Drake's Clean Slate: Are His Reconciliations Setting The Stage For His Career's Next Phase?
After reuniting with his enemies on stage, Drake may be entering a new phase of his career, one that champions character over rank.
To summarize Drake’s historic year using one of his own chart-topping hits, the rapper has been following God’s plan down a rich path to redemption. As an artist transitions from a rookie to veteran, we as fans expect a shift. While Drake has undoubtedly evolved musically, his most significant metamorphosis has appeared through his severed and repaired relationships.
Just last year, the idea of reconciliation with some of his enemies would’ve been inconceivable for the Toronto rapper, who has admittedly thrived off of obliterating his competition on wax. But here he is, sharing the stage with some of his greatest opponents.
Last Friday (Oct. 12), Drake surprised fans by welcoming singer Chris Brown to the stage at the Staples Center on his Aubrey and the Three Amigos Tour. After describing Brown as “one of the most talented human beings on the planet,” the rapper watched from the side of the stage like a proud father as Breezy performed live renditions of his hit singles, including “Party” and “Freaky Friday.”
The display of kindness on such a public stage could be seen as a chess move in a long campaign to portray Drake as the “nice guy” of rap, but at the very least, it’s a full circle moment for the two parties involved. The duo reportedly engaged in a physical altercation (a member of Brown’s crew allegedly smashed a bottle on Drake’s head at a Los Angeles club) in 2009 over Rihanna, whom both have been romantically tied to. Since then, the two have been assumed enemies, coincidentally avoiding interactions at various Hollywood events.
“Last time I was on stage with Breezy was 2009 at Virginia Commonwealth University,” Drake wrote on Instagram, attached to an image of him and Brown shaking hands. “Tonight I got to reconnect with him for the first night at Staples! I love a good full circle moment. Thank you.”
This isn’t the first time this summer that Drizzy experienced an emotional detox. In Sept. 2018, he shocked the masses when he shared the stage with Meek Mill. Previously, the two had engaged in one of the most notorious rap battles in modern-day hip-hop. Drake’s single “Back to Back,” which took aim at Mill’s career and high-profile relationship with then-girlfriend Nicki Minaj, earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Performance.
Although Drake had already alluded to a peace treaty after he joined the movement to “Free Meek Mill” in the midst of the Philly native’s prison sentence which stemmed from his probation violation, the image of them hugging on stage was a heartwarming moment that should inspire any foe to make amends.
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This really gave me peace of mind tonight. Healing and moving forward created one of the most electric and gratifying moments of my career. @meekmill I’m happy that you are home and that we could find our way back to our joint purpose 🙏🏽🙌🏽 (Cue the Kevin Garnett “anything is possible” adlib)
“This really gave me peace of mind tonight. Healing and moving forward created one of the most electric and gratifying moments of my career,” Drake captioned another photo of the pair on Instagram. “@meekmill, I’m happy that you are home and that we could find our way back to our joint purpose.”
Obviously Drake doesn’t need to mend broken relationships to sell records or regain the love of the masses. Festival slots and arena shows have demonstrated that he can capture crowds of over half a million people without anyone by his side. His latest project, Scorpion, peaked at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 732,000 equivalent album units in its opening week. All 25 tracks on the certified-platinum album entered the Billboard Hot 100, making Drake the first musician to simultaneously debut four new songs inside the top 10. Not to mention, he broke the one-day global record for album streams with over 132 million streams on Spotify.
We’re witnessing a new evolution of Drake, one that is putting his conscious and well-being over his ego and rap status.
All that to say, Drake’s latest peace offerings are likely setting the precedent for how he would like to carry out the rest of his career and life, and ultimately, how he would like to be remembered—a reflection that most likely comes with an artist that has essentially been everywhere, seen everything, and is constantly burdened with the question of what kind of imprint they’d like to leave behind when the time comes to throw in the towel.
He’s indicated as much in the latest episode of HBO’s The Shop as he pondered leaving the game “gracefully” and even more so, when he explained why he chose not to respond to Pusha T’s diss record, which revealed that he had a secret son. While he confessed he did extensive research to respond in another track that would be just as “filthy” as Pusha’s “The Story of Adidon,” he decided against it in order to save himself from treading down a dead-end path. “The sh*t’s done, the event’s over,” he told LeBron James. “I didn’t want to further your career by rapping back to you and having this exchange. This is not something I ever want to be remembered for.”
Drake may be stepping into the light, but fans shouldn’t count him out for the occasional spar. From the entry point of Drake’s career in 2007, he has always walked around with a proverbial target on his back, which could either be connected to his damn-near instant success or being a light-skinned, interracial artist who fuses emotional R&B vocals with rap. So if tempted, Drizzy will undoubtedly engage in another rap battle. After all, that’s what makes hip-hop so fun, right? His single “Mob Ties” (which he admitted was penned as a result of his ongoing battle with Kanye West and Pusha T) is possibly a promise that he’ll continue to wage war against those that cross him or threaten his inside circle (“Sick of these ni**as/ sick of these ni**as/ Hired some help, get rid of these ni**as”).
Nevertheless, we’re witnessing a new evolution of Drake, one that is putting his conscious and well-being over his ego and rap status. It’s inspiring, to say the least. While most of us basked in the swapping of salacious bars, we also marveled at his public reconciliations. We love a good spat, but what makes it sweeter is the making up at the end.
It drums up some food for thought. Will he keep the trend going by eventually reuniting with Kanye West on stage or even in the studio, where it counts the most? Will Drizzy and Quentin Miller shake hands once again (Miller tweeted that the two’s work relationship was “dead”)? The prediction on the former is 50:50. Keeping in mind that the digital era pays just as much attention to public discord as it does reunions, Drake and Ye could eventually find it in their hearts to make up. “We’ll reconcile that one day because we got to,” Kanye said during a Chicago radio interview in Aug. 2018, referencing their squabble over whether Ye leaked information about Drake’s son, fueling Pusha T’s diss track. “We got work to do because these voices are just too powerful.” Of course both voices are forces in the industry—now, whether they’re good or bad is another discussion—but as mentioned, Drake doesn’t have to reconcile with Kanye in order to continue his new chapter. It would just feel good to.
The “Nonstop” artist declared that he feels “pure” after bowing out of his conflict with Pusha, so purging himself of any unhealthy friendship is just as advantageous as breaking bread with a sworn enemy. Drake may walk around with a chink in his armor for the rest of time as a result of not having the last word in a rap battle or dodging Kanye and other former friends forever, but it’s a price he’s down to pay for a clean slate.