff from Drake isn’t vulnerable. It’s just weak. Being vulnerable isn’t interesting if there isn’t come conflict, some exploration of what makes it so hard for all of us to tell people how they feel. There’s got to be some tension on the other side for me to believe it. Maybe there some frustration with self for coming to this place, or perhaps being overwhelmed by pride that may or may not be foolish. But jeez, there has to be something.
And from Drake, it’s nothing. It’s just sad, an empty stream that sounds more about getting attention than working anything out. He doesn’t seem vulnerable because this is just how he is. When you’re vulnerable all the time, you’re just soft.
And while soft people need heroes on the mic, too, I do not have to glorify it or pretend that it’s not a serious impediment to enjoying Drake’s music. It isn’t just a matter of taste. It’s a structural issue, as long as there’s a narrative he clearly tries to sell.
There is no love song without passion. There is no passion when you’re soft. Passion is powerful, just as love is. Even when it manifests itself destructively, like in this song…
…it’s there. In fact, you can check this one, too…
You can’t tell me “Marvin’s Room” is any more emotional or vulnerable than either of those, and there has never been a rapper more unguarded about his emotions than Ghost.
But, as you can see, Ghost isn’t soft. He doubts, he questions, and he’s prone to insecurity just as the rest of us. But I’ll be damned if he doesn’t make it sound relatable and, even in moments of weakness, strong.
Truth be told, when I do turn on the radio, there’s a general lack of emotional resonance that bores me. Drake’s shit just sounds like something. Whether it’s good or not is debatable, but it doesn’t feel like anything.
And that’s why I don’t feel him.
Tags: Bomani Jones, Drake, hip-hop, music, musical substance, simps