My answer to Hovafest 2011; Drizzy Madness 2012. I know, I know Drake isn’t even close to Jay-Z’s caliber, and at twenty-five years old, his catalog of music is limited (maybe a better bracket would have been Kanye or an even more noble bracket would have been The Roots), but I feel close to Drake. Not in a weird way, but in a, “if he wasn’t black, Jewish, Canadian, a child actor and one of the biggest rappers alive, we would totally be the same person” way.
Okay, so let’s just establish a few things first:
SONG SELECTION CRITERIA
1. Automatic Bids – Songs from Take Care, Thank Me Later and So Far Gone (mixtape and EP) receive automatic bids (with the expectation of Buried Alive since Drake doesn’t appear that track). Songs that charted on the US Billboard 100 or R&B Billboard charts also receive automatic bids.
2. At Large Bids – Any leak, stray release, or early mixtape track (Comeback Season, Room for Improvement) are eligible for At Large Bids.
3. Eligibility– Songs that feature Drake, but appear only on the other artists’ album are ineligible.
Once this was established, 55 automatic bids were awarded leaving 9 at large bids up for grabs. These last 9 bids were rewarded to the songs I felt were most important to Drake’s career.
The 9 At Large Bids
Paris Morton Music
Man of the Year
City is Mine
Dreams Money Can Buy
I Get Paper
Do It All
I get Lonely Too
I’m Ready For You
Next Step: Seeding
Songs are ranked by popularity. To determine popularity, I looked at the US Billboard charts, R&B Charts and YouTube views. Twenty-eight songs charted on the US Billboard charts and they were seeded according to their chart position (for example, Best I Ever Had is Drake’s highest charted song, therefore it received the overall number one seed). Five songs charted on the R&B charts, but not the US charts, they were ranked accordingly. Any song that did not chart was seeded by their YouTube views (not a perfect science; I suspect Drake’s Brand New received so many views from people simply Googling “brand new Drake” rather than actively searching for the actual song).
There is only one variable to determine what songs advance. Me. Whatever song I feel is best, advances. It’s my bracket DAMMIT!!!
That North North
Best I Ever Had (1) vs. Thank Me Now (16): Thank Me Now was a great choice to close out Drake’s first (official) album. It sums up his rise to stardom perfectly, and he spits one of my favorite lines, “your idols become your rivals, you make friends with Mike but got to A.I. him for your survival.” But without Best I Ever Had there would be no Drake. This song was inescapable during the summer of 2009. Best I Ever Had advances.
Fear (8) vs. The Winner (9): “I never cried when Pac died, but I probably will when Hov does,” is a line that can probably be echoed from any new school rapper or any rap fan under the age of 30 for that matter, it symbolizes a shift in rap music. A shift that is led by Drake. You can still hear a little old Drake (pre So Far Gone) in The Winner, but it can’t hold a candle to Fear.
Fireworks (5) vs. City is Mine (12): Fireworks throws the stunning Alicia Keys on the chorus and the second verse supposedly alludes to a certain someone. City is Mine, a total Toronto Anthem, young Drake shouts out his hometown and he sounds SO young. No contest, Fireworks.
Hate Sleeping Alone (4) vs. Lust For Life (13): Hate Sleeping Alone, a bonus cut from Take Care, has Drake delivering the breathiest flow he can muster. Lust For Life, the opening track from So Far Gone, is not his most complex flow, but it is uniquely Drake. Lust For Life takes it.
Light Up (6) vs. Paris Morton Music (11): Light Up pairs Drake with his idol, the legendary Jay-Z. While Paris Morton Music, a leaked verse from Rick Ross’ Ashton Martin Music, was inspired by this, that’s a lot of inspiration. Upset city, Paris Morton Music. People won’t like this choice, I understand that. If it was the Rikers Remix edition of Light Up (where Wayne’s in The Carter II form) it may have been a different story.
Miss Me (3) vs. Ignorant Shit (14): Each boast a Lil Wayne contribution. Drake holds his own on Miss Me. Ignorant Shit sounds more like a loose freestyle, plus I’d rather just listen to the original. Miss Me takes care of business.
Lord Knows (7) vs. Practice (10): Lord Knows employs an absolutely larger-than-life Just Blaze beat and, in all honesty, it swallows Drake up. Practice, on the other hand, samples some classic Juvenile. And I just can’t pick against Juvenile this early.
The Motto (2) vs. Let’s Call it Off (15): The Motto mixes a strong T-Minus beat with a snappy Drake flow. Let’s Call it Off utilizes an unorthodox Peter Bjorn and John sample to create a very crafty break up track. I only got one thing to say, YOLO. The Motto.
