Last night, I dreamt that Drake was my friend, and we were hanging out in a club, probably in the 6, probably sipping Santa Margherita pinot grigio, probably talking about heartbreak. Being around him was easy, as it is with someone you’ve known for years.
I slowly come to and as is my daily ritual, check the weather. Drake tells me it will be drizzy today, so I put on my socks with his face on them and grab an umbrella. On the way to work, I miss the old Drake, and I listen to his first hit single, “Best I Ever Had.” I remember that was when we first saw the “softness” that would make him a star.
“You could have my heart or we could share it like the last slice,” he raps, using a pizza metaphor in a love song, like a goddamn genius.
I don’t stop there; today I need Drake’s help with everything. I decide to text some of his lyrics to a boy I like — “Girl don’t treat me like a stranger” — using the Drizzy Keyboard. Shockingly, there’s no reply. I text my mom — “I’m Game of Thrones with it, momma/I’m Home Alone with it, momma/I really hate using this tone with you, momma” — and just get “??” back. I accuse another friend of changing — “You was poppin’ back when Usher wore a U-chain/God damn, you changed” — and they simply respond: “I have not.”
I’ve got some time so I finally tackle Aubrey’s unruly brows. Using an eyebrow plucking app made by a company called YOLO Labs, I groom and even pierce them. After that, I play around with a game where I tap on his face repeatedly to “Keep Drizzy Busy,” presumably because he is so emotional and anxious. I save the best for last: the Drake Shake app, where I’m able to put picture of the rapper sweatily doing crunches on my latest selfie.
“Adding Drake to your photos is like hanging out with a friend that you have been friends with for a long time that moved to another country so you don’t get to hang out with him as much,” says Ryder Ripps, creative director of OKFocus, the firm that created the app which now has over 100,000 downloads.
My day has been filled with technology that centers around the idea that Drake is Just Like Us. He isn’t a hip-hop deity perched atop a mountain of platinums, like Jay Z or some of his other contemporaries. Girls smash his heart to pieces, he has daddy issues and people give him shit (in this case, about being a biracial middle class guy from Canada, about starting his career playing Jimmy Brooks, a kid in a wheelchair, on Degrassi).
What he gets crap for the most, though, is his “softness.” “There is a way Drake cuts through the structures of language that people create to better capture their emotions but really end up as hindrances,” wrote New York Times critic Jon Caramanica in the wake of his third studio album’s release. “It’s unique in hip-hop, and rare in pop as a whole. He is raw, tender, direct.”
This tenderness, while made fun of, is a key to Drake’s internet domination. Venturing outside of memes, I’m amused to discover a ton of emo Drake swag on Etsy. There’s an emotional drake necklace, a bottle of Drake tears, a sweatshirt with Drake as a sad mermaid on it, and a “Drake wouldn’t treat me like this” mug, to name a few.
Drizzy’s online popularity says just as much about digital life as it does him. The Internet is a place where vulnerability is both fostered and seized upon; where subversion reigns supreme. It’s basically a bio-dome for brands like Drake, who has mastered the art of soft power — using sensitivity as a tool, not a crutch.
Even better is how he really leans into, and sometimes even invites, the trolling. Last year, at a NBA playoff game between the Raptors, his hometown team, and the Nets, he got caught on camera lint rolling his pants, which instantly went viral. At game five, 1,200 OVO branded lint rollers were given out; One was sold on eBay for over $55,000. Or take this Instagram post, which he posted to hype his recent Coachella performance:
“He’s like a walking meme,” says Creative Technologist Tom Galle, who made Drake Weather. His project, which turns the “Nothing Was The Same” album cover into a weather forecast, proves it: The site got 750,000 hits in the first week and 1 million in a month. Programmer Tyler Smith built Let Me Drake That For You, a Google-like search engine that turns up only Drake-related results, for similar reasons. When researching, he looked up stars like Kanye West and Justin Bieber but far and away Drake had the most, and weirdest, searchable content. There’s stuff by the fans, stuff by the haters, and everyone in between —including think pieces by journalists 😉.
(A deep analysis of this, as it relates to race, deserves an essay in and of itself. “One of the biggest things and I find really frustrating in the discourse about Drake is the way race is addressed,” says Rawiya Kameir, who c0-hosts a Drake-themed podcast with Lauren Mitchell called Trust Issues. “A lot of the discourse around him winds up trying to erase that blackness.”)
Drake’s become such an online punchline, that it’s easy to forget how serious he is about making hit records. When he surprise-dropped “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” online one night in February — without any marketing or pre-released singles — Drake broke all of Spotify’s four-day records. The mixtape was played 23.6 million times online in its first weekend.
The next day, Simon Whybray and Rik Lomas created a website that allows you to make your own version of the “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” album cover. Whybray thinks the cover was “asking for it”: “It’s almost like Drake gives people tools to experience him.” Like the other Drizzy-related tech I’ve tried out, the Internet was into it. “Everyone loves sad people,” Whybray says. “Drake’s as sad as everyone else on Twitter.”
“It doesn’t take me six hours to get ready and I don’t have to wake up in the morning and remember to act like this or talk like this,” Drake told the Jewish Chronicle in 2012. “I just have to be me. That’s one of the favorite parts of my life — I’ve done this purely by being myself.”
On my way home, I put on one of the album’s breakouts, “Energy,” a serious song about dealing with enemies. I come to this line, and smile: “Fuck going online, that ain’t part of my day.” This is the first time I’ve ever felt Drake, the most earnest man in the game, be inauthentic. Come on, Drizzy. We know you love to log on.