Sunday, March 28, 2010

On Repeat: Drake-Over

You probably know Drake. He started as an angsty teen on the Canadian middle-school drama Degrassi and was on the traditional fizzle track of a child star. And then a funny thing happened. He released his So Far Gone mixtape in January 2009 and absolutely exploded. It didn't hurt that Lil Wayne and Bun B offered their services on a few tracks, but the fact remained, Drake did with his So Far Gone mixtape what most rappers aspire their entire career to realize. It spawned 2 Top 20 singles (Successful and Best I Ever Had) and a new hip-hop juggernaut was born. His affiliation with Lil Wayne's Young Money troupe resulted in 2 MORE Top 10 singles (Bed Rock and Every Girl) and in less than 12 months, Drake had gone from obscure Toronto actor to being offered a verse on Forever with the 3 biggest rap artists of the decade (Sorry Hov): Lil Wayne, Eminem and Kanye West. Talk about a whirlwind.

Understandably, the hype surrounding his 'proper' debut album has been deafening. The brilliance/heel of hip-hop is that its artists never rest on their laurels. Even if they are locked up 10 hours a day working out an album, they never fail to pop-up with guest verses or scrape together a mixtape. However, by doing this, artists run the risk of over-exposure or worse, a drying of their creative wells. You can't fault them for striking while the iron is hot. So when Drake released 'Over', the first single off his debut album, a fair number of people were  bracing themselves for disappointment. Oh ye of little faith.

'Over' showcases why Drake is such a unique hip-hop commodity. He has an incredibly versatile voice that allows him to ride a complex beat one minute and then sing the entire hook himself. This is a scary development. Before Drake, hip-hop hooks were almost exclusively the domain of R&B mercenaries. On 'Over', Drake makes it abundantly clear that he has the chops to handle both. The song opens audaciously into the chorus, Drake's voice sounding so full you almost think it's autotuned. The fluttery violins and introspective opening lines are quickly revealed as a red herring (the first time those drums come in never fail to give me goosebumps) and Drake lurches headstrong into verse. While not his most engaging lyrics (the MJ and Ebert references are a little lame), his confidence and delivery are as contagious and convincing as ever.

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