That Up Top
Find Your Love (1) vs. The Ride (16): Drake does his thing over a Kanye beat in Find Your Love (which is very 808 and Heatbreakish). Every radio station played the hell out of this joint in 2010. The Ride is one of Drake’s, “I’m going tell you exactly where I am in my life right now” tracks. Everybody’s going to hate me for this one, but how many times can you repeat the same hook in one song? Who says a 16 can’t beat a 1? The Ride pulls a HUGE upset.
Free Spirit (8) vs. Replacement Girl (9): Drake recruits ‘the bawse’ for Free Spirit and like I’ve said, I love when these two get together. But Replacement Girl may be the most important song in Drake’s career (in terms of success). If Best I Ever Had was a raging forest fire (it was), Replacement Girl was the spark that ignited the forest. Replacement Girl put Drake on BET (and on the radar) as an unsigned little known rapper from Canada. A career changer, Replacement Girl advances.
Crew Love (5) vs. Love What You’ve Done (12): Crew Love functions as a salute to Drake’s team, Look What You’ve Done is an ode to Drizzy’s family. While both are about the people closest to Drake, each takes dramatically divergent paths. Crew Love features The Weeknd, lending his trademark spooky R&B tenor. Look What You’ve Done is straight Drake, up and down, no thrills, just a bit of piano in the back. I’m not going to make a lot of friends with this choice, but Look What You’ve Done in a close one.
HYFR (4) vs. Dreams Money Can Buy (13): Don’t f*ck with me. Not even an awesome music video can convince me not to take Dreams Money Can Buy. I guess I should elaborate considering I just picked a 13 over a 4. Drake raps “I feel like lately I went from top 5 to remaining 5, my favorite rappers either lost it or ain’t alive.” Love the audacity. This isn’t a swag track (a fun track where rappers just throw out loose boasts), this is a “don’t f*ck with me” track. Some people took this as a shot at Jay, I don’t agree, but as a shot at Kanye?? Hmm, maybe.
Under Ground Kings (6) vs. Houstatlantavegas (11): “Rich off a mixtape, rich off a mixtape,” boasts Drake in Under Ground Kings. Yep, and Houstaltantavegas is one of the best songs on said mixtape.
Successful (3) vs. A Night Off (14): Eerie, dark, simplistic, and an amazing hook from Trey Songz, Successful murders it. Drake gets an assist from Lloyd in A Night Off, but c’mon, Trey beats Lloyd every time.
Doing It Wrong (7) vs. Say What’s Real (10): God this is a hard one. “Cry if you want to, but I can’t stay to watch you, that’s the wrong thing to do,” is such a real line. Stevie Wonder’s harmonica builds on the melancholy mood beautifully. Versus, Drake going in over the Kanye 808s beat on Say What’s Real. No chorus needed, just Drake noticeably restrained, but with something definitely bubbling under the surface. This song says, “I’m about to be the biggest rapper in the game. I don’t have to say it. Just know it’s going to happen,” mic drop. Sorry Stevie, Say What’s Real takes it.
Over (2) vs. Bria’s Interlude (15): I won’t even bother you with an explanation, Over advances.
Take Care (1) vs. Cece’s Interlude (16): Take Care features the gorgeous Rihanna, production from indie pop wunderkind Jamie xx, a disjointed snippet of Gil Scott-Heron and it all totally works. A song about wanting what you can’t have (possibly the most relatable thing ever), Cece’s Interlude is an airy ballad that captures the tone of Drake’s debut album. The thing is, Take Care is a powerhouse and a real achievement in pop music and continues to the next round.
November 18th (8) vs. Club Paradise (9): November 18th, titled after the date that Drake left home to meet Lil’ Wayne for the first time, shows off the Chopped & Screwed production Drake loves. Club Paradise revolves around Drake’s feelings about leaving home and losing touch with where he’s from, as he moans, “tell me, who did I leave behind?” I’m making this decision with my head, not my heart. I’ve had a few friends (friends whose judgment I trust) tell me (un-pressed) that November 18th is their all-time favorite Drake song. While I don’t hold their same convictions towards it, I’ll take their word for it. November 18th continues.
We’ll Be Fine (5) vs. Man of the Year (12): One of my issues with Drake’s Take Care (the album) is he probably could have cut three or four songs and We’ll Be Fine is one of them. In a bit of foreshadowing Drake remixes Lil’ Wayne’s Man of the Year, now the two are protégé and mentor. Man of the Year squeaks this one out.
Up All Night (4) vs. The Resistance (13): I’ll admit (begrudgingly) that Nicki Minaj does have
value as a rapper. But Up All Night is one of her laziest flows (not in a good way), “I look like yes and you look like no.” Really? That qualifies as a lyric? The Resistance takes this one with one line alone, “I avoided the coke game and went with Sprite instead,” now that’s a double triple entendre.
