Let me start this out by being clear I am an avid Drake fan, the memories connected to his music are some of my best and worst. I am however not a “stan” and Aubrey Drake Graham is far from perfect but his recent feud with Pusha T has stirred up an interesting conversation for me internally.
Black men at large have seemingly always had a problem with Drake, comments like “oh he’s too soft” “that’s light skinned music” “he’s not a rapper, he makes music for bi*ches” one could go on and on. At the root of this dislike is a fundamental discomfort with emotional introspection, almost as if many black men are afraid to confront themselves emotionally. Which is an action Drake has premised his entire career upon…. looking inward, discussing the feelings of a given moment and unpacking them on wax or in his own words “I’ve made career off reminiscing”. Songs like “Since Way Back” “Doing It Wrong” and most famously “Marvins Room” characterized Drake and set him apart from most of hip hops popular MCs. Founded on the sonics of fore-bearers such as Kanye and Kid Cudi and anchored by super producer and best friend Noah “40” Shebib; Drake has constructed his own lane and has dominated Hip Hip for nearly a decade. This reign has often been to the ire of hip hop purists (black men), and with charges of ghostwriting Drake’s positioning has always been a heated debate.
On the other hand Pusha T a veteran MC from the legendary group Clipse and is to many the personification of Hip Hop. His pen is unquestioned, and his voice always respected in the game. Currently he stands as the president of G.O.O.D music and just released his latest project “Daytona” to critical acclaim. Push has long had a deep rooted disdain for Drake by way of Lil Wayne and the Cash Money camp and because of that the two have traded bars and jabs for almost a decade. However this round appears to be different, heavier… more substantial, most likely so because this is the first time the two have created tracks focusing solely on each other. Push sparked the round off with “Infrared” followed quickly by Drake’s “Duppy Freestyle and then Pusha T’s “Story of Adidon”. This track particularly is interesting ( and No not just because Push reveals to the general public that Drake has an illegitimate child) because of the manner in which Push attacks his opponent. One of Push’s most powerful bars “Confused, always felt you weren’t Black enough/Afraid to grow it cause your fro wouldn’t nap enough”, highlights a key issue many have with Drake is blackness or better yet lack thereof. This bar comes after bars ripping through Drake’s relationship with his father (Dennis Graham, celebrity in his own right).
There are significant contradictions that Push’s track creates in the culture, why is it ok to undermine the blackness of lighter skinned black man? Would we support Drake if he delivered bars making fun of how nappy Push’s hair is or about how much of a broken family dynamic he has? An interesting point is that Push uses stereotypical black themes to attack his opponent while in the same breathe questioning Drake’s blackness. All while black men at large laugh at the same charges they themselves may be afflicted by. Let me ask this, what is more black than:
- A broken home
- A single mother
- An absent father
- A black men pursuing seemingly sub par white women
Problematic right? and then there’s the issue of black face and the performative outrage around this particular case. To outline for those who are unaware Push dug up an old picture of Drake in blackface and the question has been does Drake deserve to be “canceled” for it? Keep in mind this picture is over a decade old and placed in the context of artistic expression by Drake:
Many have said that Blackface represents the third rail of black social consciousness, but then I have to ask how can we reclaim and re-purpose a word as traumatic and charged as Nigger but somehow Blackface is untouchable. Furthermore in this era of social justice high-mindedness, how far back do we reach to assess one’s “wokeness”. This isnt in reference to the assessment of older more outwardly problematic generations. Instead relatively young generally progressive leaning folks that are constantly learning and growing as we in society become more socially conscious.
Here’s the bottom-line for me, I believe there are many charges to attack Drake with, ghostwriting, serial dating, the perputal heartbreak one can go on and on. However attacking the blackness of a black man is a chapter directly out of white supremacy’s greatest hits. As black men how can we generally value and revere lighter skinned black women then turn around and shun lighter skinned black men? In my eyes at least it appears many have been waiting for Drake to fail not because they hate his music (I call these folks closet Drake listeners ) but because Drake shatters most of the concepts of black male dominance in Rap. Which in turns forces disciples of those tenants to rethink and reevaluate their perspectives. Regardless of the social context, this beef is a beautiful moment in hip hop.