Numbers like that change a man or, quite possibly, it takes a changed man to create those numbers. Debating what came ﬁrst is fruitless because what’s abundantly clear is that Drake’s wide-eyed innocence and aw-shucks gratefulness have been fully replaced by a steely resolve and a palpable self-assuredness.
Like familiarity, success is known to breed contempt. And Drake’s willingness to mine the depths of his soul for his craft hasn’t pleased all. He’s been called soft, his signature cardigans have been mocked, and still others have insisted that he’s over- rated. Despite his wide success, or perhaps because of it, Drake has become rap’s biggest target. The constant crooning has also left some industry insid- ers underwhelmed. “I don’t mind him stretching his artistic boundaries,” says Charlamagne the God, né Lenard McKelvey, the wisecracking New York City radio personality, who may be one of Drake’s harsh- est and loudest critics. “But when he sings he sounds like Sandra Huxtable depressed over Elvin.” In an ar- ticle titled “Why I Hate Drake,” Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, a Columbia University professor of education, argues that the rapper “too often resorts to tired concepts, lazy punch lines and predictable one-liners. This wouldn’t be such a problem if he weren’t constantly being hailed by the rap world as a dope lyricist rather than what he actually is: a pop-song writer.”
Ask Drake about the “emo-rapper” label or the suggestion that he’s a navel-gazing depressive hud- dling in the corner of his darkened bedroom, rap’s answer to Sade, and he’ll bristle. “People calling me goth or emo or whatever is weird for me to hear because I really don’t hear that in my music.” Still, he has no plans to temper his emotions in his lyrics. “They want me to be more emotionally disconnected like them, so I drop the ball and fall off. That’s where the backlash comes from. They want you to under-deliver so badly, and when you don’t they can’t handle it.” Drake has also made detractors of colleagues. So many subliminal disses have been hurled his way recently, it’s hard to keep track. Pusha T, Ludacris and Future have all had something to say about him. While most didn’t address him by name in their lyrics, Common, rap’s mild-mannered elder statesman, has admits he is referring to the young Canadian on the song “Sweet” when he raps: “Singing all around me man la la la/You ain’t no motherfucking Frank Sinatra.”