The Real Her (6) vs. The Calm (11): The Real Her, sort of a sequel to Houstatlanavegas, is solid. Plus Andre 3000 kills it (would you expect anything less). When I heard The Calm was Drake’s favorite verse, I was so excited. It’s my favorite track on So Far Gone and I felt like it was criminally overlooked. The Calm with the upset.
Marvins Room (3) vs. Cameras/Good Ones Go Interlude (14): I remember when I first heard Marvins Room. My first reaction, “ugh, when is Drake going to get over this chick.” After a few thousand re-listens I can tell you, THIS SONG IS AMAZING. Cameras and blah blah blah doesn’t stand a chance.
Unforgettable (7) vs. Ransom (10): Unforgettable is Drake’s favorite song from Thank Me Later and the Aaliyah sample is the truth. Supposedly, Ransom was one of the first song Drake and Wayne recorded together and when listening to it, it seems like Drake absorbed Wayne through osmosis or something. Drizzy unabashedly mirrors Wayne’s trademark flow and lyrical cadence. The Boi-1der beat dizzies. Ransom, the song that budded hip hop’s biggest bromance, takes this round.
Headlines (2) vs. Unstoppable (15): Headlines starts with four outstanding bars. Like, really OUTSTANDING bars. It slows after that, but still outpaces Unstoppable, although the Santigold sample is pretty dope. Unstoppable has been stopped (sorry, I’m not sorry for the pun).
Forever (1) vs. I Get Paper (16): Sometimes, one verse sixteen match-ups are a mere formality. This is one of those instances. Forever lines up Drizzy, Yeezy, Weezy and Em, no contest.
9 AM in Dallas (8) vs. Brand New (9): Word is Drizzy wanted 9 AM in Dallas to be the opening track on his debut album Thank Me Later, but it was submitted too late and instead got pinned to the back of the album as a bonus track. Brand New is nice, but 9 AM in Dallas is one the strongest verses Drizzy owns.
Shot For Me (5) vs. Congratulations (12): Drake raps to lovers past in Shot For Me (he does that a lot). Unfortunately this isn’t one of his strongest ‘lovers past’ songs. Congratulations is a celebratory song, recorded shortly after he signed with Wayne, it says, “I made it.” And like Drizzy says, don’t call him a protégé (oops, I think I did that earlier). Congrats, Congratulations you’re moving on (still not sorry about the puns).
I’m Going In (4) vs. Karaoke (13): I’m Going In is Drake doing Wayne (he does that from time to time). Karaoke is Drake trying to recapture So Far Gone. I love So Far Gone, but sometimes you just have to move on. I don’t mind Drizzy trying to do Wayne (as long as he limits it) because he does a pretty damn good Wayne. Plus Jeezy shows up to give the record a nice boost. I’m Going In is going in to the next round (alright I’m not proud of that pun, sorry).
Over My Dead Body (6) vs. Sooner Than Later (11): Over My Dead Body is the lead song on Drizzy’s Take Care and it’s a great lead song. In four minutes we are thoroughly caught up to everything Drake has been up to since we last saw him. It’s one of his smoothest, easiest flows too. I like Sooner Than Later, but it can’t topple Over My Dead Body.
Fancy (3) vs. Trust Issues (14): Stupid DJ Khalid had to claim I’m on One as his own (can someone please explain to me what he does), so Trust Issues steps in as a, sort of, surrogate for a song that would have been a two seed and a strong favorite to make an appearance in the final four, but I digress. This is one of those hard ones, where my head and heart are split. Fancy displays some real nice rhymes and a few very clever lines, but Trust Issues has more depth and personality. I’m only about 50.00001% on this decision, but the round goes to Fancy.
Shut It Down (7) vs. Uptown (10): I was not looking forward to this match-up at all. How can I eliminate one of these songs in the first round? It’s a crime. I can’t do it. I won’t do it! I have to do it. Ugh. Both these songs should be in the sweet sixteen. I hate you seeding! Okay, let’s break it down (as I write this I still haven’t made a choice). My first few times through Thank Me Later I almost always skipped Shut It Down, then one day it came on my Pandora and I had an epiphany. The sprawling, uber slow beat hypnotized me. It’s a 40 beat on steroids. The harmonies and back and forth between Drake and The Dream create a wondrously sublime R&B ballad. Conversely, I immediately loved Uptown. It’s all about swag (ugh, I hate that word, but it fits). It resurrected Bun B’s career, “I wrote this on my iPhone, so let me drop this iBomb,” love that line. Wayne spits an fantastic verse, “I am the leather jacket, black glasses, All-American bad boy,” c’mon, too good. Ah, do I have to choose? Okay, while writing this, I think I came to a conclusion. Shut It Down.
