Why Drake's So Far Gone Mixtape Came At The Perfect Time Why Drake's So Far Gone Mixtape Came At The Perfect Time

'So Far Gone' Turns 5: Why Drake's Mixtape Came At The Perfect Time

In February 2009, Drake had a date with destiny. And it wasn't a one-night stand. Ernest Baker reflects on that one time Drake got rich off a mixtape

2009 was a weird year. I had a year and change left in college, and it wasn't that fun anymore. I mean, sure, I had some good times still, but the basis of my time on campus was no longer defined by aimless debauchery and blow-off electives. Responsibility had seeped in. Business school classes had become entirely focused on my ill-advised major, Accountancy. Having a girlfriend was no longer this cute, novel thing but instead a relationship was something that I had to dedicate time and effort to, both of which I failed at miserably. The light at the end of college's tunnel had begun to appear, and it was unnerving. I needed an internship, then I needed a job after that. I didn't want to go back to Indianapolis and work in the finance center for Rolls-Royce like I had done the previous summer because between the business casual dress code, my general incompetency at anything math-related, and the overall depressing nature of the Rust Belt, I almost certainly would've killed myself. I wanted to go to New York, where me and my friends were making 14-hour drives across the country to visit at every chance we got. I wanted to write, like I was spending entirely too much time doing on a now defunct personal blog, and fucking up my grades as a result. So you can imagine the connection I, and a lot of people in my position, felt when Drake's So Far Gone hit the Internets. The artists who we’d been worshipping for years were still a relevant, major factor in our music libraries, but they were also moving on to a different page. Kanye West was dealing with heartbreak, but a very adult, unique heartbreak over having to leave weddings before they cut the cake because he's so busy and famous and shit like that. Lil Wayne was riding the wave of his most successful album into an experimental rock phase. Then there was Drake, full of millennial angst, existential brooding, and satisfaction with cheap, nihilistic thrills. He filled a void. Right when we were at the height of our disillusionment with school, you had Drake rapping lines like, “I quit school and it’s not because I’m lazy/I’m just not the social type and campus life is crazy.” In a matter of months, he’d come a long way from the guy who we thought was pretty dope on “Ransom,” but ultimately got his verse skipped over most of the time so we could hear Lil Wayne rap the alphabet again. I remember exactly where I was when So Far Gone dropped. It was a Friday, I was in the student union attempting to study for an exam I had a couple of hours later, but really just working on a blog that pretty much nobody was reading. I’d been impressed by some of the stuff I’d heard from Drake up until that point, but I was skeptical. He was still the Degrassi guy. His hype just seemed like an industry swarm type of thing. So many rappers put out bullshit mixtapes and try too hard and his little conceptual cover art and the rampant dickriding of a guy who had yet to prove himself had me propped up for disappointment. It took all of 30 seconds to realize that wasn’t the case. “Lust for Life” legitimately shocked me. That Tears for Fears sample. Raps about women and alcohol and nightlife that weren’t one-dimensional and actually all deep and pensive and shit. It was clear that this wouldn’t be an ordinary listening experience and it was exhilarating. With each track, the doubt was shedding and it was cool to be pleasantly surprised like that. I mean, literally every single song was crazy. It was a moment. And for the brief amount of time that you could ask someone if they’d heard of Drake and they’d say, “Who?”, and you had to explain that he was this new rapper (who used to act on Degrassi) but was down with Lil Wayne and actually had a really sick mixtape, it felt like you were in on some type of secret. By the summer, “Best I Ever Had” would be the No. 2 song in the country and Kanye West would be directing the video and Drake would be featured on several hit songs and touring and on magazine covers and already a superstar, and it was great because he was an artist who you wanted to see ascend. There hadn’t been a new rapper whose stock had risen so quickly in years, so it was exciting to witness. No one ever really thinks back to the So Far Gone days because Drake hasn’t given us a chance to do so since then. Even today, on the anniversary of his breakout project, everyone’s discussing his comments from an interview. But every once in a while, especially on a day like today, those memories come back. Quitting my job as a barback at a sushi restaurant and peeling off from the lot with the windows down blasting “Ignant Shit” at ignorant levels. Mobbing out to “Uptown” with friends at college parties in that annoying way that people at parties who are obsessed with rap do. Sitting in my apartment, smoking blunts with my roommate, bumping “Successful,” plotting on how we were going to get rich and take over the world. It was a special time. Remember? —Ernest Baker

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25 Hip-Hop Albums By Bomb Womxn Of 2018

The female voice in hip-hop has always been present whether we've noticed it or not. The late Sylvia Robinson birthed the hip-hop music industry with the formation of Sugar Hill Records (and fostering "Rapper's Delight"), Roxanne Shante's 55 lyrical responses to fellow rappers were the first diss tracks and Missy Elliott's bold and striking music and visuals inspired men and women in the game to step outside of their comfort zones.

