By Dee Lockett
As Drake reflects on how he got to the top with his new single ‘Started from the Bottom,’ keep in mind the best of Drake is never what the radio plays.
I have a theory about Drake: everyone’s favorite Canadian rapper believes in the full-length album. He looks at music in terms of individual bodies of work packaged in LPs and mixtapes. You don’t see Drake drop a song for the sake of staying relevant — that’s what guest raps are for. And in an industry that pressures artists to make the perfect single, he has established his own marketing strategy to steer fans in the direction of his albums.
Drake releases weak lead singles.
Dating back to So Far Gone, he promoted “Best I Ever Had,” an ode to his best girl (this was pre-Rihanna), as a single. It was wildly popular among most demographics, prompting many to consider Drake as a serious rapper – not just “Wheelchair Jimmy.” In doing so, he made fans quickly realized songs like “Successful” and “Houstatlantavegas” were the real highlights of the mixtape.
For his debut album, Thank Me Later, Drake went with “Over” as the lead single. It was received well, but is incomparable to the rest of the album’s lyrical content (see: “Fireworks”). Once again, for his sophomore album Take Care, Drake went with a radio-friendly first single, “Headlines.” And popular on radio it was. But, it’s barely memorable because Drake doesn’t choose lead singles that resonate with fans.
After taking a year off, Drake is back with the first single from his untitled upcoming third album: “Started From the Bottom.” It’s a formulaic Drake lead single – a simple beat, shallow lyrics, and lazy flow. But, fans will love it because it’s what they’re used to. I love it because it promises more. I also love it because it’s a throwback to his roots in more ways than just the obvious. For too long Drake relied on his label YMCMB for publicity. Then the label’s founder went to jail for a year and Drake figured out he was kind of a household name all on his own.
With that name, Drake created his own label October’s Very Own (OVO) with longtime producer Noah “40” Shebib, which has morphed into the clothing brand of the hypebeasts. I find it extremely humbling that Drake chose to drop this new single via that label’s blog, posting a brief message to explain that decision: “It felt right to come back to the site that I started on and release it to the people that started here with me.”
Be on the lookout for the official video to debut after the Grammy Awards on Feb. 10. If Drake is back in prime form as I suspect he is, expect yet another classic. Don’t let the single fool you.