*One of the most dangerous things a person can do is believe their own hype. No matter how much of a messianic phenom the media proclaims one to be, you must not believe the hype. This is generally a recipe for disaster.
There are those who ascended to greatness by using positive hype, and negative criticism (P. Diddy and Jay-Z to name but a few), but this is tantamount to dancing on the edge of a giant razor because those that praise you and claim you’re “the One” will be the very same people that turn on you and cut you to shreds whenever the opportunity arises.
And if no opportunity for negative press arises, then some media reps will simply make something up. One need only look at the past 20 years in the life of Michael Jackson, the greatest pop icon ever, as an example of this phenomena.
Now, in the words of 90s rap group Black Sheep, back on the scene, crispy and clean, comes Aubrey Drake Graham of Toronto, Canada, the former star of the Canadian TV show “Degrasssi.”
“I’m just grateful [that] I’m not just the kid off ‘DeGrassi’ anymore,” Drake told LA Times reporter Chris Lee. “Everybody on ‘DeGrassi,’ the producers, made us feel (the show) was the biggest thing we would ever do in our lives, like that was the end of the road for all of us.”
Indeed? Sometimes, to get the best out of you, leaders tend to lie to us to motivate us. Like when a sports coach tells his best player he’s not that good, even though he is. It’s to get them to block out all other things and focus on the task at hand. Thankfully, Drake didn’t block everything out. He ran into Lil’ Wayne in 2008 and was shown the ropes by the hottest rapper below the age of 30. Then Drake self-distributed his mixtape EP “So Far Gone,” which sold hundreds of thousands of iTunes downloads and yielded the single “Best I Ever Had.” It topped the R&B/hip-hop chart for seven weeks and was the opening shot in a rapidly competitive bidding war.
His first and, can you believe, only full length major label CD to date, “Thank Me Later,” hits the streets today. It’s still very hard to believe that this is his solo debut because he’s already dominating the airwaves in certain geographic areas, and even gets a fair amount of airplay in Los Angeles and New York City, two locales that are notoriously geocentric.
In other words, radio stations in the two aforementioned cities are far more likely to play your music if you’re from there than if you’re not. How does one do that? For someone that’s relatively straight out the box like CoCo Puffs, Drake has already collaborated with the likes of Jamie Foxx, Alicia Keyes, Eminem and Young Jeezy.
The Toronto native’s star is being catapulted into an unheard of stratosphere at an alarming rate! After nearly 2 years of constant hype and speculation Drake is now on Aspire/Young Money/Cash Money Records and is being distributed by Universal Motown. There are four separate entertainment entities involved in Drake’s album. That means many people believe in his skills, but it also means there are many different ways the pie needs to be divided. If he succeeds a lot of people get rich. If he fails he will owe a lot of people. That fact is not lost on Drake.
“A lot of people are treating this not like it’s my first album – but like it’s my last album,” Drake said during an interview with the LA Times. “It could be my last if it’s not that great. That’s where the pressure comes from: people thinking I won’t have another chance.”
Like it or lump it, record execs all over the country believe this young man is the Obama of urban pop music. He brings a sense of hope. All those involved in his project hope he will be a tremendous success. They dream of diamonds, baby! 10 million albums sold! Honestly that doesn’t seem too far-fetched given the overwhelming love being showed him from the streets to the suburbs, in the US and Canada, and from young Hip-Hoppers (Young Money) and vets as well (Jay-Z, Eminem, Kayne West). Perhaps it’s not just the execs that are hoping for a hit, but artists as well. And you can’t really blame them. Album sales are at near all time lows overall. And don’t get us started on the ring-tone tunes. Our feelings on the subject can be described in the acronym for Princeton University, PeeeeUuuuuu!
“He’s able to enter the market at a time when people have diminished expectations,” XXL senior editor Benjamin Meadows-Ingram said. “There is no benchmark for what success is. And if you can’t judge it on sales alone, you have to ask, ‘Did the album artistically perform the way you wanted it to?”
We hate to sound old, but remember when you could put a Hip-Hop album in and just let it ride out? Every song seemed like a classic. Biggie’s “Ready To Die,” Das EFX first album, most of Biz Markie’s work, the Roots still make a instant classics but no one’s listening and don’t even get us started on 36 Chambers! To be sure, this CD will appeal to a different generation of Hip-Hop and many of rap’s traditional fans may not get it! It’s almost a foregone conclusion that “Thank Me Later” will sell, but will it be artistically acceptable and will it stand the test of time like Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” for example?
“Hip-hop is all about moments,” said Drake. “You look at people who were hot three or four years ago who are sitting around reminiscing. It’s fickle. It’s a game of moments. I’m the moment right now.” “I don’t feel like I’m a great rapper right now,” he said. “I feel I’m good at what I do. But I want to be – if not the best – I want to reach my personal best. I just want to be better, man. That’s all.”
That quote showed a very humbled young man who has his head screwed on tight and we hope he is as good as he believes he, and record execs, believe he can be. To witness a classic album is the secret wish of anyone who was ever given the tasks of writing a review on an album. We hope that every selection is a hit. After all, who wants to witness mediocrity?
“Thank Me Later” will feature guest appearances by Jay-Z, Alicia Keyes, Lil’ Wayne, Nicki Minaj (of course), T.I., Young Jeezy and two songs produced by Kanye West. One of which is called “Find Your Love.” Drake calls this song his only “out-and-out” mainstream track on the CD.
“I’m where I truly deserve to be,” Drake told the New York Times. “I believe in myself, in my presence, enough that I don’t feel small in Jay’s presence. I don’t feel small in Wayne’s presence.”
Is this the beginning of a radical ego trip or is Drake one of those rare talents that can succeed while simultaneously reading, and believing, their own press? Only time will tell!