Make Me Proud (2) vs. Show Me a Good Time (15): Whew, that last match-up took a lot out of me; spoiler alert Shut It Down or Uptown would/will beat Make Me Proud or Show Me a Good Time. I know Make Me Proud is supposed to buck the “rap music is degrading to women” trend, but to me it comes off a bit patronizing. It’s still better than Show Me a Good Time, but I’m just saying.******************************************************************************
That North North
Best I Ever Had (1) vs. Fear (8): Best I Ever Had is Drake’s seminal song, and I’m about to boot it in the second round. Blasphemy? Possibly. To tell you the truth, I don’t feel great about it. I’m not going to detract from Best I Ever Had (it’s a really good song), although I still don’t know what “making a p*ssy whistle” means (should I be embarrassed about that?). So let’s examine its competition, Fear. First off Drizzy’s flow is flawless. Second it possesses a signature Drizzy hook. Lastly, and most importantly, it’s all about the lyrics, “I pop bottle because I bottle my emotions,” “and now security follow me everywhere, so I never actually am alone, I just always feel alone.” A lot of rappers just rap about money, cash, hoes (that’s not a dig at Jay). Not Drake, and that’s what makes him special.
Fireworks (5) vs. Lust for Life (13): Fireworks started one Drake trend, rapping about Ms. Rihanna. He also raps about his anxiety concerning him and his mentor’s future relationship, “Wayne put me right here, that’s who I get the paper with, I hope success never alters our relationship.” And Drake tackles some of his father issues (a Drake staple). It’s really a loaded track. In Lust for Life Drizzy struggles with his first tastes of success, “it’s funny when you coming in first, but you hope that you last.” Lust for Life is solid, but Alicia Keys pushes Fireworks to the next round.
Miss Me (3) vs. Paris Morton Music (11): “I hate calling the women bitches, but the bitches love it,” did Drizzy just sum up the entire paradoxical nature of misogyny in hip hop music in one line? Yes, yes he did. He has a few other nice lines in Paris Morton Music, but Miss Me is an absolute banger. “Drake just stands for Do Right and Kill Everything,” c’mon, and and when Wayne says, “Ugh, that’s nasty,” I love that more than anything.
The Motto (2) vs. Practice (10): I have an overwhelming suspicion Drake will try and get with anything that moves. Practice confirms that suspicion. Practice has Drake in full fledged seduction mode, and I have no doubt Drizzy can talk any girl into sending him some late night naked texts. Practice also owns one of the most –umm- interesting (?) videos I’ve ever seen. The Motto is a club song. Get me a few drinks, let me find a girl, throw The Motto on, and let me do my two step. Snappy beat, rat-a-tat delivery. Maybe if Drizzy got Wayne to reprise his verse from Back That Ass Up on Practice it would be a different story, but he didn’t. The Motto punches its ticket to the sweet sixteen.
That Up Top
Replacement Girl (9) vs. The Ride (16): The thing I appreciated most about Drake’s latest album was that he wasn’t afraid of casting himself as the bad guy. Early Drake cuts have him as a victim of heartbreak or as the player trying not to get played (you know, the don’t hate the player, hate the game mentality). In The Ride he’s kind of a dick, “Brand new titties, stitches still showing, and she just praying that it heals good, I’m ‘bout f*ck and I’m just praying that it feels good,” there’s nothing endearing about that line, but it’s honest, and Drake strives for honesty in his music. The Weeknd’s vocals give it an overall creepy sound. I kind of really like callous Drake. Sorry Replacement Girl.
Look What You’ve Done (12) vs. Dreams Money Can Buy (13): Look What You’ve Done is loving and kind. A song dedicated to Drizzy’s mother, uncle and grandmother. It outlines his former flings (nothing new), he spits a few bars about his father not being around (a great few bars by the way), and it ends with a phone message from grandma. That’s so sweet, but I thought I told you I like callous Drake. “Lately I do bitches the meanest, tell ’em I love ’em and don’t ever mean it,” Drizzy that’s cold, but like the Jai Paul sample says, “don’t f*ck with me.” This track’s dedicated to his haters and detractors, and Drizzy murders it.
Successful (3) vs. Houstatlantavegas (11): I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve listened to these two songs while trying to figure out which one has the edge. I’m coming dangerously close to just flipping a coin, but I won’t. I have to make an objective decision. Let’s hash it out. Houstatlantavegas is painstaking slow and gloomy (in a
good great way). I’m pretty sure it’s about a stripper Drizzy fell for (he does that quite often). Most songs about strippers don’t have heart, this one drips with heart. It’s beautifully sad. On the other hand Successful teams Drake up with frequent partner Trey Songz to produce a song about their ultimate goals, money, cars, clothes and hoes. These themes are embedded in modern hip hop music, but usually rappers talk about how they HAVE them, not how they WANT them. Drake’s flow is tight. Trey’s hook is fantastic. Do you go for the money or the honey? I’m going for the honey, Houstatlantavegas moves on.
