Is Drake Hip-Hop's Savior... Or Its Justin Bieber?

The hip-hop world is a less than sensible place -lots of times, you're even required to clarify when bad means bad and when bad means good- so once a week we're going to get with a rapper and ask them to explain things. Have something you always wanted to ask a rapper? Email it to [email protected].

This Week's Rapper: 2010 HPMA nominee (Best Underground Hip-Hop) Hollywood FLOSS

This Week's Subject(s): Drake's unending drakeness

Drake might be the most polarizing figure in hip-hop right now. (We are fully on board with Team Drake, by the way.) As such, when his debut album Thank Me Later was released last Tuesday, everybody had something to say about it - everything from "selfless miracle" to "self-absorbed monstrosity."

The whole situation is very peculiar. He's rap's LeBron James right now. Take a few hours and read all that's been written; when you're done, you can join us at our Loser Party.

Ask A Rapper: So, Drake has been kind of the guiding light for a lot of young, Internet-savvy rappers. They all (you all?) hope to emulate his success. Of course, being the face of a cohort, he now has to shoulder the weight of that responsibility, namely everyone in the universe offering their opinions on why his album does or does not suck big time. Your initial thoughts when you heard it?

Hollywood Floss: Initially hearing Drake's album, I thought it came off as a polished continuation of So Far Gone. He definitely does a great job of letting you in on his life and the beats are great, but I feel we've heard the same subject matter from him for so long that it is getting tiresome. I really expected more variety and he didn't provide that on Thank Me Later. By the time the album was over for me, I rated the LP a 3/5.

AAR: One of the main criticisms lobbed at TML and Drake, by extension, is that it's vacuous and unambitious; sure, he's talking about how he being famous can be pretty terrible, but he mistakes having emotions for being thoughtful. He doesn't reach any further past saying he's feeling a little alienated, and that's ultimately why the album falls short. Now, you're sort of establishing yourself as a rapper who can do those types of things well. Did you pick up on that as well? Or are critics just dicks with, and this may be our favorite phrase we've heard used, "back-of-the-classroom" envy?

HWF: Well, to be fair, he did stay in the range of "being famous is terrible" or "night life might be great, if it wasnt for the fame" too long on the album. I mean, if it's that bad why are you still doing music? [laughs] He could've easily discussed in further situations he been through, good and bad. Example: his dad, the chain robbery, abortion, embracing stardom, etc. He has a great story but fails to communicate it well. I'm usually not fond of critics, but this time it seems they actually did their homework. [laughs]

AAR: Cokemachineglow postulated on calling him the "Justin Bieber of rap." Is this a fair assessment?

HWF: Nah, thats not a fair assessment at all. Lets be honest, the dude has talent and has a place in the game. Referring to him as Justin Bieber only makes sense if he meant that Justin is the newest, biggest pop star, and Drake is the newest, biggest rap star.

AAR: Who's Houston's "Justin Bieber of rap"? It's Z-Ro, isn't it?

HWF: Oh you want beef, huh? [laughs] Well, yep, it's Z-Ro. But in reality calling anyone in Houston the "Justin Bieber of rap" is saying they're the biggest and most embraced as a new artist so let the people say it's me or anyone from T.H.E.M and we'll embrace that title. It's Hollywood FLOSS.

AAR: Now, not everyone hated the album. Pitchfork, Spin, The Onion's A.V. Club, Paste, they all gave it mostly positive reviews. That said, Drizzy was christened as hip-hop's savior prior to TML's release. Does this album prove him such? Or is it akin to people saying Harold Miner was the next Michael Jordan?

HWF: Hip-hop didnt need a savior because it wasnt dead to begin with. Fans and critics refuse to give new artists a chance then complain when old artists are stale. If they would embrace or look a little deeper into finding new music, then the whole "hip-hop is dead" [argument] would never be brought up.

Drake isnt a hip-hop savior, he's just a contributor like the rest of us (Jay Electronica, HasHBrown, Dom Kennedy, Rob Jay, Thurogood Wordsmith, J Cole, etc). One thing's for sure: His first-week numbers will make it seem like he saved hip-hop. The numbers are probably crazy.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Shea Serrano