Mixtape retrospective: looking back on Drake’s So Far Gone
So Far Gone is like a mixtape rubik’s cube. I keep picking it up and listening and getting confused; how do people like this? It seems needy and emotional but not thoughtful. Drake was constantly referencing women but not with any distinct intelligent things to say about them. The fact of the matter is that if you look back on it So Far Gone changed the rap universe. If your listening for the ramifications turn on the radio.
Even when Kanye was backpacking he was talking about political and social issues. He got a lot of credit for changing masculinity but it all boiled down to having the stones to wear a pink polo shirt…which seems like a small accomplishment (Cam’ron nods). So Far Gone really does change things. It’s not a break up album full of anguish like 808s& Heartbreak; the level of barren emotion you can hear on the Trey Songz assisted Successful is Drakes resting place. Goofball fun Kraftwerk-sounding tracks like Lets Call It Off with Peter Bjorn & John are natural and not stretch tracks, where a tough guy rapper does a goofy song to have a single (Eminem nods). How many rappers were jumping all over Lykke Li’s Little Bit for a singing duet? Listen to the beginning of Say Whats Real “Why do I feel so alone? Like everybody passing through the studio is in character as if he acting out a movie role.” It’s not just about him feeling lonely it’s about the hollowness of male bravado in hip hop circles. The never smile attitude that leaves a world without smiles.
He jumped on Ignant Shit with Lil Wayne and flossed (although he still says the phrase eager beavers which is not very flossy) then shared the Teddy Pendergrass-esque sex breakdown song A Night Off with Lloyd. R&B dudes used to play at rapping but rap fans didn’t really care/acknowledge it. Drake was comfortable in both spheres with a real knowledge of rap that extended to Houston hip hop and Little Brother underground. Balancing both is something that really hadn’t been successfully pulled off before (Domino nods).
Best I Ever Had changed the industry. The notion of a hip hop song not even really solely about love, like the old LL Cool J stuff, but a song about a woman being the best sexual partner you’ve ever had. A lot of credit goes to Noah “40” Shebib who put the bass knock in that song that makes it undeniable. This is a hip hop song. Whether you believe Drakes sincerity regarding women or don’t try and find a Dr. Dre song that’s complimentary of female sexual partners. It just wasn’t done, women were reduced not pedestaled. After Drake became Drizzy the male MC had more he could do. If he mixed feelings or relationships into his songs he would get thoughtful points but still having the gun talk (absent from a lot of Drake stuff) the fans would still consider him hard. Before that if you made a sensitive song everyone assumed you were riding the Common lane and were playing community leader. If you listen to what a lot of us consider the high point of rap (90’s) it’s an emotional wasteland. What’s the most emotionally charged Das Efx Song? Black Moon? I love all that stuff but we have to respect that So Far Gone broke things wide open. Is Houstatlantavegas a faux pimpish sleezeball anthem soaked to the skin with the kind of R&B you used to make fun of? Yes. It’s also really really good; Drake can sing and construct a hook and what he’s doing is unlike your favorite or least favorite rappers. You can always say this dude sounds like Drake but I’ve never said “Drake is just ___” cause who would that other name even be? Not Kanye, he’s more Phonte from Little Brother and he’s darn sure not Phonte. He’s still very vein and self-centered; lots of braggadocio but never ever convincingly hazardous.
Maybe the thing I love most is how stupid he is sometimes. On So Far Gone, his first major major mixtape he has a song with Bun B & Lil Wayne called Uptown on his time to shine he says the corniest line “sipping Pink Floyd, puffing Wayne Brady. Damn…Whose Line is It Anyway?” Really? A Wayne Brady, Whose Line name-check on your big southern style collabo jam? Yup. That’s some Drake ish. This is the only platinum artist who raps about muffins.
Stream or download So Far Gone below: