No wonder some of his songs, such as the brilliant The Resistance from 2010’s Thank Me Later, find him unraveling fast. I ask him whether he’s the Morrissey of rap, but his music is far more complex than that. He wouldn’t say anything as black-and-white as Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now. Heaven knows I’m conflicted about my newfound status now, perhaps. “I let other people put tags on me,” he laughs, coming on like an irate indie fan, “otherwise they’ll be like, ‘Don’t ever mention your name in the same sentence as Morrissey!’” He’s quite the contradiction, is Drake. He can be maudlin one minute, self-aggrandizing the next. On the track Lord Knows he stakes a claim for himself as the rap Jimi Hendrix or Bob Marley.
“I didn’t really say I was the rap Hendrix or Marley, I said I was the descendant,” he corrects, smiling at the tenuous distinction. “Because I feel like that’s what I want to be for this generation: iconic. That’s the purpose I want to serve on this earth. I want my words to be remembered in 10, 15 years.” Hubris or not, he’s hardly alone in his mighty estimation. The New York Times dubbed him “hip-hop’s current center of gravity.” Encouraged by Kanye West’s 2008 album 808s and Heartbreak, his records, unimpeachably perfect in their pristine woe as he raises tortured self-regard to new heights, have seen a host of soundalikes appear in his wake. These include his Canadian protege the Weeknd’s tremulous angst, the exquisite “cloud rap” of Main Attrakionz, Clams Casino’s foggy productions and A$AP Rocky’s psychedelically ethereal melodies, which evince a love, shared by Drake, of Houston’s funereally slow “chopped and screwed” music. Even Tyler, the Creator’s mordant confessionals seem to orbit the same musical universe.
Drawing on hip-hop, chillwave, dubstep, downtempo electronica and R ’n’ B, Drake’s is the sound of now. He makes musical connections, and he’s super-connected, calling on everyone from Kanye and Nicki Minaj (who he once pretended to marry on Twitter) to James Blake and the xx to work with him. Of course, not everyone loves Drake. There are those detractors.
“I can’t lie to you,” he deadpans, “I read what they have to say and it’s ... character-building.” He used to find it mortally wounding. “There have been times when a negative comment about me would be the be all and end all, and I’d wonder, ‘Why do you hate me so much? Why would you tell me that you want to kill my mom or see me dead?’”
It’s a fair question, one that Drake has grown accustomed to asking. “It’s scary for me to say this on record,” he says, “but artists are only human, and we seek validation like everyone else. You just have to come to the conclusion that it’s OK, there are going to be people who like you and people who don’t. Luckily there are millions of people who love me and a few who don’t.”
This doesn’t sound like arrogance, just a fact about someone who has sold records to, well, millions. “No one ever says anything to me in person,” he adds. “I mean, I’ve had it happen to me before but it’s just silly, like, ‘Oh Drake, you’re a pussy!’ and then they drive off really fast. But I get it, man. It’s being young. It’s funny. If I wasn’t in this position, would I do dumb shit? Maybe.”