Now, don’t get me wrong. I too sing along way too passionately to Drake songs at house parties, practically screaming about some person that used to call me on my cell phone when they needed my love as if it actually applied to me. I would consider myself a Drake fan and if you talk to me for longer than five minutes you will hear me gush about my love for my Champagne, my Papi, and act as if Aubrey and I have known each other on a first name basis since he dropped Best I Ever Had in 2009.
Due to the fact that he has the best songs to cry along to while thinking about that guy you saw at the grocery store in 2011 that you are convinced is The One That Got Away, it is disturbingly easy to miss a lot of the messages Drake sends out on women—specifically about how women should act.
If you have listened to basically more than one Drake song, you can easily pick up on the general trend of Good Girls and Girls That Used To Be Good Girls. Drake presents women in a highly dichotomous way that is very easy to misinterpret as deep or even feminist. He supports the Good Girl, he’s glad she behaves appropriately and he praises her for doing so, and this comes off as empowering.
Drake, also as a result of sexism, is often misinterpreted as a “soft guy.” Jokes about how Drake gets his heart broken by cold ex-girlfriends that he so courageously forgives have caused people to be under the assumption that Drake cares about women and wants the best for them. We act as if he is some sort of feminist icon for not being afraid to be sensitive when if you look deeper, he mostly just blames his problems on women.
Drake is vulnerable, Drake is the nice guy, Drake is the guy that opts to read books in front of a fireplace rather than go out on a Saturday night. Or so it seems.
The hyper-masculinization of rappers, black rappers specifically, has led to overt policing of Drake’s masculinity. He does not fall under the pre-conceived notions of how hip-hop artists should act, present themselves, and the topics they write songs about. Although the nuances of what it means to be masculine that Drake brings to the table are important, it also allows for him to easily dodge the typical criticism of misogyny in mainstream hip-hop. Although Drake may not be overtly sexist and probably doesn’t actually hate women, the messages he sends out to millions through his songs are a problem.
Drake is fixated on the idea of the Good Girl. He praises women but only when they act in a way he deems acceptable. In his song “Make Me Proud,” he praises a girl for working hard, going to college and sounding “like [she] went to Yale,” being sexually active but not too sexually active, and taking care of her physical health. This song comes off as okay because Drake is in full support of this woman’s actions, but that’s only because she fits into his mold of the ideal Good Girl. This idea also comes up blatantly in “Hold On, We’re Going Home” where he says: “I want your high love and emotion / because you’re a good girl and you know it.”
This idea becomes especially apparent when juxtaposed with “Hotline Bling.” In this song, he demonizes an ex-girlfriend for wearing more revealing clothing, going out, and using past sexual experiences with Drake for her own pleasure in new relationships. She embodies what I previously referred to as the Girl That Used To Be A Good Girl and he criticizes her explicitly, saying she “used to stay at home, be a good girl / you was in the zone.”
This girl is, according to Drake, disloyal, promiscuous, not focused enough on her career, and generally in control of her own life, which clearly bothers him. With this way of thinking of women, Drake makes it seem like he has some level of ownership over women’s lives and is absolutely shocked when he realizes that they don’t need him and can find sexual and emotional gratification in other people.
Drake’s reputation as a “nice guy” has greatly influenced the way we look at his songs and approach their lyrics. Most people would be quick to jump on the misogyny common in rap lyrics and accuse countless artists of being problematic, but for some reason (in my experience listening to Drake, and listening to him with others) many let Drake get away with similar actions and praise him highly for it.
The truth is, I will continue to listen to Drake. I will continue to sing along to his lyrics at parties. Marvin’s Room will always get me in my feelings, Jumpman will always be a good song to work out to, and Make Me Proud will always inspire me to try and make Drake proud. What will change is that when I’m singing along to the catchy lyrics, I will also pay close attention to the messages he sends out and continue to critique them.
Riddle is a member of the Class of 2019.