Vote Drake for hip-hop president

By Julian Kimble

Entertainer's manoeuvrings would not be out of place on the campaign trail in a bid for the White House.
Drake's latest album, Views has just been released. Photo / AP
Drake's latest album, Views has just been released. Photo / AP

Entertainment is politics. Look no further than this election cycle's dozens of presidential debates for evidence. Our entertainers and politicians possess the same traits and while Donald Trump is a glaring example, Drake is perhaps the superlative embodiment of this phenomenon.

The chart-topping rapper, whose new album, Views, has just been released, has always been defined by the narrative arc of his career as much as his actual output. When he first emerged, some dismissed him as the soft, Bar Mitzvahed, former Degrassi: The Next Generation child actor from Toronto.

Now he has turned adversarial with a new chiselled physique serving as the personification of his inflated ego.

His evolution from ridiculed anomaly to uber-successful heel has been achieved by manoeuvring rap's stratosphere like a politician. Drake is releasing his new album just as presidential season reaches its peak, and the 29-year-old's supremacy campaign has ramped up in similar fashion with Summer Sixteen - a confrontational reprisal where he addresses President Barack Obama, declares himself the new Jay Z and brags about the size of his pool - serving as his unofficial campaign theme song.

Drake knows how to position himself like a politician. In his quest for greatness, he has painted himself as the underdog who, against the odds, has realised the (North) American dream. He picks the battles that he can tilt to his favour.

Bullied early in his career for the emotive nature of his music, his knack for singing in addition to rapping and growing up with perceived privilege - in short, a lack of credibility - he used a now-famous verse on Rick Ross's Stay Schemin as a blanket memorandum that he wasn't to be underestimated. "I just ask that when you see me you speak up ... Don't be duckin' like you never wanted nothin'," he advised, flat-footed and confident. It was a landmark moment, a statement of purpose.

Scandal is the hook for politics' entertainment factor. Nobody courts it, but it certainly keeps your name in the headlines.

Since that turning point, the rapper who once stated that he'd never reply to a peer's slight has taken to hurling veiled - and occasionally not-so-veiled - barbs at whoever incites him, only to later align himself with those he can benefit from the most.

Drake's relationships with Jay Z and Kanye West have toggled between those of admiration and rivalry. Still, he tapped the two legends to appear on his recent single, Pop Style, a prosperity gloat that makes Drake appear even more grand thanks to the prestigious company he keeps.

He understands that his own accomplishments, coupled with associating himself with the greats he wants to be compared to, adds to the impression that he's in the same class. Simply put, few rappers are as deft at - and unapologetic about - riding coat-tails as Drake.

Drake is quite fond of others with the same penchant for success. His affinity for the University of Kentucky's men's basketball team is well-documented. The tendency to hitch his wagon to others that are successful has earned him a deserved "frontrunner" label.

But for politicians, for whom image is everything, siding with winners is advantageous. Drake gets this. He's aligned himself with Future, whose musical hot streak has extended well past a year at this point. The duo will embark on a joint tour this summer and collaborated on last year's What a Time to Be Alive. The project was a flex Drake didn't need, but its resounding popularity served his agenda: magnifying his own.

Scandal is the hook for politics' entertainment factor. Nobody courts it, but it certainly keeps your name in the headlines. It came for Drake last summer when former ally Meek Mill accused him of not writing his own lyrics. In hip-hop, this is just short of treason. But the truly gifted politicians can manipulate scandal and simultaneously burnish their reputations by turning the story into a positive.

Drake's two diss records (Charged Up and Back to Back) and a meme-laden crucifixion of Meek Mill at last year's OVO Fest (think of this as his own annual party convention) made him appear invincible. Spinning the situation in his favour, he took valid claims levied against him and turned them into a moment of personal triumph. The magnitude of his victory, no matter how much subterfuge it involved, negated any of his possible transgressions.

More than anything, Drake won the strategic battle, then stood on the shoulders of trenchant supporters who declared him the winner. Drake won because a Greek chorus said so. A seasoned politician would admire this move.

- Washington Post

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