Drake [@Drake], the commercial powerhouse we have to embrace

Words by Lola Alao (@Iolachristina on Twitter)

Drake has been on the scene for 14 years. He is an artist who always has us all talking. Named as America’s Top Solo Male Artist of all time in 2018, he is consistently at the top (can we give him legend status yet?).

Drake’s lengthy experience and talent is apparent, not only in his ability to make critically acclaimed music but also his ability to make money. And whilst I spend a lot of energy defending his talent and just generally being a fan, I don’t deny that sometimes his sound changes so that he can connect with a larger audience. This isn’t to say that other artists don’t do this, but I think Drake does it insanely well. I could list you many of his quality songs and lyrics, underpinned by clever poetry and clever sampling, but that’s not what this piece is about. What I think we should also appreciate is his ability to jump between commercial and non-commercial sounds.

The release of ‘Toosie Slide’ was clever for a few reasons.

A lot of us are stuck at home. We are bored. We are glued to our phones and laptops. He capitalized on this opportunity and chose to release a new song. It may not be his ‘best’ song but what it does show is that he knows what sells and knows how to have fun with what he creates. In the ‘Toosie Slide’ video, he dances around his mansion as he sings, “Right foot up, left foot slide/ Left foot up, right foot slide”. Simple, yet effective. In this age of Tik Tok, the dance routine is already a trend, with the likes of Luke T from Love Island, DJ Khaled and Lebron James & his family taking part. He also reveals a look into his Toronto mansion (estimated worth of $100m). Another talking point which was bound to make headlines. 

In many of Drake’s works, we also see the amalgamation of different genres. In ‘Toosie Slide’, he wears a balaclava and gloves. And on appearances alone, you might think it’s a Drill song but it soon becomes clear that it’s more ‘Pop-Rap’ in melody and style – although some lyrics aren’t too far off Drill. Over his many years of making music, he shines as the poster boy for creating Rap that does so well it commercially has to be considered Pop. This, in turn, elevates him and enables him to cater to many different audiences. He’s not just a rapper. He is a marketing and entrepreneurial powerhouse.

His commercial presence has history, and we saw a similar reception after the release of 2015’s ‘Hotline Bling’. Featuring awkward, slightly weird dancing and an unforgettable melody, he showed himself as relatable and silly. ‘God’s Plan’ was also a success, in fact, it broke both Apple and Spotify’s daily streaming records in it’s first week. In a Rap Radar interview in reference to ‘God’s Plan’, he says “A lot of this is organic, it’s not that calculated”. “I never could’ve told you a week before that ‘God’s Plan’ was my single and it was gonna be the biggest song of my career”. He attributes some of his success and talent to a higher power. “I do feel as though I can put in the maximum amount of effort, I can use all my heart and my soul in my writing. But at the end of the day, I am being guided by some other power.”

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Every time Drake releases a new song or project, we see the same debates playing out. Is he a good artist? Is he really the best rapper? Beyoncé or Drake? Drake or MJ? And the debates will continue as long as he continues to have such a dominant presence in doing numbers.

But maybe we just need to appreciate him for the distinctive artist he is. As he said himself “I’ve almost left no genre untouched”. Maybe Drake is his own genre, so can we really compare him to anyone?

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