Thursday, April 25, 2013

Understand Where I'm Coming From: Why I Don't Listen to Drake

Moving. Inspiring. Amazing. An incredible lyricist. And at the end of it all, oh so overrated.

I would like to clear something up. I don't hate Drake. No, I'm not jealous of his fame. No, I'm not a Hip-Hop elitist. I am simply a Hip-Hop fan that does not immediately buy into hype. With these facts being established, I would like to go into my reasons for why I am certainly not a Drake fan.

1) Mediocre Lyrics

We all know that Drake stated off with acting in Degrassi. We all know that he is from Canada. We also know that he is the best rapper at YMCMB. But, when you go into the meat of what his lyrics are made up of, it's really nothing special. Here are some lyrics from Lil' Wayne's song "She Will":
"Uh, she just started to pop it for a nigga           
 And looked back and told me baby it's real 
And I say I ain't doubt you for a second 
I squeeze it and I could tell how it feel 
I wish we could take off and go anywhere 
But here, baby you know the deal 
Cause she bad, so maybe she won't 
Uh, but shit, then again, maybe she will 
Do it for the realest niggas in the fucking game right now, she will 
Do it for the realest niggas in the fucking game right now, she will 
Maybe for the money and the power and fame right now, she will 
Do it for the realest niggas in the fucking game right now, she will"
Here are also some lyrics from his song "Underground Kings":

"Bridge over troubled water, ice in my muddy water 
Rich off a mixtape, got rich off a mixtape 
Probably shouldn't be driving, it just got so much harder 
Can't even see straight, I can't even see it straight 
Uh, fuck with me, I buy the shots 
Live a little, cause niggas die a lot 
And lie a lot but I'm the truth -- that's right, I fucking said it 
The living proof that you ain’t gotta die to get to heaven 
You girl, you right there, you look like you like this shit 
How'd I know, how'd I know? That's me on some psychic shit 
I can tell a lie if you ask me my whereabouts 
But I might talk that real if you ask me what I care about 
Rap and bitches, rappin' bitches, bitches 
And rappin', rappin' and bitches until all of it switches 
I swear, it's been two years since somebody asked me who I was 
I'm the greatest man, I said that before I knew I was 
That's what's important, what really happened before this 
When me and my crew was all about this rapper from New Orleans 
Singing "walking like a man, finger on the trigger 
I got money in my pocket, I'm a uptown nigga, ah 
With fame on my mind, my girl on my nerves 
I was pushing myself to get something that I deserve 
That was back in the days, Acura days 
I was a cold dude, I'm getting back to my ways..."

Or you can even check out his lyrics from the song "HYFR":

"All my exes live in Texas like I'm George Strait 
Or they go to Georgia State where, tuition is handled 
By some random nigga that live in Atlanta 
That she only see when she feels obligated 
Admitted it to me the first time we dated 
But she was no angel, and we never waited 
I took her for sushi, she wanted to fuck 
So we took it to go, told them don't even plate it 
And we never talk too much after I blew up 
Just only "hello" or a "happy belated" 
And I think I text her and told her I made it 
And that's when she text me and told me she prayed it 
And that's when I text her and told her I love her 
Then right after texted and told her I'm faded 
She asked what have I learned since getting richer 
I learned working with the negatives could make for better pictures 
I learned Hennessy and enemies is one hell of a mixture 
Even though it's fucked up, girl I'm still fucking with ya 
Damn, is it the fall, time for me to revisit the past 
It's women to call, there's albums to drop, there's liquor involved 
There's stories to tell, we been through it all 
Interviews are like confessions 
Get the fuck up out my dressing room, confusing me with questions like..."
As you can see, his lyrics aren't bad. But they aren't that great either. No amazing uses of literary devices, no great puns, no great metaphors. Certainly not any outstanding allusions. It's all just kind of ho-hum. Coupled with the average lyrics, he also has the uncanny ability to rhyme the same words with each other, as indicated in his song "Headlines": 

