Written by Brian Capitao
Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa are next line to be considered Chi-town’s finest- long considered students of the game and proteges of the conscious Kanye West that made records like Through the Wire and Touch the Sky.
Chicago is well-represented with emcees like Common, Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West, and now Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa. The inspiration and influence of Mr.West is noticeable on the latter artists.
But what about Drake?
Long before Chance crooned to us, was Drake with his pop sensibilities and sensitive feelings. Drake serenaded us with songs like Best I Ever Had and Replacement Girl. He had a sound that was his own and yet at the same time, very much a carbon print of the existing sound.
Enter 808’s and Heartbreak. Kanye had radically changed his sound. However those who were paying attention saw Kanye heading in this direction once he joined forces with T-Pain on Good Life.The song was so feel good; so high-fructose; that it was an undeniable hit. The song itself went platinum. In an era of Music downloads, the song itself went on to be platinum.
And Drake saw an opportunity. He more or less adopted a similar style to Kanye and went to become a success. Drake found the pop audience he needed. The tides had turned and rappers could no longer dismiss artists with alluring sonorous voices.
Then again, there’s 50 cent.
50 was a war machine. Like a turret, he mowed down artists in his path. 50 cent took Ja Rule’s steez and ran with it. He decimated his opponents with blunt business moves. And he signed promising artists that had some hype to them only for them to be swallowed by his juggernaut label G-unit.
And if we examine the playbook, is what Drake did over the last few years any different? Sure, he’s the hometown hero but he has been ruthless.
Drake made a deal with fellow Toronto artist The Weeknd. Weeknd leant a large helping hand in Drake’s sophomore project, Take Care. But why shouldn’t he get some love back after he helped propel Weeknd to fame? Fair’s fair. Right?
Sure. But Drake’s label OVO has signed its own fair share of promising artists, only for their careers to meet a timely demise. ILoveMakkonnen? PartyNexTDoor? Majid Jordan? Sure those last two artists are still on the label but they feel like they’re there to benefit Drake’s career and maintain the spotlight than to become their own artists. As Noisey aptly described, it feels like Drake’s own personal hit factory.
Will he be the next 50 cent?
Sound familiar? This was the main discrepancy between The Game and 50 cent that led to the whole G-Unot movement. Drake has cannibalized his artists for personal gain. Kind of like how 50 cent used the hype of signing M.O.P and Mobb Deep to strengthen his career. But while 50 had used his artists, he still sounded like himself. Drake, interestingly, has become the rap equivalent of Kirby – absorbing rapper’s abilities to suit him as he sees fit. As Drake’s influence and power only increase, only time will tell what kind of legacy he will have- the self-effacing hometown hero he purports or a ruthless and cunning businessman.
*A correction has been made. Stat Quo and Cashis were never signed to G-unit Records, they were under the Shady/Aftermath division of Interscope.