These pillars and many more have allowed the next generation of emcees to be unapologetically brash, truthful and confident in their music. Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy and Nicki Minaj's Queen might've been the most mainstream albums by womxn in rap this year, but there was a long list of creatives who brought the noise like Rico Nasty, Tierra Whack, Noname and Bbymutha. Blame laziness or the heavy onslaught of music hitting streaming sites this year, but many of the artists on this list have hibernated under the radar for far too long.

VIBE decided to switch things up but also highlighting rap albums by womxn who came strong in their respectively debut albums, mixtapes, EPs. We also had to give props to those who dropped standout singles, leaving us wanting more.

READ MORE: 15 R&B Songs We Obsessed Over Most In 2018

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VIBE / Nick Rice

10 Most Important Hip-Hop Artists Of 2018

We’ve reached another end to an eventful year in hip-hop. From rap beefs to new music releases and milestones, 2018 has been forged in the history books as a year to remember. But more important than the events that happened over the span of 12 months are the people who made them happen.

While fans received a large dose of music from our favorite artists and celebrated some of the most iconic album anniversaries, there are a few names that stood out as the culture pushers, sh*t starters, and all-around most significant artists of the year.

For your enjoyment, VIBE compiled a list of the top 10 most important hip-hop artists of 2018 based on a series of qualifications: 1) public actions - good, bad, and ugly; 2) music releases; 3) philanthropic/humanitarian work; and 4) trending moments.

Be clear: This list isn’t about the most influential, the most talented, who had the best music or tours. While we are commemorating artists for the work they’ve contributed to this year’s music cycle, we’re looking beyond that and evaluating how these particular artists have shaped conversations and pushed hip-hop culture forward.

READ MORE: 15 R&B Songs We Obsessed Over Most In 2018

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Stacy-Ann Ellis

NEXT: Intent On Impact, Kiana Lede Is Ready To Leave Her Mark

After learning The Alphabet Song as a little girl, Kiana Lede would always “get in trouble” for singing during class. “My mom was like, ‘why can't you focus?’” she laughs while reminiscing on her career’s formative years. “I was like, ‘I don’t know! Songs are just playing in my head all the time!’”

Whilst sitting in a shoebox-sized room at Midtown Manhattan’s Moxy Hotel on a humid September day, the now- 21-year-old Arizona-bred R&B songbird, actress and pianist speculates that she “may have had ADD.” However, she settles down after taking off her white cowboy boots and flops down on the ivory-clothed bed, demonstrating that her fiery Aries energy can be contained. Cool as a cucumber, Lede shuffles between chewing on banana candies and blowing smoke rings after taking drags from a pen, all while musing about her journey to becoming a Republic Records signee.

“I just grew up singing and doing musical theater, and reading a lot of books, and playing piano way too much in my room by myself,” she says, pushing her big, curly brown hair out of her face. Her expressive green eyes widen as she grins. “It was my thing. Nobody in my family does music, just me.”

After winning Kidz Bop’s 2011 KIDZ Star USA talent contest at 14 (which her mother secretly entered her into), Lede was signed to RCA Records. She was released from her contract and dropped from the label three years later. However, thanks to guidance and friendship from the Grammy-winning production duo Rice N’ Peas, (who’ve worked with G-Eazy, Trevor Jackson, and Bazzi), she released covers of songs such as Drake’s “Hotline Bling” while working to get her groove back. The latter rendition resulted in Republic Record’s Chairman and CEO Monte Lipman flying her out and signing her to his label.

“I got a second chance, which a lot of people don't get,” she reveals. “So I'm really happy that that all happened. I wouldn't be here right now in this room if that didn't happen.”

Thanks to the new opportunity she was given, Lede’s sound has evolved into something she’s proud of—equal parts soul, R&B and bohemian. As evidenced by the aforementioned ensemble, glimmers of each aesthetic can be found when observing her personal style as well. She released her seven-song EP Selfless in July, which features the bedroom-ready “Show Love” and “Fairplay,” which manages to fit in the mainstream R&B vein while also showcasing her goosebump-inducing vocals. The remix of the latter features MC A$AP Ferg. What pleases her most is that it not only garnered a favorable response from fans, but that those listeners found it so relatable.

