Authenticity is key

Benjamin Yeargin, Staff Writer

Drake’s recent hits are all crowd-pleasers that do not show the realism he is known for. Photo by MusicEntropy via Flickr

On Sept. 3, Drake released his sixth studio album titled “Certified Lover Boy” (“CLB”); it’s another fake, shallow album that was aimed at trying to sell the most amount of records.

The album garnered mixed reactions from the media with Pitchfork giving it a 6.6/10 and Anthony Fantano of The Needle Drop giving the album a 3/10.

The album went No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for albums and the most popular song titled “Way 2 Sexy” featuring Future and Young Thug topped the charts for singles, giving Drake yet another No. 1 song. Yet, with all of Drake’s commercial success, something is still missing: authenticity.

In Drake’s more recent music, he fails to relate to the listener. Lately, he only talks about what he has but never how he has gotten there or what sacrifices he’s had to make to attain his success. I find there is a responsibility by an artist to convey a truthful expression of themselves or their feelings at the time to the listener.

Take Jermaine Cole, who goes by J. Cole, as an example. He released “Heaven’s EP” on Sept. 21, which features Cole rapping over the instrumental of “Pipe Down,” a track from “CLB.”

Cole has sustained success for over ten years by rapping about his own experience, ranging from the feelings of paranoia while cheating in “She Knows” to the story of the first time he had sex in “Wet Dreamz” and more recently to giving guidance to younger rappers in “1985 (Intro to the Fall Off).” In short, he knows how to tell a story.

Cole tells the truth to his audience. He doesn’t try to play himself off as some big playboy that’s always gotten the women or money, he’s made mistakes like all of us. An artist gains credibility and trust with the listener when they tell the truth about their life. It makes their music better.

Much of J. Cole’s music contains authentic rap lyrics like in his recent song ‘Heaven’s EP.’ Photo by Rob Loud via Flickr

In “Heaven’s EP,” Cole addressed his feelings of inadequacy as a public voice as he has gotten more famous and how his attempts to maintain his private life, all over a silky smooth instrumental produced by the tandem Working on Dying and Leon Thomas III. Cole uses personal anecdotes of rejection to convey his message.

“Or has the money watered me down, that truth is hard for me,” Cole raps. “Like the second time, I got cut from the junior varsity. Fightin’ back tears, I promised to switch gears and said to myself ‘Whatever you do, you won’t do it partially.’”

When an artist breaks down and expresses their feelings of inadequacy or insecurity, it is more relatable to the listener than bragging about their success.

Drake has failed to exude this kind of authenticity since his mixtape “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” released in 2015. His music has deteriorated dramatically since then.

Yes, there have been flashes of his authentic self in songs like “Do Not Disturb,” “When to Say When” and “7 AM on Bridle Path” off of “CLB,” but for every one of these songs, there’s a more successful song like “Toosie Slide,” “One Dance” and “Way 2 Sexy” that attempts to pander to a mass commercial audience.

Drake knows how to make a song sell, but fails to make songs with substance.

Even while Drake was hyping up the album, he got topped by authenticity. Drake leaked the unreleased Kanye West and André 3000 collab “Life of the Party” on Sept. 4 on his SiriusXM radio station “Sound 42” to add to his dispute with West. This move did not work in Drake’s favor.

In the song, André 3000 raps about the impact of losing his mom, Sharon. He connects the pain he feels about his mother’s death to West’s feelings about losing his own mother, Donda.

West uses his verse to directly diss Drake, talk about his values for his daughters and express pride in how he’s helped the Black community saying, “I can’t stand it when there’s talks about puttin’ the kids back in Sierra Canyon when daddy got his own school.”

Drake is at an all-time low in his career. He released a mediocre album with no real substance and leaked a song from his archrival that was better than Drake’s entire album. He needs to channel the old Drake, and talk about the valuable perspective that he has as one of the biggest artists in the world.

Being truthful can and will break the shackles of mediocrity and confusion that is plaguing Drake’s modern music. Hell, being authentic does this for anyone struggling in life.

The only thing that will make Drake’s music better is authenticity.