Drake has been a non-stop hitmaker in hip-hop, but does the presence of ghostwriters in his camp dilute his legacy as a GOAT?
When Meek Mill “exposed” Drake for using Quentin Miller as a ghostwriter, a large sector of his fans was not surprised. There were a few punchlines that swarmed the internet for a moment, but with an intervention from another Drake hit, the mumblings grew silent and Drake was once again lauded for his propensity to drop hits, no matter the swing – be it from Pusha T or Meek Mill.
At the end of it all, though, where will Drake sit in the timeless hip-hop GOAT conversation? Drawing a commercial-size audience is one thing, but does the presence of ghostwriters demote Aubrey Graham’s legacy among the greatest lyricists the game has seen?
That depends on who you ask. The criteria for GOAT status in music, hip-hop specifically, changes with the generation. There are far less hip-hop purists setting forth verdicts about the matter. Just check the landscape of the industry. Artists like Migos and Lil Yachty are two of the most popular acts of this time in hip-hop, but at the beginning of their careers, both were scolded for the lack of acknowledgement they showed for the history of the art form and the lack of lyricism either of the four brought to the table.
These young men were crowned “mumble rappers”, a style that hip-hop purists frowned upon because it removed the importance of the words and the story of the music. This, in turn, placed the audience’s attention squarely on production and how to most productively ride the beat. Although Drake has never been placed in this spectrum of artistry, the idea of the ghostwriter trivializes those very principles hip-hop purists stand upon.
The lyrics are the bread and butter of a song, or at least that has been the case in the past. Newer-age hip-hop fans are less considered with the notion of lyrical greatness or excellence and the criteria for what constitutes a solid lyrical performance has shifted. Drake’s ability to exude a raw honesty and emotion in his music made him popular in hindsight, but his ability to be open about the presence of the assistance on his records has also taken weight off his shoulders.
It’s almost as if Drake’s willingness to allow a peek behind the curtain at his writing team has allowed other artists to feel more comfortable admitting to the fact. Ghostwriters are no longer taboo in hip-hop, but are presently cast as necessary evils to build a successful and charting track.
Meek Mill’s claims of how non-instrumental Drake is in his songs were met with a shrug of shoulders because it was information the Canadian-bred rapper already presented to the public. Q. Miller was properly credited for his contributions to Drake’s album and so were many other composers, producers and writers. The flaw was turned into a standard characteristic of his music.
The Toronto superstar’s lack of public shame diluted the message, because you can’t expose someone who is not embarrassed of the facts, or at least doesn’t show it.
What keeps Drake’s legacy out of harm’s way? It’s the hits, of course. In October of 2018, Drake broke the Beatles’ record for the most top-10 singles on the Hot 100 chart in a year with his feature in “MIA” which is performed by Puerto Rican mc, Bad Bunny. Since the release of So Far Gone in 2009, which peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard 200, Drake has produced a solid cycle of hits in both the hip-hop and pop scopes of music.
Take Care, released two years later in 2011, churned out hitters like “Headlines”, “The Motto” and “Crew Love”, which gave us our first love affair with The Weeknd. From Nothing was the Same to a joint album with Future, titled What A Time to Be Alive and his 2017 released More Life, Drake’s continuously chucking out bangers.
He has ensured his relevance in a way that rivals the idea that the presence of words that came from someone else’s mind is the last thing his fans are thinking about when they’re moving and grooving to one of his tracks.
The sole trait of Drake’s career that could stand in the way of Hip-Hop GOAT status is his proclivity to stray from the genre, or at least the appearance of it. There is a bias in what category Drake sits in as an artist. There is a faction of hip-hop fans who label the rapper a pop act. Songs like “One Dance” and “Hotline Bling” add to this assertion. That’s where the culture shift is most effective.
Many hip-hop artists, in order to chase the bag and grow their central audience, have dabbled in the pop arena or at least with pop stars. It’s the norm and the intersection of the genres has become more prevalent in recent times. Drake benefits from being able to drop a song considered pop and rotate back to his roots in hip-hop with features like on Blocboy JB’s “Look Alive” or more recently his collaborative effort with Rick Ross on “Money in the Grave”.
Drake is one of the most visible artists of the generation and admitting that he has help to script his hits has yet to knock him off that pedestal. After more charted tracks and more time has passed, his stance will only grow stronger and his placement among the GOATs of hip-hop will be sculpted.
Think about it like this: if Wheelchair Jimmy can break into the hip-hop industry in the first place, what is going to stop him here?