Lawyers call it pro bono, but for rappers, specifically Drake, I'm not quite sure what to call it. I mean, the dude is the Mother Theresa of the rap game. I don't think there is another artist who has hopped on as many records with (at the time) relative no-names as Drizzy. Migos wouldn't be decked out in Versace if it weren't for Drake, and that's not even touching PARTYNEXTDOOR, OB O'Brien, ILOVEMAKONNEN, etc. etc.
The latest winner of the "feed a struggle rapper" sweepstakes is P Reign. Reign's new, Drake-assisted single "DNF" dropped the same night as the new Eminem cut and, for a good hour or so on Sunday night, it was besting Em in pageview count. Spoiler alert, it wasn't because P Reign was on the track.
Turns out, this single is just the latest in a long line of favors Drake has done for Reign. In addition to paying the bill for Reign's myriad legal troubles, Drake has inducted Reign into the OVO family (although he's not signed to the label), taken him on tour, and mentioned him in a song or two. For the full background, you can check out this dope write up our homie Dharmic X wrote, but all you really need to know is Drake has done a lot for Reign, including helping get Reign on tracks with the likes of Future (duh), A$AP Rocky and more.
While Drake's got a hell of a track record of helping to put on artists, it feels like he might have finally pushed too hard here. Could Reign end up being Drake's Memphis Bleek? (You know, that rapper a superstar's known since the jump and feels obligated to really get on, but no matter how hard they push, the public just can't fully get behind them because they're just not that good.)
But I don't want to rush to judgement. Could Reign actually be worth your time? He has been at it for years. Let's see...
If you were expecting another Drake carbon copy, you are in for a surprise. Reign has a much more gritty, trap-friendly sound than the OVO kingpin. Now, I am not the biggest trap/hustler music fan out there, but I'd like to think I can accurately asses a good trap song and nothing I have heard from Reign falls under that umbrella. If this kind of mindless stuff is your bag, than you might like him, but I need some sort of originality or emotion and Reign doesn't have either. With how much time, money, and effort Drake has put in, wouldn't you expect something a little better than this?
To put it simply, nothing about his music makes me say, "Yeah, I can see it." Not his song with Rocky, not the songs I randomly came across going through his catalog, not his last mixtape. Maybe his upcoming "Dear America" EP will change my mind, but I doubt it. (Quick: name one memorable line P Reign spit from "DNF" without listening to the song again.)
Still, I'm going to give Drake the benefit of the doubt; he's infinitely more talented than me, and is exponentially better at evaluating talent. I may not see it, but with the OVO machine behind him maybe P Reign can be at least moderately, kind of, successful. Who knows, if he plays his cards right, he may even land a Garnier Fructis commercial someday?
UPDATE: For those interested, Reign's Dear America tape is now out.
[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.]