“This crowd is a microcosm for whom Drake speaks. He might not be the sole voice of our generation, but he’s definitely a voice of our generation. He’s postcategorization in a way that suggests he grew up with unlimited access to data, absorbing and synthesizing disparate scenes and eras and spitting out a product that feels unique to him. The age of information, meanwhile, has added to the problem of most young people being a bunch of narcissistic assholes by giving them a broader platform to act out in public than ever before. In this way, he is the leader of the new school of performative introspection.”
Drew Millard’s profile of Drake for Noisey struck a sour note for me. Not only in writing style (pedestrian phrasing paired with faux-lofty ideas), but in how it seemed to be an under-thought profile written about a boring, limited idea of a man rather than the complicated, under-nuanced man himself.
The immediately uninteresting angle of the profile is that Drake—or better clarified Millard’s idea of Drake—is that the rapper is “a potential voice of a generation”. “Drake is the voice of Black music in the 2010s” / “Drake is the Leader of the New Rap Middle Class”, would be good enough for a striking or provocative headline or thesis, instead this piece receives the vapid “Drake is Running for the President of the Universe” across its banner. The piece also begins with a bad joke-but-not-a-joke about “Drake walking into a bar”, so obviously the critical aim of the piece was not too high. Even to reduce the standards for this piece, it is alarming that for a profile as much about Drake as the people he’s supposed to speak for, that it glosses over any mentions class and race, except a weak section about Drake dismissing his own sexism. Beyond being young and using social media (the entire developed world is his audience?!), I do not have any image of the type of people that Drake is supposed to represent.
Millard calls Drake “postcategorization”, which rings false. No one, no matter how famous and successful is able to evade the cultural boxes people are placed in be it race, religion, class or gender; and giving Drake that ability reduces him down. The Drake in this piece could not be a strong black man or the vision of a successful middle class rapper, because he is given none of those markers to work with. The Drake from this piece would fill out a census with “Income: Drake” and “Hometown: Drake”. Millard placing Drake potentially as a figure to speak for his generation is already a low-stakes claim, but even more so when he exists as a race of one. How can one person speak for an entire generation, if they never appear in the people they represent?
Drake here might be placed above categorization, but that is a luxury that does not exist for the real Drake, and certainly doesn’t for anyone that listens and enjoys his music. The people who appreciate and relate to Drake do it because they see something in him, his words and actions that reveal something about them. What Katherine’s piece a couple weeks back perfectly captured was that Drake’s music/worldview doesn’t include her in anyway, and that is my issue with Millard’s piece. Where the actual Drake makes music that limits and reduces down the women in his life, to the point that for Katherine that he closed off any entry points into his music. Millard for myself transforms Drake into a figure I can no longer see myself in, which is to be perfectly honest is an impressive feat. Millard takes a Black suburban pop star, who shares my unkempt afro that I have identified with many times before and whitewashes him to an unrecognizable degree.