How Drake Became Pop's True Teflon Don
Hater-proof: Drake at Minute Maid Park during Houston Appreciation Weekend 2014
It probably won't go down as particularly significant in the lore of rap beefs, but this past week's feud between Drake and Hot 97 DJ Funkmaster Flex has raised some striking facts about the superstar rapper. After bearing the brunt of repeated disses by Flex in the last year, Drake responded by calling for Flex to be fired during a freestyle at a New York date of his current tour with frequent partner in crime Future. Flex hit back again, of course, but it won't matter much. It seems that Drake can do no wrong in the eyes of the masses.
Rick Ross adopted the nickname Teflon Don from John Gotti, but really it should be Drake's to own. For years now, he's been a target. To be sure, much of the criticism leveled at Drake is probably because he's so damn successful. This is a guy whose mixtapes go to No. 1, receives stellar reviews, packs stadiums, and seemingly can't help but make hit after hit. Phrases he's either invented or popularized have proliferated pop culture. Few other rappers have ever even approached his level of fame and fortune.
That's guaranteed to bring haters out of the woodwork. Even worse is the fact that Drake has done all of this while promoting himself with an image most rappers would scoff at. The old school has despised him because he's done it without being a tough guy. He has to deal with constant accusations of being soft. Even his fanbase is a target. Like Flex said, “70 percent of your fans wear high heels. The other 30 percent are guys who wear sandals.”
That's vaguely offensive and patently untrue. Drake's fan base is massive. The level of success he's achieved means that he's reaching a lot more people than that. The fact is the man is almost universally beloved.
But why? Those criticisms may be baseless, but they're the type of things that would destroy lesser rappers. Being “soft” in rap has long been vilified. It's a cardinal sin in hip-hop to let your guard down, yet Drake does it effortlessly with dramatic results.
Then there are the ghostwriting claims. Meek Mill, the rapper whose career was effectively wrecked by Drake's “Back to Back,” is just one of many to level such charges at Drake. That used to be the worst thing a rapper could do. These days, it seems like no one really cares.
Not that ghostwriting is new. Dr. Dre and Puff Daddy have openly employed other rappers to write their rhymes. But they've never claimed to be great writers the way Drake has. Drake using writers would seemingly be like finding out your favorite athlete was on PEDs; his career should be in the Barry Bonds phase right now.
Instead, no one really cares. No matter how many people have come out and said Drake employs writers who supply him with the boasts he makes, it doesn't hurt Drake at all. In fact, it just seems to fuel him. “Back to Back” won a fucking Grammy and it was penned specifically to diss someone who accused Drake. Where is Meek Mill now?
This is unprecedented in the history of rap. No rapper has faced the sort of criticisms Drake has without suffering any consequences, much less became more successful in the face of them.
There's really no clear explanation of why Drake is so able to weather constant storms. Perhaps it says something about where we're at as a listening public in 2016. We all know our favorite pop stars don't write their own songs, so we're used to artificiality. We're no longer bothered by the fact that realness in rap is dead. We just sit back and appreciate the movie magic happening before our eyes and ears.
It also probably has a lot to do with just how great Drake's music is. Whether he write it or not, and whether it's “soft” or not, Drake makes songs that almost everyone can enjoy. It's some of the best pop music in production today. He can sing, he can rap, and he has a persona that resonates with people. That's enough to buy a whole lot of goodwill — or enough for us to write off the haters, at least.