"I might be too strung out on compliments, overdosed on confidence 
Started not to give a fuck and stopped fearing the consequence 
Drinking every night because we drink to my accomplishments 
Faded way too long, I'm floatin' in and out of consciousnessAnd they saying I'm back, I agree with that 
I just take my time with all this shit, I still believe in that 
I had someone tell me I fell off, ooh I needed that 
And they want to see me pick back up, well, where'd I leave it at? 
I know I exaggerated things, now I got it like that 
Tuck my napkin in my shirt cause I'm just mobbin' like that 
You know good and well that you don't want a problem like that 
You gonna make someone around me catch a body like that 
No, don't do it, please don't do it 
Cause one of us goes in, and we all go through it 
And Drizzy got the money, so Drizzy gonna pay it 
Those my brothers, I ain't even gotta say it 
That's just something they know..."
He doesn't just do it here either. He also does this in his song "Practice":

"Girl you working with some ass yeah, you bad yeah 
Make a nigga spend his cash yeah, his last yeah 
 Hoes frown when you passed yeah, they mad yeah 
 Couple thousand on your bag yeah, fuck yeah 
 I'm a Big Tymer nigga yeah, money flipper yeah 
 Get it understood yeah, it's all good yeah 
Girl I know it's real cause I've been around it 
You only want whats real you just never found it 
Don't give them no more chances, oh girl they had their turn 
Everything for a reason, there's things you had to learn from them 
But when I get you to myself 
Girl I know it's real cause I've been around it 
You only want whats real you just never found it 
Don't give them no more chances, oh girl they had their turn 
Everything for a reason, there's things you had to learn from them 
But when I get you to myself 
You know what's going down, what's going down..."

Maybe I might be nitpicking a little. Maybe I'm not. Other rappers have done it at times, so it can be forgiven. The whole point is, I just don't see how his praise matches his actual performance. At this point, some of you might be a little pissed at me. You might be thinking something like, "You don't understand Drake. Why do you think that everyone has to be gangster in order to be considered good?" I am not saying that. It is perfectly fine to be vulnerable. The problem comes when, in Drake's case, you are someone who is admittedly overly emotional and essentially a pushover (along with being softer than teddy bears wrapped in cotton) and you're trying to make up for it for by portraying yourself as being 'hard'. That, my friend, is going to tick off a lot of Hip-Hop fans. This is because you're essentially being fake and flip-flopping more than Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race.   

Whoa! Where did that just come from? Why I am I posting a picture of some random guy? You'll realize why I did this later on. If you do enough digging, you'll find out that:

2) Drake is Basically a Dumbed-Down Version of Phonte

The guy that you see in the above photo is Phonte. For those of you who don't know, Phonte is from North Carolina and was one third of the trio named Little Brother. Before you say that 'no one knows who he is', consider the fact that both Kanye West and Lil' Wayne are fans of Little Brother.

If you're a Drake fan, you might be outraged by my accusations. How does Drake sound like Phonte? That's where you do the digging. If you you've followed Drake's earlier stuff, you would realize that Little Brother and Slum Village are Drake's two main influences, based on these two videos. From there, you can start to draw comparisons. Drake raps and sings. Phonte also raps and sings. Along with rapping and singing, Phonte also excels at being funny.

Drake himself has made it incredibly obvious on several occasions that Phonte is THE main influence for him to start rapping. Which is why "I'm On One" sounds eerily similar to "Speed". If you think this is by chance, then why does "Over" sound similar to "For You"? Why does "Miss Me" sound like "The Becoming"? This is why I don't really feel him. Don't get me wrong, the production in his music is good, but what I don't understand is the fact that Drake can essentially repeat what he said on 'I'm On One' and sell almost 2 million albums, whereas Phonte can sing with the voice of an angel here and here, and get almost no attention outside the underground circuit. Maybe he doesn't try to market himself as much as Drake. But that too, is nonsense. Little Brother got signed to Atlantic Records before they released The Minstrel Show and were turned away by BET for being "too intelligent", along with having their rating reduced from 4 1/2 Mics to 4 by The Source by someone who didn't even hear the album

What a large amount of Drake's music pretty much rips off.

What infuriates me too about this is that Drake can grow up in one of the richest Canadian neighborhoods, be a childhood actor, but then say that he 'started from the bottom'. 

