Hip-hop hour: the importance of Drake’s ego

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At the very start of the mixtape, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, Drake has the balls to announce, “If I die, all I know is that I’m a motherfucking legend.”

It baffles me that Drake thinks so because, this past October, Pitchfork Media published a blog post, “RIP Drake’s Career: 2009-2014,” and it features several angles of Drizzy airballing in front of a national audience. Rewind back to April, and the Internet was blessed by courtside footage of Drake at a Raptor’s game lint rolling his pants. Go home, Aubrey.

I never thought that I’d have to feel so embarrassed for a “motherfucking legend.” To me, music legends are cool, larger-than-life and inspirational — legends like Pac or Biggie. I’m not sure if Drake has any of these qualities. The only thing that Drake inspires me to do is cry and drunk-dial all my exes — maybe fall in love with a Hooters waitress.

The dude has a fair share of detractors. For every die-hard fan, I’ve met someone who thinks that “his flow sucks” or that “he’s rapped about the same thing for his entire career.” In fact, it’s hard to respect Aubrey Graham when there is an entire Twitter community dedicated to roasting the 6God. According to Twitter, “Drake the type to drink all his water [then] look at his cup and say, ‘You’re not the only one empty.’”

But what’s Drake’s response to all this? A mere shrug. When the whole world caught him lint rolling, he played along on Instagram with the caption, “Lint Rollers on deck.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen Drake flinch at his hecklers, which is oddly admirable because there are so many memes about him online.

Honestly, why would he care? The dude is worth $35 million dollars. He’s rapped over four acclaimed, platinum-selling albums. At one point, Drake simultaneously put fourteen singles on the Billboard 100 — a record that hasn’t been touched since The Beatles.

He knows that he’s great, which is all that really matters. On a special edition of Jimmy Kimmel’s “Lie Witness news,” Drake meets one of his haters on Hollywood Boulevard. Drake says — to the stranger’s face! — “I’m an idiot … I know good and well that I’m Drake, and that I could be at home with multiple women bathing in champagne. But instead I’m interviewing you — with Raybans on.”

Drake never apologizes, despite his ridiculous antics in the limelight. He just shrugs, counts his money, then tosses it in the air and says “fuck it … it’s a lot.” His balls-out bravado is one trait that he shares with the entire lineage of rap icons — he’s aware that he’s “somewhere between psychotic and iconic.”

And how could he afford to be anything but confident? No one ever made it in this genre by staying modest. When Kendrick Lamar released his bombshell diss verse on “Control,” ravaging every rapper on the planet, no one said, “Well, he is a technically gifted lyricist. Kudos to Kendrick. I don’t think I can top that.” No, rappers responded with their own diss tracks, trying to dislodge Kendrick from his throne.

Hip-hop is a community where you are allowed to be as indulgent and egotistical as you can possibly be, regardless of your credentials. It’s a community where idiots such as DJ Khaled can win debates through sheer, unapologetic ignorance. He proved that the Spurs cheated because “there are backup systems.” His source? “The Streets.”

The climate of hip-hop is refreshing because we’re taught in this country to be confident, but we’re never allowed to be too confident. There is always someone better at what you do. What type of message is that for the kids?

Growing up in an Asian-American household, my future was boxed into a couple of noble professions — doctor, lawyer, engineer. Yet, sometimes, I would want to be a writer. “Too risky,” my dad said, “Stick with a degree. You can’t fail that way.”

But not everyone is fortunate enough to want to be a writer instead of a doctor — to be given those kinds of middle-class options. Some kids just want to go to college, but they’re pressured to work at 18 because no one in their families has ever held a degree. Some kids want to go to college instead of crime. We’re all boxed in, some way or another, hardwired to say, “settle for what’s expected of you.”

So it’s important to hear rappers like Drake claim, “All I know is that I’m a motherfucking legend.” It’s very empowering. Even if he is the butt of so many jokes — even if the child star from “Degrassi” was never a likely candidate to be the next rap star — Drake stands his ground. Best case scenario? He’s right. Worst case scenario? He’s still himself. And what’s not to love about that?

Jason Chen is the assistant arts editor and writes the Monday column on hip-hop. Contact him at [email protected].