From a hip-hop purist standpoint, Canadian heartthrob Drake is an anomaly. Who’d have thought a turtleneck-clad former teen actor who says “ting” in an abominable Caribbean accent, pines for strippers and Hooters employees in his songs, allegedly tattooed Rihanna’s face on his biceps, regularly texts 14-year-old actress Millie Bobby Brown (according to Access Hollywood, the 32-year-old adult male gives her advice “about boys”) and yet claims to have “Mob Ties”—all while being outed for employing ghostwriters—would be the biggest thing to happen to music this decade? (The amount of research that went into Drake’s tattoos and relationships would make a Wu-Tang Clansman self-immolate.)
It’s been Drake’s year every year since he broke out with “Best I Ever Had” in 2009. He’s scorched each summer with a new version of himself. There was lovelorn Drake on “Marvin’s Room” in 2011, self-made Drake on “Started From the Bottom” in 2013, out-for-blood Drake on “6PM in New York” in 2015, Jamaican Drake on “Controlla” and “One Dance” in 2016. But in May 2018, he was hit with a haymaker.
After several years of back-and-forth disses, drug rap veteran Pusha T delivered a staggering blow with “The Story of Adidon,” accusing Drake of being a deadbeat dad. The line “You are hiding a child” became the clapback of the century. Drake had to confirm the rumors and did some championship backpedaling on his latest album, Scorpion. “I wasn’t hiding my kid from the world, I was hiding the world from my kid,” he rapped on “Emotionless.”
Rubbing acid into the Father of the Year’s tender wounds, Pusha’s spicy diss track featured an old (and legit) photo of Drake in blackface as the cover art, which called for further PR surgery. Drake was surely down for the count.
But before the tears could even dry on his teenage fans’ faces, Drake had the whole world asking if Kiki loved him. “In My Feelings” became his sixth No. 1 hit. It appears The Boy can do no wrong.
On record, Drake’s a marksman. He’s got an ear for catchy production, a masterful and mutable flow and an honest approach to songwriting. He’s not afraid to sing and let out his feelings, and it has changed his genre. Turn on a Top 40 station and you’ll hear dozens of Drake knockoffs, crooning in one verse and spitting needles on the next. The Timberland-wearing and Yankees fitted hat-rocking diehard rap fans may not love it, but millions do. He might even go down as one of the most influential artists of this generation.
In a recent interview for Variety, Pusha said he thought the beef with Drake would last longer. The article looked back at Pusha’s remarkable year, which included a Grammy nomination for his phenomenal Daytona. But in closing out 2018, he was still being asked about Drake. Meanwhile, Drake has remained quiet on the matter. A scathing diss, no matter how damaging it might appear, won’t faze him. In 2019, he’ll have a new hit, a new style and a new girlfriend to sing about. The rest of the music world will wait and follow suit.
DRAKE January 10, 10:30 p.m., $50-$150. XS, 702-770-7300.