Aubrey “Drake” Graham has established himself as the most popular rapper in the world over the past few years. He has three Grammy wins (including two wins in 2017), four platinum albums, and is the most popular artist on Spotify, with over 8.7 billion streams. Even with his critical and social acclaim, however, many hip hop fans, believe that Drake is overrated.
Now, I understand that this is a very hot take. Drake is a social media icon, chart-topping artist, actor, and overall A-list celebrity. However, the music put out under Drake’s name in many cases lacks creative input from the man himself. It is no secret that Drake uses ghostwriters. On his latest album, Views, there are 81 credited ghostwriters, and 32 producers. Ghostwriting accusations led to the infamous beef between Drake and Meek Mill, a rapper hailing from Philadelphia. Meek accused Drake of using writers on the track “R.I.C.O” off Meek’s second studio album Dreams Worth More Than Money, saying in a 2015 tweet, “[Drake] ain’t even write verse on my album and if I woulda knew I woulda took it off my album….. I don’t trick my fans!” After numerous Twitter exchanges and eventual diss tracks, including Drake’s hugely popular Back to Back diss, fans seemed to collectively agree that Drake had won the beef outright. However, the ghostwriting allegations themselves became lost in the exchange, and Drake was never really held accountable for his actions.
Is ghostwriting itself that big of an issue in the hip hop genre? Drake certainly isn’t the first artist to use others in the writing process. Kanye West, who is routinely included in “greatest of all time” discussions, has used ghostwriters in the past. Fat Joe admitted that the late Big Pun wrote many of his verses, and Dr. Dre’s famous track “Still D.R.E” was written by aspiring young artist Shawn Carter, more famously known as Jay Z. However, Drake has routinely been considered the greatest rapper of this generation, and considering the fact that he doesn’t even write many of his verses, this label seems a bit ridiculous. Drake does not produce his own tracks either, relying on the expertise of Noah “40” Shebib, nineteen85, and Metro Boomin, to name a few. Now, most mainstream rappers do not make their own beats, but combined with Drake’s use of ghostwriting, it seems that the artist doesn’t have much of a hand in the creative process.
In December of 2016, Worldstar Hip Hop shared a photo ranking hip hop artists of this generation, labeling the rappers in differing tiers based on talent, status as overrated or underrated, and most importantly, who the “elite” rappers of today are. The list has no credited author, but went viral over Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, as fans debated the legitimacy of the claims presented. The “Tier 1 Rappers,” as they are described, are Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Chance the Rapper, and Drake. For the most part, this list is correct. Kendrick Lamar has four studio albums to his name, including the critically acclaimed To Pimp a Butterfly, which Metacritic ranked as the greatest hip hop album to date, focusing on the issue of race in America. J. Cole has achieved commercial and critical success as a rapper focusing on societal and racial problems, and Chance the Rapper has changed the rap game altogether by winning three Grammys in 2017 without being signed to a record label. These three artists certainly make a compelling case, but Drake seems to be the odd man out. While he has enjoyed more critical success than the three aforementioned artists, his music (which he neither writes nor produces) does not focus on complex issues or challenging topics, choosing to capitalize on what is popular in today’s hip hop scene.
Drake, of course, is a success story. He has found success in the mainstream rap scene, and has emerged as one of the most popular celebrities in the world. But when we compare his work to other artists from this generation and generations past, can we truly consider him the best rapper alive? His music, which is written and produced for him, takes little risks artistically, focusing on breakups and the allure of sex, drugs, and money in hip hop culture. Is dumbed-down, “safer” music all bad? Of course not. Artists like Migos and Lil Uzi Vert may not be great technical rappers, but their music is fun to listen to. The same goes for Drake; no one is denying his appeal musically and his cultural impact. But when we say Drake, who neither writes nor produces his own music, is the GOAT, it is disrespectful to the true great artists of this generation and hip hop music as a whole.