Aubrey “Drake” Graham released his sophomore album, Take Care, the other week. On it, Drake talks about many women, and sometimes a single woman, and all the ways they’ve hurt and mistreated the rapper-singer from Toronto. And, of course, there is one song on the album he reserves to sing directly to the ladies. It’s called “Make Me Proud"—and it’s his requisite Song for Women.
It's hard to think of a current rapper who’s gotten as much out of this tradition as Drake, the 25 year old who is “hip-hop’s current center of gravity.” The Song For Women is not a new staple in hip hop—go back [...]
Part of a series on collaborations that we now take for granted but initially made little sense.
Hip hop’s lyrical narrative often gets unfairly abbreviated to being about nothing more than posturing and persona, a never-ending series of mostly meaningless boasts about how nice my rhymes sound, and so on. That’s been a component of the story for a long time—recall Sugar Hill Gang’s proud pronouncement, in 1979, that “I got a color TV, so I can see/the Knicks play basketball”—but hip hop verses are also a place for confessions, specifically for those of black men. There's a reason, for example, that Scarface once wrote a song [...]
Late on Friday night, I joined a lot of other white people at the Highline Ballroom to see Odd Future. At the door, a girl in a Juicy sweatshirt handed out paper masks of Tyler, The Creator’s face. The image was borrowed from his self-designed Goblin album cover. There were eyeholes punched out, so that you couldn’t see the milky black irises he’d Photoshopped onto his own face, and so that every person there could resemble Tyler while they chanted “swag,” “goblin,” and “Free Earl," who needs no freeing, at the 20-year-old with a microphone and a record deal who claims not to care for his own music.
Nicki Minaj was six years old in 1990, when Island Records released Lin Que's first album, "Rebel Soul." Lin herself was then only 18. She was a member of the Black Nationalist group X Clan and was known as Isis. Just a year removed from high school, she traveled the world, meeting celebrities like Prince and Diana Ross. “I got bit by that bug, you know?” Lin told me on the phone last spring. “I’m a teenager and I want to be a star—but I don’t know shit.”
What she didn’t know would eventually hurt her. By 1997, Lin had signed three additional record deals, but "Rebel Soul" [...]
Three months ago, I posed for my college graduation photo—the official one in front of an American flag, diploma in hand, ready to face the world. Since then the photography company has emailed me almost weekly, offering discount upon discount and before-it's-too-lates. But when the picture was taken, just seconds after I had crossed the stage and shaken hands, I was too delirious to smile, so instead I bit my lower lip. I mean I almost swallowed it. I don't know how it happened. Normally, I have no trouble smiling. But I remember at that moment that the muscles would not contract into a casual, triumphant smile, that my [...]