Say What’s Real (10) vs. Over (15): Let’s take a moment to appreciate Say What’s Real, because it’s about to lose to Over, but it deserves a respectful burial. “Twenty four hours from greatness, I’m that close,” that line alone explains this song. Drake’s about to blow up, he knows it, we’re about to know it. It’s the calm before the storm. He’s just an average guy right now recording a mixtape, but everything’s about to change. He’s about to be the biggest rapper on the planet. His flow is understated, but something is bubbling under the surface, it’s almost like he’s biting his tongue trying not to verbally explode. He doesn’t have anything right now, but that doesn’t impede his confidence, he raps, “my accounts in the minus but I’m riding around the city like your highness.” Can we also take a second to recognize the line, “I just seen my ex-girl, standing with my next girl, standing with the girl that I’m f*ckin right now,” nasty line. So, why does Over take this round? Because if Say What’s Real is the calm before the storm, than Over is the storm. That verbal explosion happens on this track accompanied by a big, heroic beat. It’s bold, it hits hard and it blows the roof off the place.
Take Care (1) vs. November 18th (8): I love when I say something and it’s later echoed by a reputable source (it makes me feel smart). You may have observed the recent trend of house music making it’s way into hip hop. I’m not a fan of it (with a few exceptions). Drake agrees. Jamie xx’s reworking of Gil Scott Heron’s I’ll Take Care of You is remarkable, it’s danceable, but doesn’t cede to simple techno or house conventions. Factor in Rihanna’s sultry vocals and November 18th never stood a chance.
Man of the Year (12) vs. The Resistance (13): “I got a city that I Carey like Mariah,” “I never copy Norbit like Eddie, man,” okay Drake dangerously borders clever and corny here. You know what? Never mind, he is totally corny on this track. On the other hand The Resistance references Almost Famous and as a rule, I will defend anyone who shows any appreciation for Almost Famous. Plus the song’s pretty damn good. “This woman that I messed with unprotected, texted saying she wished she would have kept it,” this is one of Drake journal entry Taylor Swift flows, and I totally dig it.
Marvins Room (3) vs. The Calm (11): Each of these cuts have Drake at his rawest emotional state. You can read here the story of how The Calm came about, and when you hear The Calm, there is no denying the emotion Drake pours into it. It’s so blatant and out in the open. Drake’s usually known for his catchy hooks, but there’s no need for one here, just stream of consciousness. It seems like Drake has a habit of taping phone messages, (see; Successful, Look What You’ve Done) Marvins Room revolves around a drunk dial gone awry (we’ve all been there). It seems like a good idea at the time, but
almost always ends up awkward and regrettable, with you saying something you probably definitely shouldn’t say. Marvins Room captures all that, and then some. Oddly, this wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Marvins Room is a testament to how much Drake has grown as rapper over the last few years.
Headlines (2) vs. Ransom (10): One of Drake’s snappiest flows, Ransom delivers that popcorn style rap, making it a fun song to listen to. Wayne literally raps the alphabet, probably the only rapper that can pull that off (sorry Papose). “I might be too strung out on compliments, overdosed on confidence, started not to give a f*ck and stopped fearing the consequence, drinking ever night because we drink to my accomplishments, faded way to long, I’m floating in and out of consciousness.” I’m sorry for scribing the entirety of the first four bars of Headlines, but how has no one ever rapped that before? It’s so insanely good. I like to think Jay-Z thought of these bars, but since he doesn’t write anything down, they just slipped his mind or something. We can get into the rest of the song later, because it’s moving on to the next round.
Forever (1) vs. 9 AM in Dallas (8): Forever, the song where Drake popularized (or stole, depending on what camp you’re in) hash tag rapping, is about…. Lebron James?? What?? Whatever, that doesn’t matter. What matters is it features the four biggest rappers on the planet (sans Jay-Z). And you know what? It still can’t top 9 AM in Dallas. Displaying his hallmark whiny flow, Drizzy delivers an airtight verse, no hooks necessary. He straddles the line of bravado and emotion flawlessly.
Congratulations (12) vs. I’m Going In (4): Congratulations has Drake going over a Coldplay a sample, the first line he spits, “black hearts on my cardigan,” lets us know about his impending sweater obsession, and all in all it’s a pretty enjoyable song. I’m Going In is a statement, though. The powerful beat invites Drake, Wayne, and Jeezy to go as hard as possible. Wayne squeaks the chorus “I’m Going In,” and each rapper trades their most braggadocious bars.
Over My Dead Body (6) vs. Fancy (14): I know a lot of people expect Fancy to advance, well a lot of people are wrong. Drizzy recruits, fellow Canadian songstress, Chantal Kreviazuk to sing a gorgeous chorus. Drake’s flow on this track is unparalleled, super smooth and effortless. First impressions mean a lot and in Drizzy’s first bars of Take Care he drawls, “I think I killed everybody in the game last year, man, f*ck it I was on though, and I thought I found the girl of my dreams at the strip club mm-mm, f*ck it, I was wrong though,” that, right there, cemented my first impression of the album, I knew from that point on, no matter what else followed, I was totally all in on Take Care.
