A Miserable Feminist Breakdown Of Drake’s Hotline Bling

Nadia
Nadia
Nov 9, 2015 · 5 min read

If you’d happened to ask me, two Fridays back, what I’d done all day, our conversation would have gone something like this:

You: What did you do today?

Me: Oh, you know, worked. Had lunch. Listened to Drake’s new song roughly 20 times.

You (imitating Drake’s dad moves): And I know when that hotline bling…

I am not the only one to have fully engaged with Drakemania in recent weeks; you need only log onto Twitter to see how popular the Canadian rapper’s latest single has become. As per usual in the age of social, the song itself has served as the impetus for a body of gifs, Vines and other such related media, which I have been cracking up to as much as the next person. Drake the pizza chef was a highlight.

Has there been a catchier tune — with a signature dance move thrown in — since Beyonce told us that we should’ve put a ring on it? I mean, this song has some type of musical monosodium glutamate sprinkled all over it; you just cannot help but to listen again, and again, and again. Until, that is, you’re like hold up, Drake, what are you actually saying?

There’s the scratch in the record, the inconvenient truth that you may have been trying to ignore by watching a funnier Vine or enjoying the song for its melody alone. As I hit replay yet again, jiving absent-mindedly at my computer desk, I found it increasingly impossible to block out the fact that the song’s lyrics are unmistakably sexist.

More than that, in parts they are evocative of emotional abuse.

Let’s break it down, miserable Feminist style, beginning with the first verse after the opening chorus:

Ever since I left the city,

You got a reputation for yourself now

Everybody knows and I feel left out

Girl you got me down, you got me stressed out.

First off, he left. How he figures he still has a say in what goes down in the city and situation he removed himself from is beyond me. Regardless, he is full of enough self importance to judge that she — this mysterious entity to whom the song is addressed — has gained a reputation (the implications of which require a whole other essay to explore and deconstruct). It’s not just the fact that she has gained a reputation that has riled him; poor Drakeypoo feels excluded from the fun that apparently accompanies being a woman with a patriarchally bestowed reputation. It is vexing him.

’Cause ever since I left the city,

you started wearing less and goin’ out more

Glasses of champagne out on the dance floor

Hangin’ with some girls I’ve never seen before.

I don’t know if Drake has ever been through a breakup, let alone had someone leave the city and him behind in it, but when you’re dumped you tend to go out more. The connotations of his observation that she is wearing less clothing are pretty clear: under his watchful eye, she would have maintained a certain standard of modesty in her attire, and he is disappointed to notice that, following his departure, she has let those standards slip. Shit, she’s even taking her drink onto the dance floor. This girl has changed.

Then comes my favourite line. And by favourite I mean the line most steeped in insidious, sexist bullshit. He doesn’t recognise her friends. She is in the club with a group of women he hasn’t heard of or seen her hang out with before. Somewhere, maybe even subconsciously, he’s thinking, the fuck is this? I didn’t approve this social group. A bit like abusive male chauvinists who forbid their victims from forming outside relationships in an act of control.

Ever since I left the city, you, you, you

You and me we just don’t get along

You make me feel like I did you wrong

Going places where you don’t belong

Ever since I left the city,

you, you got exactly what you asked for

Running out of pages in your passport

Hanging with some girls I’ve never seen before

It’s becoming clearer that Drake believes his ex is acting out against him. Her going to nightclubs where she, by his judgement, doesn’t belong, is purely to spite him because she’s pissed. Again, he mentions the girls he’s never seen her with before. They are dragging her astray, not only to the club but into strangers’ beds. They are a bad influence on his good girl.

I had to explain to friends at work what Drake means when he talks about her passport. He is not lamenting the fact that she’s gone off jet setting without him. Rather, he is taking note of the fact that she is sleeping with other people; too many, in his opinion, because she is running out of space to add their stamps to her passport. Therein lies the beloved dichotomy. Men can have sex with as many women as they like and face no judgement; women, on the other hand, are labelled sluts and whores or, at the very least, have their arsehole ex make a snide remark about something that no longer concerns him in any way, as is the case in this song.

These days, all I do is

Wonder if you bendin’ over backwards for someone else

Wonder if you’re rollin’ up a backwoods for someone else

Doing things I taught you, gettin’ nasty for someone else

You don’t need no one else

You don’t need nobody else, no

Why you never alone

Why you always touching road

Used to always stay at home, be a good girl

You was in a zone, yeah

You should just be yourself

Right now, you’re someone else

By the bridge, he’s totally lost it, and any pretence disguising the inherent sexism and controlling nature of the song has melted away. Drake is consumed by the idea of this woman having sex with someone else. He gave her tips and tricks on — we can only presume based on the general vibe of misogyny pulsing through the song thus far — making sex better for her partner, and now she’s putting those lessons in lovin’ to good use on some other guy? Who she is then smoking a joint with? How very dare she. Besides, she doesn’t need anyone else. She only needs him, and sex with him. She should only stay home with him, be his good girl. That’s who she is, he’s deemed it so.

This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, that a pop song props up the patriarchy with its lyrics. The problem has its fingers in several cultural pies: the music industry, Hollywood (on screen and behind the scenes), politics, commerce, religion. We can’t come close to addressing the issues of patriarchal society — rape culture, everyday sexism, domestic violence — by censoring products of its culture. But we can smarten up to its bullshit.

Nadia

Written by

Nadia

London-based writer and blogger | http://nadiahenderson.com | http://notsoquietgirl.me/

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