Drake has never been known for his cultural profundity.
The Canadian-born pop star has been among A-list musical artists for almost a decade. His bells and whistles have far surpassed self-evidence, yet the obvious nature of his tricks seem to remain overlooked by the masses. No matter the quality of the release, millions of people stream and purchase new Drake songs every day.
The rapper’s dichotomy is more apparent today than ever before, as he consistently flexes his technical prowess while superficially telling stories of his life that never fully transcend his scope of narcissism — but they never really needed to.
Drake “writes” hits — there’s no denying that. His latest project, 2018’s “Scorpion,” spawned three No. 1 singles and a plethora of other charting tunes. His craft stands as a flawless, robotoic process of pumping out so much material that some of it is bound to catch on. The latest move in the ever-expanding career of the prolific rapper reflects this exercise.
The “So Far Gone” re-release signals the annoying but incredible business savvy Drake possesses. In more ways than one, he is the Taylor Swift of hip-hop. The artist calculates his every move, keenly aware that dropping one of his most beloved mixtapes again would prevent many of his fatigued fans from jumping ship for Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole. The tape serves as a reminder of who Drake really is, perhaps even surprising his latecomer fans who only started following him after the smash crossover hit “One Dance” in early 2016.
With that said, the set’s re-release simultaneously suggests the rapper hasn’t really changed that much at all. His knack for genre experimentation exists as much on “So Far Gone” as it does on “More Life” or “Scorpion.” His ability to integrate “Summer Games” and “Emotionless” on the same record in “Scorpion” is a direct result of his success with “Little Bit” and “Ignant Shit” on “So Far Gone”.
In terms of genre, “So Far Gone” pulls from every one, including R&B, hip-hop, pop and alternative. He duets with Lykke Li, pops off with Lil Wayne and expresses vulnerability on “Say What’s Real,” a classic beat from Kanye West’s criminally underappreciated “808s and Heartbreak.”
In fact, the tape shows Drizzy rapping over some of the hip-hop’s most classic beats and now fulfilled expectations to be just as, if not more, successful than the likes of Jay-Z and Kanye West. The production evokes emotion that Drake is able to use as a launchpad to dive headfirst into the sensitive persona that has made him a mainstay.
Drake’s recounting of personal experiences is what brought him to stardom, but there is always an element of cheesiness to his music. This is as evident today as it was on “Ignant Shit,” where Drake raps, “Still spittin that shit that they shot Pac over / The shit my other look shocked over,” a lyric that often incites laughter. To compare himself to 2Pac is to suggest Drake is a political figure when, in reality, Drake is the pop star that kids make memes about on Twitter and Instagram and whose music fans blare in cars.
Still, there’s really nothing wrong with that. Drake is beloved for this quality. To say you don’t bop to the opening line of “Uptown” or head-bang to the buttery “Little Bit” is to overlook the strength of Drake’s music. His music is made for the masses, even if it might be rooted in superficiality.
There is a Drake song for everything and everyone and “So Far Gone” acts as a reminder of that. While its re-release does nothing more than celebrate some of the early treasures of his discography, there’s certainly a lot worth bopping to.
Kieran Sweeney is a senior writing about music. His column, “Bop or Flop,” runs every other week on Fridays.