Aubrey “Drake” Graham. Some people love him and some just think he’s overrated. Regardless, it’s near impossible to deny how much he impacts modern pop culture, whether it be through dumb memes, acronyms, social media trends, or even challenging masculinity tropes. Drake is truly something else. While I am a fan of his music, this article isn’t to praise him. I just want to examine how his cultural influence surpassed music.
It’s been a decade and I don’t think I’ve ever been Drake-less. The actor-turned-artist is persistent and always seems to be pushing out content in the digital age, so it’s hard for me to miss him. With five studio albums and four mixtapes, the man doesn’t seem to take a break. So there’s no questioning how his influence doesn’t seem to take a break either. To me, the most notable influences of his that surpass music are linguistics, memes, emotion, and concepts of women.
Linguistics – Do people still use YOLO anymore? I don’t hear it that much anymore, but I know for a fact that it dramatically shifted youth linguistics for a pretty long time. If you aren’t in the know, YOLO stands for you only live once. Taken from the song The Motto off of his 2011 Take Care album, just about everybody was using it, even if they didn’t know where it came from. I remember loving the song but hating it whenever it was used outside of the song because most people just used it as an excuse for acting dumb.
Even still, I remember being in a sort of awe because I was consciously experiencing one of my favourite things about hip-hop culture: linguistics. When Fat Joe’s Make it Rain came out in 2006, I wasn’t aware of the influence it would have when Lil Wayne sang the chorus and likened making it rain to blowing a lot of money. Even a decade later, that phrase is still used to mean the same thing. I don’t hear people say “YOLO” as often anymore, but it’s still the same cultural impact.
Memes – Just about any prominent figure these days will inevitably become a meme used by any community. With the sense of humour the internet curates, no one is safe. Granted, Drake kind of asked for it; the whole music video for Hotline Bling (2016) is a meme and he’s the guy who lint-rolled his pants courtside at a Raptors game. So when the internet reacted, he shouldn’t have been surprised. Could the In My Feelings challenge be considered a meme as well?
Emotion – Toxic masculinity is everywhere and the rap game is no stranger to that. Fortunately, Drake challenges this mentality in the game not only by often singing soulful R&B but mostly through lyrical content. Lots of his songs shamelessly deal with his raw emotions and men seem to have no problem singing or rapping along to them. Drake is definitely comfortable talking about his emotions, no matter how vulnerable or feminine they may make him seem and this helps other men—or anybody told emotions are irrelevant—get more acquainted with their emotions. In a way, his music can be seen as self-care to fans because it is often so raw and emotional. When’s the last time you had feelings to Marvin’s Room or the hook in Aston Martin Music?
Women – I’d be remiss if I talked about Drake’s sensitivity and not his attitudes towards women. In just about any of his emotional songs, he’s talking about a girl. This is completely normal and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but he always seems to be talking down on the girl, shaming her for not fulfilling his emotional needs—whatever those may be. I call this the “good girl” mentality because it perpetuates the idea that women need to be content in staying inside and not feel the need to go out. Just to use Hotline Bling as an example again, he’s singing about how disappointed he is in his partner because she’s starting to express herself in a way he doesn’t seem to like and just be an extrovert. The boys—men typically don’t do this—I see shaming girls for essentially being liberated and having fun are the same boys who complain that girls going after the “wrong” guys. Emotions are important and shouldn’t be ignored, but just because you’re sensitive does not mean I’m obliged to cater to your projected insecurities.
On the flipside, Drake also tends to celebrate women in a manner we don’t see too much in rap, save for rappers praising their mothers. Specifically, Drake celebrates financially independent women who are making a name for themselves and by themselves through hard work and focus. Everybody likes that and can relate to that because most women strive to be something greater to please no one but themselves. If they find a partner along the way, that’s just a bonus.
Like him or not, Drake has done a lot to this generation. What are your favourite cultural impacts he or hip-hop, in general, has had on us? What is your least favourite? Do you even like Drake all that much? You ever watch Degrassi? Let me know in the comments down below!
Nothing but love.