Drake is not considered the most hardcore rapper in the game, but multiple beefs, the weight of fame, and his Toronto roots has sparked a notable evolution in his style as his reign continues.
Initially making his breakthrough with his 2009 mixtape So Far Gone, Drake turned the heads of hip hop fans with his R&B-influenced sound and sentimental lyrical content atypical of the materialistic or violent themes common in rap music up to that point. He vowed to ignore diss tracks towards him and said in an interview with Rap Radar that making full blown R&B music for girls is “wavy,” disregarding any criticism of his music as being too emotional. Nevertheless, there’s been a notable shift in his persona into a cockier and aggressive attitude as he controls his status as the alpha male in hip hop today, dealing with beefs against rappers such as Pusha T, and bringing his hometown of Toronto into pop culture prominence.
An early indicator of this transition would be the track “The Resistance” from his 2010 debut album Thank Me Later. He raps, “Maybe it was the fast pace switch up, or the two guns in my face during the stick up/ Maybe cause a girl I thought I trusted, was who set the whole sh*t up,” referencing a 2009 robbery in Toronto in which he was a victim of. This incident, which occurred during his rise to fame as an artist, is a harsh reminder of his vulnerability as a public figure and target in a city known as “the Screwface Capital” for its hostilities between artists.
Another early sign of this change would be on the Rick Ross collaboration “Stay Schemin”, in which he raps “It bothers me when the gods get to actin like like broads, guess every team doesn’t come complete with n*ggas like ours/ That’s why I see no need to compete with n*ggas like y’all, I just ask that when you see me you speak up, n*gga, that’s all.” The significance of this song is the fact that this is Drake’s first overt response to a diss, that being “Sweet” by rap legend Common. Drake’s blunt claim of softness from his rival exudes a disgust similar to that a kingpin would make towards his rivals in a war.
A significant track which almost single-handedly marks the full change is his 2013 track “ 6 AM In Toronto”, in which he raps “The part I love the most is they need me more than they hate me, so they never take shots I got everybody on safety/ I could load every gun with bullets that fire backwards, probably wouldn’t lose a single rapper/ n*ggas make threats can’t hear em over over the laughter, yeah that’s cause I’m headed to the bank, n*gga.” At this point, Drizzy is the king of the rap game with two #1 albums in Thank Me Later and 2011’s Take Care, so he relishes the opportunity to flex on his opposition. He also raps “Cause I show love never get the same outta n*ggas, guess it’s funny how money can make change outta n*ggas/ For real some nobody start feelin himself, a couple nobodies started killin themself/ A couple albums dropped those are still on the shelf, I bet them sh*ts would have popped if I was willing to help.” That nobody he’s referring to is alleged to be R&B singer The Weeknd, who collaborated with him on Take Care and declined a deal with his label OVO Sound. In an interview with Complex, Abel denies any beef, explaining, “The thing about Drake is I told him what my decisions were going to be. And he was down with it from the beginning.”
The 6 God
With the release of his project If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late in 2015, Drake adapted his sound to fit his throne. With dark and trap-influenced production by long-time producer Boi-1da and lyrics about having enemies and dying as a legend, it seems as if he’s not afraid to keep his foot on the rap games’ neck. On Know Yourself, he raps “Reps Up is in here/ Got P Reign and Chubby and TJ and Winnie and whoa.” At this point, Drake starts to openly rep his Toronto roots, including the norm of having a crew around like other rappers. In particular, he shouts out his longtime friend P. Reign and his group Reps Up. Reign has acknowledged the group’s upbringing in the ghettos of the city and past hardships such as drug dealing and gun possession.
In subsequent projects, Drake has continued to flex his affiliation with street-based figures, especially in times when he’s faced with serious hostility from other rappers. In Mob Ties off Scorpion, he raps “I f*ck with the mob and I got ties/ Knock you off to pay their tithes”, a reference to his associate and famed Houston rap mogul J. Prince whose story sounds like a mafia story within hip hop and interfered in the feud with Pusha T and Kanye West in 2018.
Another notable reference is in War on Dark Lane Demo Tapes with the line “Feds wanna tap up man and wire up man like Chubbs did Detail.” This is a nod to his bodyguard and Reps Up affiliate Chubbs, who got into an altercation and legal battle with producer Detail in 2014.
It is quite clear that we’ve come quite far from listening to Drake rapping about his favorite look on girls to keeping a pistol by his side for the opposition. We may still feel familiar with his sentimental side, but he reminds us he’s not someone to mess with.
Written By: Kristian Gonzales
Photo Source: Vibe