Rappers are no strangers to hyperbole. I sincerely doubt Kendrick wishes his dick was as big as a national monument and we all know Makonnen is more likely to spend Tuesday watching How I Me Your Mother reruns. It's not a bad thing, you gotta give 'em poetic license, but if you sit there and try to examine the logistics and reality of the bars, you'll have a hard time enjoying anything. Sometimes you jut have to let it go (no Elsa). Unless, of course, you are an obsessive rap nerd who loves discussing hip-hop in exhaustive detail.
Well, lucky(?) for you I'm an obsessive rap nerd who loves discussing hip-hop in exhaustive detail.
As you may have heard, last week this guy named Drake dropped an album/tape/album-tape. The first song on the project is "Legend," and one of the first lines of this first song is, "Oh my god, if I die I'm a legend." Now, the average fan might hear that line and say, "hmmm, nice," but when I hear it my mind begins to delve down a rabbit hole so deep it would make Havoc jealous. Drake may have written that in passing, a line to fill up time between mourning his exs, but to me, it's a question that really needs some close examination.
So, if Drake died tomorrow, would he be a legend?
Van Gogh is a legend and he never sold a painting until after he died. Drake? Drake hasn't had that problem. Like him or not, there is no questioning Drake's ability to move the proverbial needle. The numbers he puts up are simply astonishing. As I sat back and watched the live analytics the night If You're Reading This dropped, I saw the number of people on the Booth go higher than Rick Ross' cholesterol. Drake's dominated charts before, but in seeing it happen before my eyes, I developed a new found respect for Aubrey; it was a 12:30 on a Friday morning and there were more people on DJBooth than I had ever seen.
As we all know internet fame doesn't necessarily breed real world results and yet Drake manages to excel in both. In an era where platinum albums are no longer a real marker of a success because they are so unattainable, each one of Drake's three albums have gone platinum. It took GKMC almost an entire year to go platinum, when two years earlier Drake's debut reached platinum status in four months. Still, that's not nearly as impressive as his follow up, Take Care, which reached the million sold mark in just five weeks - and then Drake went platinum again a year later. Some may say a whole year is a long time, but it's that time that makes the feat even more shocking. Think about how many albums are released every year. Think about how quickly we move on to the next anticipated project. Still, Drake showed sustained success, selling a steady stream of albums year after year now. In my eyes, Jay and Kanye are both certified legends but even in todays climate, they struggle; Jay needs Samsung to buy a million albums and Yeezus barely broke a million. Still Drake, who is much younger mind you, continues to flourish. His surprise mix-album did higher numbers than J. Cole's last album.
Still, sales are but one small factor in a much larger equation. Whether you are on the Van Gogh side or the Drake side, commercial success doesn't tell the whole story.
You know what else was flying off the shelves? Furbys. I threw all my Beanie Babies out for that Furby. Those were so hot for about two seconds. The point is, just because something sells a lot, doesn't make it great. Furbys are spiffy, but nowhere near the legendary status of a hula-hoop or frisbees. Drake is a Furby. He's incredible in the moment, but has yet to show anything that inspires confidence for a truly revolutionary change. There is something extra needed to be a "legend" and that's where Drake falls short.
It's not that I don't listen to Drake, I do, but I only take bits and pieces. I have never felt the need to sit down and listen to an album cover to cover. If you were to take every Drake song and mix them up, it would be difficult to place them back in order. The legends make you remember where you were the first time you heard them. They make you know their history. You can trace their career through their projects. I still get goosebumps from MBDTF, the feeling I get from "The World Is Yours" has grown even stronger with age. I didn't even realize it but I know all the words to All Eyez On Me. Yet, while Drake is always in rotation - typically at the gym or out drinking - I'm realizing I've never developed a deeper connection with the music.
Drake has never given me that moment. I've never gotten goosebumps. I've never sat in the parking lot waiting for a Drake song to end. I've never cried to his music and I've never laughed (only at him). His music sells and is popular, but that's it. He's a reflection of the era rather than the one who really changes things. To be legendary you have to not only stand the test of time but transcend it. The stuff that gets played years later and the artists who make it are legendary because, no matter how much time goes by, how many other albums are released, and how much the culture changes, their music still connects because they have captured something unique about the human experience. In 10 years, when we look back at Drake sing rapping about Twitter beef it will be fun to say "oh yeah I remember that," but that's it.
"Heroes get remembered, but legends never die," but what The Sandlot fails to explain is how in-death people become legends. If Drake were to die tomorrow, how would that affect his legacy. Of course it's a tragedy when anyone young passes away, whether they're a construction worker of platinum rapper. Drake's death would be devastating because ultimately he's a human being and the death of a person is always sad, but would hip-hop be unable to recover? Would the future of rap look a little less bright without Drake? In terms of artisty, in terms of making hip-hop the absolute best it can be, I'm not sure we would miss his depth because quite frankly he never had it to begin with. He may pass the test when it comes to popularity, album sales and putting on other artists but making music that the world needs, music that connects on a more spiritual level, is where Drake falls short and that is the most important check mark for any legend.
I can't picture a world where "Juicy" or "Changes" doesn't exist, but I can picture a world without "Legend." Only time and Drake himself will ultimately be able to cement his legacy one way or another, but right now he's just not legendary, no matter how well he sings about it.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]