Toronto native Aubrey “Drake” Graham gives us as many reasons to love him as he does to hate him: He was charming, surprisingly self-aware and legitimately funny when he hosted Saturday Night Live earlier in the year yet still had the gall to publicly complain when his Rolling Stone cover was pushed back due to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s untimely passing. So while the man responsible for #YOLO (he apologized for this on SNL) clearly has some conflicting ideals, he’s undeniably one of the frontrunners in the 2014 hip-hop game, as evidenced by his latest double A-side single Started From The Bottom/The Motion (Ft. Sampha).
My primary qualm with Started From The Bottom is that I don’t exactly consider a history as a television star “starting from the bottom”. From his mid-teens, Drake starred as Jimmy Brooks in Canadian institution Degrassi: The Next Generation but hey, maybe I’m just old-fashioned that way! This is really just peripheral since the song itself is pretty damn tasty with spooky, ethereal piano and guitar cast against a minimal but bangin’ 808 drum machine. It’s pretty hypnotic with the hook drawing you closer and closer each time it plays between his trademark drawled flow which as usual, expertly balances hip-hop braggadocio with vulnerable candor.
Meanwhile The Motion shifts the focus to the smoother, R&B side of Drake’s multifaceted skill-set. Again, the sparseness is what makes this song work: Simple programmed drums, dub style synth-bass, electro blips and lush, reverse string samples are all that’s necessary under Drake’s soulfully romantic reminiscing and South-London singer-songwriter/producer Sampha Sisay’s earthy croon. Sampha is probably best known as the other half of the live incarnation of Aaron Jerome’s SBTRKT project and he brings a dignified, uniquely British sensibility to The Motion.
So this leaves us with one question: Does reliably putting out world-class, game changing hip-hop excuse Drake for his sometimes kinda douche-y public remarks or behavior? My answer would be “not really”, however as long he keeps releasing unashamedly honest music that resonates with Gen-Y as profoundly as it does, Drizzy-Drake will rightfully retain his lofty post in the music industry for some years to come.