Why Is Drake Still Worried About His Cred?

Slate's Culture Blog
Feb. 4 2013 2:02 PM

Drake Fact-Checks His Critics on New Single

Drake in Los Angeles in 2012
Why is Drake still worried about his origin story?

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The look-how-far-I’ve-come track is a hip-hop favorite, but some would deny Drake the pleasure. Jay-Z has made a whole career out of his rags-to-riches story, and younger rappers like A$AP Rocky have continued the tradition on recent songs like “Suddenly.” But Drake got his (modest) start on Degrassi. No wonder he had to spend most of his first album lamenting his wealth and fame, to please purists, before he could have any fun with it.

On “Started From the Bottom” Drake engages in a bit of historical revisionism, fact-checking the haters. While critics “say [he] never struggled” and only got famous by starring in a Canadian TV show, Drake reminds us, he “done kept it real from the start.” He argued with his mom “every month” (!), he reminds us, and when he was driving home in his uncle’s car there was traffic.

OK, so maybe Drake hasn’t faced the level of hardship that some rappers have. The real question is why, after so many hip-hop greats have risen from the middle class (Kanye West, Chuck D—even Tupac went to art school), Aubrey Drake Graham still thinks he has to defend himself. As Drake emphasizes, he’s risen up on talent and hard work—the reason he faced rush-hour traffic in the morning is because he was working all night—so whether he “Started From the Bottom” shouldn’t matter.

But while lyrically the new single is underwhelming, musically it’s thrilling. The focus isn’t really on the wordplay—Drake is more singing than rapping. And over a piano riff chopped up and reconstructed by producer Mike Zombie, he takes the verse, the swirling hook, and the bridge, and handles all three nimbly. The bass is so low that it’s almost infrasound, and the bridge finds him doing the mournful Drizzy thing he’s had mastered since the beginning. Maybe the “story stays the same,” as Drake keeps insisting, but that’s all right when you’re doing it this well.

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

Even if You Don’t Like Batman, You Might Like Gotham

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Nobody Knows How Many Gay Married Couples Live in America—Not Even the Census Bureau

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Outward
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 7:46 PM Azealia Banks’ New Single Is Her Best in Years
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.