Old Wine, New Bottle: Aubrey Graham has a pattern and so does your favorite artist.
Is it a plane? Is it Superman? Is it a hawk? No it's the enigmatic and polarizing but seemingly tactful Aubrey Graham, masterfully navigating the the dizzy heights of artistic direction. With a method that stretches back vividly to the AM- PM Series, 0-100, manifested on IFYRITL and now utilized on Scary Hours, the OVO head honcho has cracked the code to inserting his songs into the mainstream waters and directing the flow of attention to his reservoir.
There's always an arch, a subtle device that will enthrall the listener to Drizzy's brand of "this success has me looking over my shoulder and I don't even trust my girlfriend" kind of music. In what might be the most overt display of putting old wine in a new bottle, Drake plays the bartender who knows when you need a fill up and when you need advice on the Mrs. He does it with so much grace, that if you blinked you'd miss it. Even though it's rightly seemed an overused concept, the style is so synonymous with Drake it's built a stanbase of its own.
The brooding, the tongue in cheek subliminals and the references to Latino pop icons, you merely have to listen to any song from the pre album cuts to know that every Drake thing done over God’s Plan and Diplomatic Immunity is akin to witnessing a mistimed tackle from Granit Xhaka; an expected happening. For some however, it isn’t quite unexpected. Drake has come to display an Uncanny understanding of listeners like no others and he’s playing them like a Yoruba demon with missus. Over the past few years, as much as Drake has elevated himself to bonafide pop star status as the biggest act in the world, he earned cynicism from different listener sections who relatively had a point calling him a "sell out". Nevertheless, it was selfish branding of a guy who was making listeners loyal to him.
Listeners are entitled. This nature drives acts to reinvent themselves and be the best they can do. As much as some acts claim listeners and commentators are inconsequential, they’re not. Without them, their work is pointless. Thus, Drake might have drawn the cynicism of many, but his style of conquering both sections of fans, and drawing loyalty and entitlement from both - purists and pop lovers - will be studied in Universities.
Artistes are uniquely made. Drake isn’t Kendrick Lamar. His way is different. Even though there might be one artistically superior to the other, this case is about appreciating the unique artistry peculiar to both. Drake deserves praise even though you might have a point saying he changed lanes. Bros, Mans got hot. He had to take off the rap jacket.
Bare creativity may go unnoticed, scratch that, as a matter of fact it always goes that way, and that’s why directors hire composers to craft scores that will accentuate every fight scene or monologue; that is why stage directors are now getting hired to come up with themes and concepts for a musician’s performance.
We exist in a time when experts have pegged the average attention span at a measly 8 seconds, 8 seconds brethren!!!. When we put this into consideration, we can begin to understand the need for artists to warp their creativity with these devices and if we look closely we can draw a direct correlation between this method and the ever elusive critical acclaim. Even though critical acclaim might have eluded Drake for a while, it doesn't take away the mastery of markets he's displayed in the last 4 years. He's also made Dancehall lovers of Rap nerds. If that's no achievement, I don't know what is. Artistes have different motivations. Even Kendrick Lamar made trap music. No one wants to be stale and relevant to only a select demographic. Drake might not be as relevant to Rap purists right now, but there's a reason they call him a sell out. It's a subtle endorsement of high ratings at one point. If they didn't care about him and complementary of his achievements, they wouldn't have noticed when he "switched lanes".
Talent has never been enough, while some have it in abundance, others compensate by plugging the holes with everything from production, enviable production, a discernable flow or even selling us a false idea of a conceptual undertone. **Cough Cough Lemonade**
There is a thin line between this method of creating and that of artistic reinvention. The telling difference between these two is that while Drake merely spews the same tales of "I don't trust you people, stop looking at my cake", artistic reinvention is a complete overhaul of the creative process to bring about visible change in everything from production to choice of clothes. Case in point is David Bowie. For all his skill, David Bowie of blessed memory was a master at artistic reinvention, never repeating the same trope, he created a ripple effect that has found successors in everybody from Lady Gaga to Kanye West - Kanye may very well be the trail blazer for this brand of artistic reinvention in Hip-Hop (I didn't say the first, I said trail blazer please don't jack my IP). Kudos to Mick Jagger too.
The internet has been awash with photos of Kanye holding what we believe is "the laptop". While we have united to pray against every bum ass cousin hatching a plan to steal that laptop, one of Kanye's musical offsprings has supplied us with some reminders that he also has the game on lock.
It is important not to construe this as Drake slander for a lot of acts who have tried to take a leaf from his book have ended up with not so stellar offerings. We merely have to look at the offerings from Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Big Sean to know that it is harder than it looks.
While artistic reinvention may be beyond Drake's ability, he sure does the most he can by weaving, bobbing and warping his limited subject matter around elements that will aid digestion and enjoyment amongst a larger demographic. Kudos Drake, African Mothers will proud of you when the realize that you've reinvented their method of concealing malaria pills inside a mould of staple food, a method that never gets old from generation to generation. If you doubt the subject matter of this article, press play on Scary Hours EP.
By Nico for Urban Central @WordsbyAG on Twitter
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