  Drake: Started from the Bottom

Now compare that to how Phonte touches on the topic of struggle:

Phonte: The Good Fight

Little Brother: Dreams

Which example do think people would actually relate to more? The argument for Drake's supposed greatness gets even less convincing when you realize that...

3) Everything that Drake Does Has Been Done (better) by Someone Else 

Let's start from small examples and work ourselves up. Remember when I mentioned Drake's verse from HYFR?:

It didn't take me long to realize that Andre 3000 did that same thing in "Return of the G":

Like Drake, Andre 3000 has proved that along with rapping:

he isn't too bad of a singer.

Consider Mos Def, who is well-respected for his rapping:


and is given props for being able to sing too:

even if its on the same song:

Another person who is vastly underrated at singing and rapping is SlimKid3 of The Pharcyde.

He is heard the main guy heard singing the hook here:


and is heard rapping on the second verse here:

and here.

And who can forget the grandest example of them all, Lauryn Hill.

So, if all of these people can rap and sing, then why is everyone except for Lauryn Hill widely given credit?

I think this is a case of déjà vu. Didn't this same thing happen with Elvis? Yes, I said Elvis. If you look at Elvis, he is considered a "legend", even though he falsely claimed credit for songs that he didn't even write. Despite this, he is still considered "great" because he popularized Rock. This was at a time when Rock was still extremely controversial. The people who really deserved the credit were B.B. King, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Miles Davis. 

Or as how Mos Def puts it.....

Drake is the same way. I already mentioned that Little Brother's music video was banned from BET. Then, when Drake comes onto the scene, he gets called one of the best rappers of the 21st century. He even had the audacity to say that he was the first person to successfully rap and sing.

And this guy "discovered" land already inhabited by millions of people.
You see where I'm going with this? They're both white musicians who sound black and were marketable to a younger audience. They're are both given praise that neither of them actually deserve. Why, in this age of the internet, are people still putting up with this nonsense? I don't know, maybe it's because...... 

4) Most of Drake's Fan Base is Composed of the Typical Bandwagon Rap 'Fans'. 

I recently went with my class to the 37th annual Cleveland Film Festival. After watching some short films, we were allowed to go shopping at the mall. I bought some food and the Charity Starts at Home album by Phonte. When I went to one of the tables at the food court and showed them what I bought (after they asked me of course), they laughed at me. One of my schoolmates even said, "Don't nobody know who he is." After I told him that Phonte was Drake's main influence and that Kanye west and Lil' Wayne were both fans of Little Brother, he let up. This has numerous times in my English class. Some of the students have teased me because I said that The Pharcyde was my favorite rap artist. My own brother has even intentionally walked into the same room that I was while I was listening to Rakim and turned it off because, according to him, "Nobody wants to hear that." I had even participated in a debate and tried (but failed) to convince some of my fellow Upward Bound students that popularity doesn't matter when it comes to judging great Hip-Hop music. One girl tried to make the case in the example of the Beatles and how they are known for being great only because they were popular.


Wow. Just wow. So let me get this straight. It's okay for me to listen to great music from the 60's and 70's. It's okay for me to listen to Classic Rock or Jazz. It's okay for me to like R&B vets such as Jill Scott or Eryka Badu. But if I say that I like Hip-Hop from some originally Old School and/or Underground Rap artists (such as De La Soul, Eric B. Rakim, Large Professor, and People Under the Stairs), I get ridiculed and laughed at?

Even Cam'ron thinks that's just total B.S.
Again, I might come off as being 'elitist' and 'close-minded', but I'm really not. Besides, what's wrong with cherishing Hip-Hop classics? No music exists in a vacuum, so why are you disrespecting the very same people who paved the way for you to be able to listen to it? And if you look across the board, Rap music fans are many times the only fans who take on this fickle attitude. You might say that I'm being close-minded, but it is only because of fans like me (older fans in general) that Rap is even considered a prominent genre of music in the first place. Retrospections are not reasons for retrogressing, especially when it comes to Rap. You might think that I'm just being a 'hater', but it is because of a lot of rappers and fans entertaining nonsense that is the reason for why Rap has become so unpopular and incredibly distasteful

I talked to one of my wrestling coaches once (who is a huge Jay-Z fan), and what struck me as being so true is when he brought up the point that many of the fans nowadays who are 18 and below do not appreciate lyricism. What he said makes a lot of sense. Everyone is nowadays trying to listen to (basically) club music 24/7, but what they fail to realize is that they keep some worthwhile MC's from getting exposure because they are too busy focusing on who's music 'bangs the hardest'. That just shows me that you can never appreciate something like this, this or this because it simply goes over your head when you listen to it. Even when they don't act like this in cases such as Lupe Fiasco, Kendrick Lamar, and Big K.R.I.T., it still almost seems like a lot of fans are just following the crowd. Which is also why some go way too overboard in giving them praise.     

