Drake is so soft. How soft is he?
Drake is so soft, cats watch videos of him on the internet for lolz.
Drake is so soft, he pours breast milk in his cereal.
Drake is so soft, Charmin uses him to wipe its ass. (He kind of asked for that one.)
Next to Rick Ross fat jokes, soft Drake jokes are the most fun, and the easiest, to make. Like anyone else I make a lot of Drake jokes, but the truth is I have a lot of respect for him. The problem is that there are people out there who equate softness with lack of skill; people think he's a bad rapper. (We already examined his hardest verses.) He may not be the best emcee out there, but bad? Get outta here. Honestly, I think half the people who say they hate him don't really hate him. Have you ever heard "0 to 100" at a concert or club? Everyone goes nuts. I'd have to imagine some of those people are the same people who say he sucks. Fair or not, that's the way it has always been.
We have have proved Jay Z, Kanye, and Lil Wayne are dope rappers, but that's like proving grass is green and water is wet. Now it's time to really test our prove-they-can-rap skills by trying to convince all the doubters that Drake is a bonafide, red-blooded emcee. Of course the conversation will probably look something like this, but that doesn't mean we can't try.
If you are new to the series, here's the deal. Somehow, someway, there's a person out there who loves hip-hop, but has never actually heard Drake rap, and doubts that he's very good. Your job is to prove to that person with one song, and one song only, that a guy named Aubrey is actually worthy of being called an emcee. Which record are you going with? No mention of the song's production, the album it's from, nothing. We're talking just rapping. You have one song or guest verse to showcase Drizzy's lyricism, flow, delivery, and that special X-factor that every great rapper must possess. This isn't a "best song" debate; "Just Hold On We're Going Home" might be your favorite, but you can't tell me that's his best rap performance. It's so hard to put just the verses in a vacuum, but that's what you have to do. Make that hater say, "Shit, I guess he can rap." Which song are you going with?
"Going In For Life"
The tendency on all of these "Prove" pieces is to pick the hardest, craziest, most face-meltingest song created, but there is also something to be said about rapping over something slower and more soulful; a more finessed approach. Case in point, "Going In For Life." I wasn't too familiar with Drake's early mixtapes, so I went back, looking for something raw that slapped me in the face. I didn't find it. I don't think Drake was that developed yet (as an artist). What I did find was one of Drake's most impressive efforts. Though he doesn't use a exuberant, rapid-fire delivery, Drake has you hanging on every word. Anyone can get people going on a crazy, Just Blaze-esque beat, but it takes a true emcee to grab your full attention with a more low-key approach. There is a nonchalance and fluidity to his work that makes this a great pick. Drake isn't trying too hard and the result is technically sound verses with a casual charisma.
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You may not think he's the best, but Drake certainly thinks so. His confidence is one of his best attributes and it is on full display on "Draft Day." He's clever, heavy-handed, charismatic, and amusing all in the same song. Lines like "See whatever I say goes, I play like I'm on 'roids, no Canseco," evoke an oh shit! reaction. Then with a completely different flow, the transition is seemless as he delivers a line like, "On some Hunger Games shit, I would die for my district / Jennifer Lawrence, you can really get it / I mean for real, girl you know I had to do it for ya." I love this song because it lands in that "Drake trying to prove he is a real rapper" streak and not only is it his most convincing effort, but it's also the least in-your-face. He lets his skills and confidence do all the talking; there isn't a weak aspect to this effort. Plus, the fact that he manages not to ruin a Lauryn Hill sample should get him bonus points. There are very few more beloved figures in hip-hop than Ms. Hill, and most people would love a chance to shit on someone for ruining an amazing song, but Drake executes in the clutch.
Look, I know this song might as well be named "Eminem takes a lyrical poop on three of the biggest rappers around," but just because Em shits on everyone doesn't mean that poop-covered Drake didn't come with the hot fiyah. Obviously Eminem has the most memorable verse, but Drake's ain't too shabby. What stands out to me the most are Drake's potent one liners: "Last name Ever, first name Greatest/ Like a sprained ankle, boy I ain't nothing to play with." Even Drake haters have quoted those two lines a million times. "Labels want my name beside a X like Malcolm." "If I was at the club you know I balled [bald]...chemo." How can you deny the dopeness in those lines? Plus, they are all from one verse; that's a loaded verse. The guy may not out-rap Em, Kanye and Weezy, and he never will, but he holds his own next to those big names. Impressive.
"5AM In Toronto"
People want to make Drake out as this catchy, hook-driven guy. Those people have't heard "5 AM In Toronto." No hook, no singing, just three plus minutes of forceful rap; bars on top of bars. There was a while there where I never took Drake serious, but that ended when I heard this record. In fact, I remember the exact second, it was when he said, "Give these niggas the look, the verse, and even the hook/That's why every song sound like Drake featuring Drake." That's a cold fucking line right there. This isn't my favorite version of Drake, but it's exactly what people say he can't do and it's hard to find a flaw in his delivery. He's gritty yet crisp, and of course, confident. Did I mention the "Drake featuring Drake" line?
A talented rapper should be able to ruthlessly dismantle a beat, but a talented emcee can take a verse that might not be the most technical or surgical and with a ton of energy get the people moving. For Drake that record is "Uptown." Does it showcase his most convincing flow or best lyrics? Probably not, but damn it if this verse isn't fun to listen to. Someone who can't rap isn't fun to listen to. There are so many colorful, over the top lines here - "I drive two black cars, I named 'em Malcolm X and Martin Luther" - and while they aren't the most conscious, they really fit the ostentatious vibe of the song and hit hard. I always rap along with this record because each line jumps out. I have a blast whenever this song is on and there is something to be said for that.
The Winner: 5 AM In Toronto
Man, this was tough. "Draft Day" is a damn good rap tune, and I know there's a whole boatload more people will probably bring up: "9 AM in Dallas," "The Calm," etc. But I think I have to go "5 AM In Toronto" because it's exactly what people repeatedly say he can't do. No sing-songy hooks, no cheesy, heartbreak-oriented lyrics, just three minutes of pure, unfiltered rap.
Now bring on the hate...
[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.]