Make Me Proud (2) vs. Shut It Down (7): I thought I made this clear earlier, Shut It Down wins. And I will fight anyone that says Make Me Proud is a better song than Shut It Down.*****************************************************************************
That North North
Fireworks (5) vs. Fear (8): It’s fitting that these two meet. Fear ends with Drizzy commenting, “it’s funny how money can change everything,” while in the first line of Fireworks, Drake muses, “money just changed everything.” Both songs are similar in subject matter, so it comes down to how these songs make me feel. I don’t know exactly what it is, but Fear hits me directly in the gut every time I listen to it. It’s overflowing with soul. It’s so cathartic. I can literally rap every line and feel exactly how Drake feels. I guess that’s where the line, “No auto-tune but you can feel the pain” comes from, well that and, you know. Alicia Keys did a lot of heavy lifting to get Fireworks this far, but it looks like this is where its road ends.
The Motto (2) vs. Miss Me (3): Drizzy, Weezy vs. Drake, Wayne, in banger vs. banger. Both songs are totally about attitude and bouncy instrumentals. In a fight that matches up similar styles, it’s not even close. Miss Me has a better Drake verse, it has a better Wayne verse, it has a better beat. It’s just better. I can listen to this song on infinite loop and never get tired of it. If this song comes on, and you’re not nodding your head, tapping our feet or you don’t get serious case of scrunch-face, I don’t want to know you. Not even all the YOLO Facebook statuses in the world could save The Motto.
That Up Top
Dreams Money Can Buy (13) vs. The Ride (16): This is peculiar, a sixteen seed and a song that didn’t even make the album, in the sweet sixteen. For the life of me I don’t understand why Dreams Money Can Buy didn’t make the album (it’s better than half the songs that did). And I swear I’m not trying to be bold for bold sake, advancing The Ride (a 16 seed) so deep. When I started making this tournament, I had no intentions of pushing The Ride so far through the bracket. I liked the song, but it wasn’t one of my favorite Drake tracks. Then a funny thing happened, while writing this I’ve meticulously listened to each song on repeat, over and over and over and over again, and The Ride burrowed into my ear hole, into my mind and nested there. Sonically this song is chilling and The Weeknd’s vocals haunt. The Ride’s Cinderella story continues to the elite eight.
Over (2) vs. Houstatlantavegas (11): The two faces of Drake, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, present themselves here. Young and brash on Over, and tender and sensitive on Houstatlantavegas. Over was the lead single off Drizzy’s debut album, and he comes out swinging. It’s big, it’s got an awesome hook, and it’s got huge instrumentals. It shoves Drake in your face and showcases his knack for references and punch lines. Houstatlantavegas was a standout track from his R&B laden mixtape, So Far Gone. It has Drake in total crooner mode, serenading a stripper who’s caught up in the game. I am so conflicted about this decision. I was right about to choose Houstatlantavegas, but then I listened to Over again and now I’m back at neutral. I really want to pick Houstatlantavegas, but Over just won’t let me, it’s too imposing. It’s Hagler, Hearns and Over is Hagler.
Take Care (1) vs. The Resistance (13): The Resistance is one of Drake’s most introspective flows and it owns an unmistakable 40 beat. It’s pure Drake, the type of song only he could record. And I respect that. Take Care wins. I’m just going to totally superimpose what I want to believe onto Take Care. And this is what I want to believe, Rihanna had her heart broken by Chris Brown, and Drake had his heart broken by Cece, Bria, Alicia and whatever other chicks he’s rapped about in the past. Now RiRi and Drizzy are together and everything is right. I want to believe this, because I want to believe Rihanna is over Chris Brown (she’s not) and (if Rihanna won’t date me) she’ll date Drake, he’s a nice guy who will treat her right (oops, never mind). But, a Drake, Rihanna power couple would be awesome, and a fitting heir to the throne.
Headlines (2) vs. Marvins Room (3): Alright, in the first two rounds I fawned over the first four bars of Headlines (and I will not apologize for that), but now it’s time to look at the rest of the song. One line stood out to me as blatantly un-Drake and, in the most unnecessary rap beef of all time, it also struck Common as a bit contrived. It doesn’t really matter though; Marvins Room is an absolute masterpiece. It’s rare that a rapper paints himself as desperate and lonely (other than Kanye). It’s even rarer that a rapper pulls it off (other than Kayne).
