News broke this week that superstar Drake could be jumping on budding star Megan Thee Stallion ‘s bubbling hit “Big Ole Freak” and of course the Twitter timeline quickly split on the matter.
For some, they were excited at what it could do for Megan’s career though she is making pretty big moves on her own and this remix surely isn’t necessary. For others, they resorted to the “Drake is a culture vulture” argument and cited other artists who have fallen off after working with The Boy.
The latter side doesn’t sit well with me because it places zero accountability on the artists Drizzy works with. As big of a star as he is, surely a joint effort puts anyone in the mainstream spotlight. It’s up to the smaller artist to then use that platform and hype to propel themselves forward sans the 6 God.
The fans who complain that Aubrey uses new artists and then leaves them in the dust seem as though they expect Drake to hold their hands throughout the rest of their careers solely because they worked together once. Friendships and chemistry do develop, often leading to a continued working relationship, but business is business at the end of the day.
When a professional mentor plugs you in for a job, are they supposed to fill out the application and interview for you? When a friend throws the lob to a crush, are they supposed to text them and take them out on dates for you too? When you attend office hours, is a professor supposed to just do your homework for you whether you understand it or not? All of these people are guides, and surely Drake can serve as a guide too. When it’s to the point he is being critiqued for not doing the work for artists he has no obligation to, is when the argument goes beyond rational thought and fairness.
Aubrey Drake Graham is and has been his own artist. His primary priority is himself and his content. Selfish, but common in the industry. Taking time away to help others limits how much he can accomplish on his own. Of course, artists of his stature often look to create a legacy by taking others under their wing and he’s done that for years now with the OVO label. Arguments about PARTYNEXTDOOR, dvsn., or Majid Jordan not reaching the heights they potentially could are a lot more well-received and understood by me. Not that they aren’t super talented, but rather they aren’t promoted enough and are stuck behind his shadow being on his label. I get that to an extent.
The resounding truth when it comes to the Makonnen’s and The Weeknd’s of the world, or Future, A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar is that there are no contractual obligations there. Doing a feature or a remix that gives you more recognition is a favor from him in a way. It is in no way required to be an extended favor and I’m not willing to sit by while these false narratives are perpetuated. There is a strong sense of entitlement in expecting or calling for him to work magic beyond a guest verse or hook. Certain artists have gotten the co-sign and shrank, on their own. Others have gotten it and soared, like Hendrix, Rocky, and KDot, on their own. The bigger artist doesn’t automatically assume responsibility for the rising talent.
Makonnen benefitted enormously from the “Tuesday” remix and he delivered some solid content afterward. I’m aware that things became a bit more personal between him and Drake which led to them no longer working together, but I would argue that even when they were on good terms he wasn’t consistent enough to truly capitalize. Is that Drake’s fault?
The Weeknd is very clearly doing just fine since giving up almost half of his album to Drake around the Take Care era. He’s got multiple #1’s, Grammy victories, Grammy nominations, and certified pop star status. Things fell apart somewhat negatively between him and Drake when Abel didn’t sign to OVO, but instead of complaining about it Abel just kept on working. And over time, they seemingly rekindled things with a few live performances together and Drake appearing in the “Reminder” video from Starboy.
The notion that big artists ought to extend their hand down the totem pole toward those climbing it is valid. Lift as you climb, build as you grow. Why not share the game, in an effort to push the culture forward? The issue is the feeling that it is mandated. Fans don’t know what happens behind the scenes, and assumptions lead to misinformation and clickbait headlines.
For all we know, Summer Walker could have asked him to add a verse to “Girls Need Love.” And as the numbers show, the remix has done wonders as it is still in the Top 5 Hot R&B Songs and most-streamed R&B songs on Billboard. As we all know, big records for artists lead curious fans to dig into the rest of their catalog.
Could Drake Tweet a song link or post on his Instagram for people to stream an artist’s song, rather than doing a remix? Sure, but why do that when you’re an artist yourself and the most influential thing you can do for someone else is collaborate with them musically? A verbal co-sign is one thing, but there’s a level of respect and admiration which comes with entering an artist’s world and fitting yourself into their sound. That is what throws fans into a frenzy.
Not to mention, the range of features Drake has done in his career ( Lil Baby, Migos, 2 Chainz, Rihanna, Blocboy JB) just speak to his versatility and ability to adapt to different sounds. I respect not liking the music, and not every remix he does turns out better than the original version. However, to place the onus on him to be an artist’s saving grace when they don’t use his alley-oop to its fullest is simply unreasonable.
Even artists like ScHoolboy Q who Drake has yet to work with speak highly of him and his impact. He recently admitted that the Toronto Raptors global ambassador is one of the greats, but people just don’t want to say it. Back in 2013, he sent out a Tweet that stands true to this day.
Many people dislike Drake for a variety of reasons, but these same people are always keeping up with what he is doing so they can get their thoughts out and debate. With increasing fame comes increasing hate. With increasing hate comes incessant publicity, which only serves to benefit him and anyone he works with.
To those who take issue with the Scorpion rapper not doing more for other artists, I respect the opinions that you are entitled to hold. I simply want to ask you — if Drake latched on to every artist he worked with and consistently made successful music with them throughout the duration of their careers, wouldn’t it reach a point where you question whether or not they could achieve what they have without him? Right now he’s not doing enough, but let’s not pretend we aren’t quick to say people do too much and wouldn’t be big without specific figures in their corner.
Artists like 21 Savage, Migos and Lil Baby should serve as the model. They worked extremely hard before they were blessed with the Drake collab, and even harder afterward to maintain relevance. It’s about consistency and quality too. Not just your name being next to Drake’s. The Drake feature doesn’t guarantee superstardom. You are your own artist, and you have to hold up your end of the deal. It only works out in the negative if you allow it to.
Beyond all of this, I personally feel the argument should end when the artists themselves express excitement and gratitude when they get the call. Why are we as listeners so critical when the people delivering us the music couldn’t be happier? Where’s the disconnect? I reckon it has to do with unfair and unreasonable expectations in large part due to the status Drake has. The proclivity to hate everything he does taints the lense in which people view his actions. I can’t relate, but I get it.
Originally published at https://kazimagazine.com on May 1, 2019.