Drake and the Infinite Sadness
After the show, it’s the after-party. And after the party it’s the hotel lobby, which you shuffle sadly out of into an unforgiving sunrise, and you realize that money, power and rosé can’t buy you inner peace. So, if you’re Drake, you grow a beard and make some songs about that sad epiphany.
The ACL-injury-suffering, Toronto-representing, Young-Money-affiliated MC has been drumming up anticipation for his upcoming sophomore album, Take Care, with a series of feel-bad songs of the summer, like “Marvins Room” and “Trust Issues.” Even the triumphantly titled “Dreams Money Can Buy” is rife with lyrical bummers, with Drizzy claiming he doesn’t have time to learn how to drive stick and worrying about how to get his girl through customs. Someone call Drake’s therapist, he’s on fire. She should work tonight.
“Rapper on the verge of a nervous breakdown” is a tricky pose to pull off. This is a genre that traditionally trucks in declarations of supremacy. And furthermore, nobody likes to hear about rich people being lonely, unless it’s executed very, very well.
Like he has in the past, Drake is following the lead of Kanye West. It was Kanye who really made the middle-class-rapper-makes-it-big a viable template. It was Kanye who made it safe for emcees to sing (even if he hid behind Auto-Tune), it was Kanye who consciously cross-pollenated hipster-approved indie and electronica with a modern hip-hop sound. And it was Kanye who showed that losing your damn mind could be a viable career move.
However, where Kanye was messy, publically intoxicated, musically fearless and socially, both online and off, unhinged, Drake’s baby-steps into despair seem a bit calculated. He’s just dipping a pedicured toe in.
Drake’s blue period should come as no surprise to longtime listeners. Even during his stratospheric rise to fame, Drizzy was setting himself and his audience up for the fall, rap-mumbling on Thank Me Later’s “Cece’s Interlude,” “I wish I wasn’t famous. I wish I was still in school so that I can have you in my dorm room.”
Calculated or not, Drake’s new, sad MC por vida act is pretty compelling. “Marvins Room,” a song as rambling drunk dial, is backed by overcast, maudlin synths, betraying producer Noah “40” Shebib and Drake’s affinity for Brit dubstep-pop acts like the xx and James Blake.
The video for “Marvins Room” is basically “previously on the saddest episode of Entourage ever made …” Think of it as a DJ Khaled video directed by Mark Duplass: the impossible happens (there is nowhere in North America that Drake can drink alone at a bar) and the awkward is documented (is there a chapter in The Game about drunkenly shoving your four-day beard in a girl’s face?).
The video gamely tries to replicate the feeling of a night out gone wrong; too many drinks, sad, by-yourself meetings in the bathroom, and a bunch of dudes you may or may not trust smoking herbal cigarettes and taking lots of pills.
However, it’s the song itself that really recreates the sloppy, solipsistic stream of consciousness that happens when you’ve had one or three too many; the downside of when you’re on one. Drake flips from chest-beating to self-recrimination to serenading the one; maybe not the one that got away, but the one who isn’t there. Of the song’s almost innumerable lyrical hooks, the best is when Drake sing-raps, “We threw a party, yeah we threw a party.” It’s his. He’ll cry if he wants to.