I’m Going In (4) vs. 9 AM in Dallas (8): The thing Drake does better than any other rapper in the game is balance ego and introspection, from time to time he leans too heavy on one side. In 9 AM in Dallas he walks the tight rope between the two, and doesn’t miss a step. He doesn’t get weighed down by dark thoughts. His confidence radiates, he’s having fun. He displays some of his best word play, references and punch lines. “I’m nervous but I’m a kill it cause they ‘bout to let the realest team in. Throwing up in the huddle (like) Willie Beaman,” I think that line accurately captures everything I just said above. I’m Going In, is all ego, and next to 9 AM, sounds a bit vapid and uninspired.
Over My Dead Body (6) vs. Shut it Down (7): There are three types of Drake. Introspective Drake (The Ride), Swag Drake (Over) and Seductive Drake, Shut It Down is the ultimate Seductive Drake track. It sounds distant like you’re half sleeping. It’s so deliberate. It’s an epic seven minute cut of seduction. “You shut it down, you the baddest girl around,” the chorus drones. It’s all about how fine this chick is and how great she is and then it ends. Wait, no it doesn’t. It ends with Drizzy trying to get this girl to agree to a one night stand (of course), “you would shut it down” turns into “let me lay you down.” Drizzy’s game is in hyper drive on this track. Over My Dead Body never had a prayer.*****************************************************************************
That North North
Miss Me (3) vs. Fear (8): Each never fails to put me in a mood. Fear gets me serious and pensive. Miss Me gets pumped up and ready to go out. Fear has to be listened to through headphones, eyebrows furrowed, vibing with each lyric. Miss Me has to be put on blast, big speakers, with you doing your thing. Fear sounds demonstrative, Miss Me sounds jazzy. “I love Nicki Minaj, I told I’d admit it, I hope one day we get married just to say we f*ckin’ did it, and girl I’m f*uckin’ serious I’m with it if you with it, cause your verses turn me on and your pants are might fitted,” is Nicki’s greatest contribution to any Drake album. That line destroys every time. Drake vents on Fear, he’s deep in thought, shouting out his inspirations, dealing with people’s preconceptions and contemplating his future. Drake’s candidness on Fear is fearless. Pack your bags Fear, you’re going to the final four.
That Up Top
Over (2) vs. The Ride (16): I remember my senior year of college (the best year of my life); I decided to go hard every single night (well, almost every single night). I saw graduation as the expiration date on my adolescence, soon I’d have real responsibilities, and it was time to enjoy every last moment. I drank more than one should, I met some awesome people, and ironically I received the best grades of my college career. Over came out in the spring of my final year of college and I feel like it aptly described what I was going through. The last Thursday of every month was Senior Night at Fordham. I remember standing in the middle of the bar (Howl at the Moon, for my college affiliates) on the last Senior Night of the year looking around, faded off a few shots, and thinking, “I know way too many people here right now, that I didn’t know last year, who the f*ck are ya’ll? We’ve been everywhere and back, but I just can’t remember it all. What am I doing? What am I doing? Oh yeah, that’s right, I’m doing me, I’m doing me. I’m living life right now, man. And this what I’m going to do till it’s over, till it’s over but it’s far from over.” Sorry Greenday, but Over should be made the international graduation song. I don’t want to enter the world feeling nostalgic for years past, I want to enter the world gassed up, feeling like I’m about to kick the real world’s ass. The clock has struck midnight for The Ride’s Cinderella story.
Take Care (1) vs. Marvins Room (13): Take Care stands as the lone one seed alive. Take Care’s greatest strengths come from its contributors. Rihanna’s sensuality bleeds through the track; she’s arguably the biggest pop star in the world and she shows it here. She and Drake’s chemistry shine as they trade verses. And if that’s not good enough, Jamie xx’s production ones up the both of them. He constructs an incredibly interesting sound that drives the track, the pounding bass catches you, and the piano chords carry you. On the other hand Marvins Room is all Drake (with the notable exception of a recorded phone call from a past love interest). It’s got Drizzy on the lingering hook. It displays Drake’s favorite producer, with a distinct 40 beat. It contains Drake’s unquestionable sing-songy flow. It also exhibits an entirely unique song structure, full of interludes, short verses cut around one full 16, and a divinely incoherent outro. That and the true vulnerability Drake displays carries Marvins Room into the final four.
Shut It Down (7) vs. 9 AM in Dallas (8): Shut It Down and 9 AM in Dallas are so good for entirely different reasons. 9 AM in Dallas is lyrically dense, bar followed by bar for about three minutes, verbal somersaults. Shut It Down breathes. It’s an ultra slow ballad. It’s love making music. By rap standards 9 AM blows Shut It Down out of the park. In terms of musicality, Shut It Down runs laps around 9 AM. Word play vs. Melody. Drake feels himself in 9 AM, “People ask how music is going, I heard it pays, I just came off making two million in 30 days,” but still harbors doubts, “Scared for the first time, everything just clicked, What if I don’t really do the numbers they predict?’ Shut It Downs captures the longing, the craving and the temptation of going out, meeting someone, and trying to get her back to your place, all over a breathtakingly sluggish, dream-like instrumental. The lyrical balance and poise in Drake’s flow gives 9 AM in Dallas the edge.*****************************************************************************
Four songs left. It’s fitting that the last four songs remaining are produced by Drake’s two most prolific producers. On one side, 40 vs. 40. On the other, Boi-1da vs. Boi-1der. It’s also fitting that Drake needs no help on these four tracks, no features needed. All Drizzy.
