The Problem With Drake Is His Problem With Women
By Chris Dart
Let’s make a few things clear off the top. I fucking love Drake. I love him in a multitude of ways. I think Drake is one of the most interesting artists to hit the charts in years, and I think he’s changed hip-hop in a big way. He’s helped make it OK for rappers to experiment with singing, and to get really raw and vulnerable in their lyrics. (Hopefully J. Cole and Kevin Gates have both taken him out for dinner to say thank you.) He and his production team have helped usher in the era of lush, expansive instrumentals we’re now enjoying. He’s also tremendously prolific. Anyone who drops singles via SoundCloud at three in the morning, just because he makes way too much music to ever be released conventionally, is someone with a work ethic I can get behind.
Straight up, I also love him for being from Toronto. We’re a Chicago-sized city that gets sub-Cleveland levels of respect in North American popular culture, and for sure at least part of that is our fault for being so damn polite and Canadian all the time. So when a guy brags about being from Toronto, or name-checks the street my high school was on, or references the station where I caught the subway downtown as a teenager, I tend to love him just a little bit more. He’s reminding the world that things are happening up here.
What I don’t always love is the way he talks about women. His latest viral mega-hit, “Hotline Bling,” is a prime example of these problems, but it’s not the only one.
The crux of the problem seems to be that he wants to categorize women into one of two categories: good girls and bad girls. While this paradigm is both well-trod and seemingly straightforward, Drake makes it something more complicated. Good girls go bad (like in his 2011 song with The Game, aptly titled “Good Girls Go Bad”), bad girls have secret good cores (see “Just Hold On, We’re Going Home”), and no one seems to know what makes a woman “good” or “bad” . . . although it seems to have something to do with her relationship to Drake, and specifically, how much of a life she has outside of her relationship with Drake.
“Hotline Bling” is the the most recent example of this, and also the clearest. In it, the subject of Drake’s affections used to stay at home and wait for an appropriate time to call Drake. (Usually late at night, when she “needed his love.”) Now she’s out, going to clubs, dressing up all sexy, “touching road” and collecting stamps in her passport, all the while hanging out with a bunch of girls who aren’t Drake-approved.
Now she’s a bad girl, and being untrue to herself. Because that’s what bad girls do. They act like they’re the main characters in their own stories, rather than waiting around, living boring, couch-ridden lives, and waiting for Drake to come home. Drake, meanwhile, is allowed to go off on his own, tour the world, bone a million women, lint roll his pants at Raptor games, and make mailed-in collaboration albums with Future, without ever being accused of being a bad guy.
Essentially, Drake doesn’t want the women in his life acting like Drake. It’s a huge double standard.
In Drake’s dream world, we can assume that every city would have a girl sitting by her phone, waiting for Drizzy to roll into town and spice up her life, before rolling out again and leaving her to spend her nights watching Degrassi on Netflix and dreaming of life in The 6ix.
That, or it would all be strippers.
Boy does Drake loves strippers. He loves strippers so much he named a tour after a Toronto strip club that is next to a railway overpass and a giant thrift store. Strippers, in Drake’s world, are both good and bad girls. He has strippers in his life who are like virgins to him, as he says in “Energy.” (Thereby implying that women’s value is based on their virginity, which is a related, but decidedly separate problem.) They get fucked up and he shows up to their rescue, like in “Houstatlantavegas.”
While he doesn’t say it explicitly, strippers are probably the secret good girls who are so different around him in “Just Hold On.” They are the perfect Drake women, who he can save with his soulful brown eyes and furrowed brow.
Do they need saving? Probably not. Probably the dancers are just fine, thankyouverymuch. They’re living their lives, dancing in clubs, and using the money to go to law school, pay for their children’s orthodontia, or buy drinks for their pals at the bar on industry-night-Tuesdays. It’s none of your business and they don’t need your saving, Aubrey. They’re fine.
When you get down to it, Drake is like a lot of men, in that he has a hard time seeing women as the main characters in their own story, as opposed to being minor characters in his. He doesn’t seem to get that women are their own actors who do things for their own reasons to further their own goals. And sadly, that’s not an uncommon problem.
So maybe we men should be both more and less like Drake. We should be more like Drake in that we should always be willing to be vulnerable, take big risks, and never be afraid to do new, weird things. We should be less like Drake in that we need to realize the seemingly revolutionary idea that women aren’t prizes or non-player characters, and they’re certainly not there for us to pass judgement on as “good” or “bad.”
They’re just living their lives, and if they want to be “wearing less and going out more,” more power to them.
Lead image: “Over” by Drake