Drake, Meek Mill, Stereotyping Blackness, Hip-Hop, & Masculinity

I'm not a fan of Drake or Meek Mill (although I am a former Drizzy fan in my high school days and still like some of his music). However, Drake continues to show us you don't need to be about that street life or be a battle rapper to be a dope artist. The fuel continued when Toronto rapper Drake performed in Philadelphia, the hometown of his arch nemesis, Meek Mill. Drake had some choice words for Mr. Mill which caused him to summon the Philly goon squad to attempt to "press" Drake. This turned out to be an epic fail. Not only did Drake come to Meek's city and diss him, but he also left untouched and unbothered.

I always felt like within the rap/hip-hop scene, other rappers and emcees see Drake as an easy target. He's Canadian, biracial, light skinned, an actor, doesn't come from "the hood", sings love songs, has a significant fan base of women, and is basically the antithesis of what a typical mainstream rapper is "supposed" to be. Although rap/hip-hop culture did not begin with the gangsta sub-genre, gangsta rap took the world by storm with the Compton, CA based group NWA and it has played a huge part in defining masculinity for many young Black men and boys in the last couple decades. Even before the conception of gangsta rap, competition in in hip hop via battle rapping was always prevalent and symbolic of  While I'm not the biggest fan of today's hip-hop, I do like that the culture is more open and accepting to rappers who do not come from the hood and don't rap about street talk. Emcees and rappers like De La Soul, Black Thought, Kanye West, and others paved a way for the Drakes to sing and spit. Gangsta rap will always be a driving force in the genre, but that's not the end all be all of hip-hop and it never was.

Take Jay-Z for example. Like him or not, he has certainly reinvented his self from drug dealer to business mogul. From East Coast gangsta rap to spittin' bars about being a CEO. You're not required to stay in that space for the sake of "street cred". Within this never ending saga between Drake and Meek Mill, I can tell that Meek probably saw himself as having authority over Drake with him being from Philly and having a background as a battle rapper. Drake showed and proved that those brownie points are cute for the hood, but they hold no weight. Last year during the beef when Drake dropped "Back To Back", I pointed out how throughout hip-hop beef history, there have been wins from emcees who were underestimated by their rivals perhaps because they weren't spittin' on the gangsta rap tip. Common proved this to Westside Connection with his 1996 track "The Bitch In Yoo". Queen Latifah slammed Foxy Brown on her "Name Callin' Part 1" and "Name Callin' Part 2" response tracks. Having this "gangster gangster", "hardcore thug" persona does not equate to actual strength and it definitely doesn't mean you're a superior rapper in the hip-hop arena. Ironic how the more "softer", spitters effortlessly clapped back at the hardcore ones.

This conversation reminds me of growing up on the westside of Chicago. I was underestimated, my Blackness invalidated because I liked rock and pop music, and wasn't always dressed in the popular urban gear brands of the early 2000's era (remember RocaWear and Baby Phat?). I remember being called a "White girl" and told "You Black, but you ain't Black as hell!" I liked hip-hop and rocked a few Baby Phat outfits here and there but I was also introduced to another side of life. There's nothing wrong with embracing urban Black culture, but Black culture doesn't stop there. So of course I was tested by girls in my neighborhood and at school and I showed and proved, just because you think I'm less Black because of my hobbies and the way I dress doesn't mean you will succeed in trying to punk me.

I went to a private high school on the westside of Chicago and there were two public schools in the area. Ever so often, boys from the two high schools would jump the boys from my high school for no reason. Actually, the reason was this idea of seeing the boys from private school as weak, stuck up, and easy targets. The irony was that while we attended a private school in the middle of the hood, we were coming from the same neighborhoods the students from the two public schools were coming from. None but a few people came from rich families. Even if we did live in high income neighborhoods and came from rich families, there was still no valid reason to jump those young men. This was rooted in insecurity, hypermasculinity, invalidating Blackness, and the classic ol' "crabs in a barrel" metaphor.

The point I'm trying to make is that some of us think Blackness and (Black) manhood is rooted in poverty, the hood, hypermasculinity, urban gear, gansgta rap, etc, and anyone who shows the opposite is either trying to be White, not Black enough, and/or "soft". People like Drake keep showing us you don't have to be a flamboyantly violent, hypermasculine, or an aggressive rapper to succeed in the rap game. As for the Philly goons, let me say this. All that "I'm finna run up on you for disrespeckin' my mans" junk is still active, yes, but it was cute in the 1990's and early 2000's. It's not cute anymore especially among "grown men".

Drake obviously has too much going for himself to entertain this. No one is shook or impressed by that unless it's really needed, not for some petty beef between two rappers who probably are cool behind the scenes. No one is impressed by "200 goons" coming to "press" one man. No one is impressed by someone who makes a video incriminating himself and shouting out The Shade Room. Sounds more like a ploy for attention to me. I can't help but to notice how quick some folks are so ready to pop off for petty drama, but slow to serve their community. I'm not saying the "200 Philly goons" are like that, I don't know them, but I see this theme way too often. If some of the goons in the hoods of America were quick to address and pop off on crime, molestation, and other issues in their neighborhoods as quick as they are to get on camera and address petty beef for WSHH hits, the communities would be safer. This is the issue. No one is impressed by the need to validate ones masculinity through fighting another man over fickle drama. If Drake is "soft" to a goon from Philly, so be it. If Drake doesn't write his own music, keep it hip-hop, keep the disses on wax and keep the 200 goons out the mix. It looks stale and weak. If Meek Mill can pop off at the mouth and disrespect others, so can Drake. Bye, toxic masculinity.



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