The music world, or hip-hop at least, held its collective breath yesterday (March 4) to hear Drake’s first official single, “Over,” off his upcoming debut, Thank Me Later. Huge! Epic! Countdown! Earlier in the day, after a song snippet hit the Net, I wrote a post in jest about what we learned in those 13 seconds. And when the full song arrived four and a half hours earlier than expected, hip-hop listened.
Riding in a cab on the way to a Janelle Monáe listening session in NYC, I heard Funkmaster Flex drop bombs on Hot 97 and put on an animalistic show, amused that he was the first to play the song on New York radio. “Over” served only as background as Flex growled, snarled and cackled for dramatic effect, as if DMX had possessed him for that moment in time. The overall response from the communal music critics? A resounding “Meh.” The hook is blah. The song lacks energy. I can’t bump this in the club! Um, Rosetta Stone?
Are we already losing hope for hip-hop’s Great Mixed Hype? As if he didn’t release a classic mixtape (So Far Gone) and memorable verses for the past 365 and some odd days on top of earning a Grammy nomination before even dropping an album?
It reminds me of President Obama, who’s received a lot of heat after only his first year as leader of the free world. Some Americans think he hasn’t fulfilled his promises, that he’s a typical politician now and that maybe their belief in him was a crock built on idealism. Because they questioned themselves, they questioned him. As if he didn’t grant us historic speeches, an epic campaign, a refreshingly practical plan of action. That whole “Yes, we can” thing. Everything he did to get there suddenly wasn’t—and still isn’t—good enough.
Similarly, Drake has done so well before that everything Drake does now isn’t good enough for some. The hatred toward the hype this guy has created, and which many have fed into, is understood, but the song is really not that bad. I know Drake is no Obama. I know he’s young and still raw. But for most of his still primitive career, he hasn’t let us down musically. (Let’s not count the “Best I Ever Had” video and the falling on stage thing.) Not to say everyone’s off the Drizzy bandwagon already—some are still reserving judgment about the album—but the tepid response to “Over” is surprising, with some folks making judgments in three minutes as we've grown accustomed to.
As an increasingly fickle music head (I blame the Internet), I’m guilty of over-reaction, too. When Jay-Z’s “D.O.A.” dropped, I thought it was “just alright” and that as a result maybe Blueprint 3 would be “just alright” and not much to look forward to. And “Run This Town” wasn’t much better, that hook is wack, and why is Rihanna on that song? Maybe Jay-Z was just mediocre. Maybe today’s youth didn’t care anymore.
Then, Jay-Z went on to have one of the best commercial years of his career, with his first No. 1 single, “Empire State of Mind,” still selling out arenas and proving his status as hip-hop’s most sustainable act of all time. Now, I get hyped anytime “Run This Town” comes on. And Blueprint 3 is the shit. The best Jay-Z album since The Black Album.
So maybe Drake’s single is just “meh” right now, but wait a month or so. If you don’t want to bump “Over,” then bump “Forever” or “Successful” or “Fear” or that little song of the summer, “Best I Ever Had,” until the album comes out. The wait isn’t over yet.
Clover Hope is a senior editor at VIBE with a love jones for rhythm and blues who's written for publications such as Billboard, ESPN The Magazine, XXL and Village Voice.