Marvins Room (3) vs. Fear (8)
Let’s kick it off with a match-up pitting two 40 tracks against each other. Both show the definitive vulnerability that helped establish Aubrey Drake Graham as one of the biggest rappers in the game. In Fear, Drizzy spills out his vulnerabilities, he tells us everything that’s on his mind. Marvins Room shows us his vulnerabilities, it’s cinematic. We’re not reading a page in his diary, but instead we see his actions, which in turn reveal his disposition. Earlier I mentioned that there are three Drakes, Introspective Drake, Swag Drake and Seductive Drake. Marvins Room is Seductive Drake with a twist. He’s drunk (bordering sloppy) and his seductive powers are severely limited, which allows us introspection. He groans “F*ck that n*gg* that you love so bad …. I’m just saying you could do better,” he’s trying, but she’s not having it. He’s lonely, he’s desperate, he’s regretful, he’s embarrassed, he’s nostalgic, but he doesn’t have to tell us any of that, we can glean it from his tone and timbre. Marvins Room spells the end for Fear, as it marches into the finals.
Over (2) vs. 9 AM in Dallas (8)
Drizzy goes in over two Boi-1da beats in the last match-up before the finals. On choosing Over as his lead single off his debut album, Drake described the track as, “something I feel is timeless and better than anything that I’ve done before,” and Drizzy’s reverence over the song is warranted. The hook is one of the best hooks in recent memory. The rhymes are audacious and the instrumentals are forceful. With references to Ebert and Roeper, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Michael Jackson it’s easily quotable. 9 Am in Dallas effectively functions as one long freestyle (although I’m sure it was written). His flow really shines through; line after line comes out effortlessly and his lyrics are strung together seamlessly. From 0:18 to 3:05, 9 AM in Dallas packs bars tighter than a Chinese sweatshop, no hooks, no bridges, no shout outs. In the Sweet Sixteen I compared Over to Marvelous Marvin Hagler, the comparison still stands, but in this round 9 AM is Sugar Ray Leonard. Hagler is still big and powerful, but Leonard is craftier, more active and skilled. In a decision just as close as The Super Fight, between Hagler and Leonard, it goes to the cards, and the decision goes to 9 AM in Dallas.*****************************************************************************
I’m about 7,000 words deep right now. If you’ve gotten this far, congrats. If you’ve just skipped to the end, it’s understood.
Marvins Room (3) vs. 9 Am in Dallas (8)
Let me first start by saying, Drake is NOT in the discussion for The Greatest Rapper Alive title, that argument is reserved for Jay-Z, Nas, Eminem, Kanye, Andre 3000 and Ice Cube (and you can possibly talk me into 50 Cent). That’s not an indictment on Drake, he’s only twenty-five years old. No ones the greatest at twenty-five. Jay-Z didn’t even release Reasonable Doubt until he was twenty-six. Now let me bring it back, Marvins Room and 9 Am in Dallas are both worthy of their positions in the Championship match-up because they both demonstrate Drizzy’s potential to, one day, become the Greatest Rapper Alive. Marvins Room shows off Drake’s versatility as an artist. It flaunts his ability to effectively grab the listener and bring them to his level. 9 AM in Dallas exhibits Drizzy’s talent in a traditional rap sense. His flow is vacuum sealed, he doesn’t waste a word. He spits with confidence as he rattles off references, innuendos and double entendres, while at the same time maintaining perspective, allowing us glimpses of his uncertainties. Both are terrific. Marvins Room is crowned king for three reasons. 1) Drizzy showcases his unique blend of R&B and rap better than ever. 2) The vulnerabilities Drake shows in a hyper masculine art form like Hip Hop music, reveals a ironic confidence. 3) 40’s anxious and uneasy instrumentals and production compliment Drake’s flow transplendently (I think that’s a word). Not even Drizzy’s awesome power throat clear at the end of 9 AM is enough to topple Marvins Room (no sarcasm intended).*****************************************************************************
Hope everyone likes what I did here, I’m sure some people will have bones to pick. It’s all good though, leave a message, I’d love to tell you why you’re wrong. In closing, it’s been a privilege to break down rap’s brightest young star. And someone please tell J. Cole to keep coming hard. I want that Nas, Jay-Z-type rivalry I was promised.
Peace…I got no words left.