You have too the fans that I am already talking about who get waaaaayyyyyy too into what that rapper portrays. In other words, the overly-impressionable fans. I don't even need to get into that, because Eminem has already talked about those people.

In conclusion, I am not angry with you if you admit to being a Drake fan. But if you are, you need to be logical and sensible, not someone who is an easy conformist to ignorance. Hip-Hop music does not need more rappers and fans acting like morons and media promoting and justifying it because 'that's just the way it is'. It's only 'like that' because you allow it to be. Yeah, corporation's control almost all of the pop music, but they are nothing without their sheep fans. If everyone was more open-minded, they would have to play whatever we support. The music corporations only serve as an amplifier for exposure. I hope these two videos and these two articles help you understand where I'm coming from.

You ain't listening! 

(Just another thought....didn't people do this exact same thing to Ja Rule?)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Today's my birthday!: Other Notable Events on the Day I was Born

Today, I turn the magical age of 17. In light of this, I would like to point out some of the notable that have occurred on this day.

1) Death of Charles Darwin
Source: Smithsonian Museum

I shouldn't have to go that much into who he is. I will say, though, that he is one of the most misunderstood scientists of all time. Thanks to controversy surrounding his theory on evolution, he is often the target of much  
scorn and praise. On April 19, 1892 he passed away at the age of 73, leaving an undeniable impact on the science community.

2) Afrika Bambaataa's turns 56


Afrika Bambaataa is one of the undeniable pioneers of Hip-Hop. He is most well known for his song 'Planet Rock', one of the greatest party records in Rap history. He also started the Universal Zulu Nation: a collection of b-boyers, graffiti artists, DJ's, and politically aware rappers who are a part of Hip-Hop culture. Ironically, though he has had a tremendous influence on Hip-Hop, a lot of people who say that they are Rap fans do not know who he is. Which is a shame, really. Especially when early on people such as him had to deal with the criticism of onlookers who called Hip-Hop a "fad". Hopefully there is a second awakening of some sort in which the youth actually dig into the history of Hip-Hop. But it has to start somewhere.

3) Oklahoma City Bombing

The Oklahoma City Bombing was an unfortunate event in which Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh decided to bomb the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The explosion killed 168 people, injured 680 more, damaged 324 buildings, burned 86 cars, and caused $652 million in damage. The blast was so powerful that it could be felt 56 miles away. Before 9/11, this was easily the most deadly domestic act of terrorism in the history of the United States. It's events like these that make my birthday bittersweet.

4) End of the Waco, Texas Siege

On April 19, 1993, the siege on the Branch Davidans compound ended after 51 days. The standoff between the Branch Davidans and the ATF resulted in a total of 86 deaths (82 Davidans; 54 adults and 28 kids, and 4 ATF agents), most notably the Davidans leader, David Koresh. At the end of this violent confrontation, the Mt. Carmel Center was engulfed in flames, forever searing the events of that fateful day into our heads forever.

5) Battle of Lexington and Concord

 The Battle of Lexington and Concord was one of the first conflicts of the American Revolutionary War. Dozens of colonial minutemen clashed with British forces, with the British winning the battle in a landslide. Although Britain gained a strong foothold in the beginning of the war, they were eventually defeated by American and mercenary forces acting as American allies. The picture above is a representation of on of the most iconic American battles in history.

6) Death of Guru from Gangstarr

On this day in April of 2010, Guru passed away, him being the front man of one of the greatest Hip-Hop acts of all time. With a collection of 6 albums, he and DJ Premier sealed the deal as on of the best. R.I.P. Guru  

7) Release of Illmatic

The greatest rap album ever. Nuff said.