“As an artist, it's really nerve-wracking for someone who writes about such personal things all the time,” she says. “Just the fact that it is my story… It's good to know that other people know that there's somebody on their side, and they're not the only ones going through it. A lot of people obviously feel this way, and have been through this same thing that I've been through. So I think that's cool.”

Although she moved to various places as a Navy serviceman’s daughter, Lede claims Phoenix as home. This means she hails from the same stomping grounds as rockers Alice Cooper, Stevie Nicks and the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. However, growing up in a mixed race household gave way to tons of sonic exploration outside of the rock-heavy scene.

“My dad's black, and both of my parents are from the East Coast,” she says of her musical and ethnic upbringing (she’s black, Latina and Native American). “[My parents] listened to a lot of R&B. My mom listened to a lot of SWV, TLC, Boyz II Men. I didn't realize I knew the songs until I got older. I played a charity show with T-Boz, and I was like 'why do I know these songs?'” Lede also says her father was a fan of neo-soul and gangsta rap, but she personally believes the early-2000s was the best time for music.

“[That era] influences a lot of my music subconsciously, and also, singer-songwriter stuff,” she continues. “I listen to a lot of early-2000s music because I played piano most of my life. I listened to Sara Bareilles, John Mayer.”

An open book, Lede details some of her struggles with anxiety and depression with the utmost candor. After being dropped from RCA, her trust in people diminished, and she experienced long bouts of depression after being sexually assaulted by someone in the industry. The track that she feels most deeply about is “One Of Them Days,” which tackles these issues head-on.

“When I'm anxious and depressed, it's really hard to be happy,” Lede says. “Most of the time, I can do it, but there are just some days where I literally can't separate the anxiety, and I can't tell anybody why, because I don't really know why myself… I was feeling very odd that day, didn't even know if I could write a song. Hue [Strother], the guy who I wrote the song with, he was like 'I totally get you. Lots of people go through this.’’’

As we’ve observed in headlines recently, mental health and being honest about life’s trickier situations can help someone going through the same thing, and Lede hopes her music provides encouragement to those who are struggling. As for how she’s learning to push through her mental health roadblocks, she meditates, runs, and is an advocate for therapy, especially in Trump’s America, where harrowing news reports dominate the cycle.

Another hallmark of Kiana Lede’s personality is her bleeding heart for others. She cites women of color, sexual assault victims and the homeless youth specifically as individuals she feels most responsible to help, since she is personally connected to all three. While she’s aiming to create a project that helps homeless youth specifically, she’s working hard this holiday season to ensure that they have a place to stay “at least for the night” after horrific wildfires displaced many individuals in California.

“My passion is really people. Music is just a way that I can get to helping people,” she says with a grin. “Helping people emotionally and physically are both very important. I never want to stop helping people. I feel if other people can respect me, and I can respect myself, then I'll be happy. Happiness is all that we strive for.”

Recently, Lede played her first headlining solo show, a one-night event at The Mint in Los Angeles. While she was thrilled to see that the show sold-out, she was even happier to see the faces of her audience members, who she said ‘looked like [her].’ “Mixed girls, brown girls, black girls, gay boys,” she explains over-the-phone. Even though she wasn’t in person to discuss her latest huge accomplishment, you could hear the pride and joy through her voice.

As for the future of her career, she’s looking forward to more acting roles. You may recognize her from the first season of MTV’s Scream, and after her recent Netflix series All About The Washingtons with legendary MC Rev Run was cancelled, she has been “reading for auditions” and is “negotiating” for a role in a film set to shoot in NYC. While her time with the Run-DMC frontman was brief, she says he taught her about the importance of “not compromising your art for money.”

What Kiana Lede is most excited about, of course, is making music. She hopes to work on a new EP and then release an album after that. The ultimate goal is to fully realize the dreams in her personal and professional life, and she assures she’s just getting started.

“I want to be able to look back on my career and think 'man, I really poured my heart into this music, and made music that mattered, and made music that made people feel a certain way, whether it's bad, good, sad, anxious, whatever it may be.’”

READ MORE: NEXT: H.E.R. Is The Future Of R&B (And Then Some) In Plain Sight

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