It’s 1:02 a.m. on April 29, 2016, and as “VIEWS” permeates the thirsty ears of OVO fans, I can’t help but think about the reason I fell for Drake in the first place: His vulnerable willingness to humanize the women he raps about. Whether it’s calling them out by name as he does in song titles like “Bria’s Interlude,” or acknowledging how important the countless feminine voices are in his life, I needed to hear that shit. I hate when you’re submissive, he tells a woman in “From Time”—Drake knows women aren’t just monolithic sexual objects. We’re meaningful, multidimensional human beings.
Sure, Aubrey drops the occasional “bitch” and disregards a couple of the women he’s had sexual relations with, but don’t most of us? While genuinely supporting women more than his hip-hop star peers (and allowing men to be emotionally cognizant), Drake establishes himself as effective a feminist in his lane as Beyoncé in hers.
In the past, there’s been issue with Drake’s “good girl” ideal of a woman, underscored recently in “Hotline Bling,” a track about a scorned lover looking on in horror as his ex-girlfriend continues forward with her fabulous life. But Queen Bey didn’t seem to have an issue with it when she featured the Toronto artist on her song “Mine.”
“This is a song for the good girl,” he spits. Beyoncé co-signs.
Drake’s feminism is not perfect. It’s imbued with his own perception and misconceptions about how a woman should carry herself. It’s colored with his romantic preferences and experiences. It’s undercut by his misogynistic moments and countless public relationships. But, Drake’s feminism exists despite its imperfections. It’s just as flawed as Beyoncé’s, especially when she dropped her 2013 surprise, self-titled album (that’s the album on which Bey demands bitches to bow down right before she quotes feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), but isn’t that what makes it just as good? The major contradictions are compelling.
Drake’s song “Houstatlantavegas” explores his deep appreciation for an exotic dancer—a theme in many of his records and a departure from rap’s usual “she a stripper, naked, dancing, but she begging me to wife her,” philosophy. In the song, he croons, “she doesn’t ever worry, if she wants it she’ll get it on her own.” If Drizzy can see that specific truth in women who are generally reduced to a sexual object, I’m here for it. Then, in contradictory fashion, he raps a problematic verse. “You go get f*cked up and we just show up at your rescue,” he says, giving creepy white knight vibes. Rather than discount a track that supports women who choose to strip, that line exposes Aubrey’s flawed perception of reality.
His catalogue of songs is like the “LEMONADE” of rap today. It speaks loudly and straightforwardly to a specific group, bucks the genre’s status quo and has its fair share of paradoxical moments—except, instead of speaking to black women, he’s talking to black men who aren’t afraid to fall in love, especially with that girl your friends might judge.
Now, “Lemonade” is an impeccable body of work and I’m 100 percent in support of just about everything Beyoncé communicated in the piece.
But some listeners took issue with Bey’s “Becky with the good hair” line, her suggested violence against another woman (“I’ma f*ck me up a bitch,” she sings in “HOLD UP”) and that her album seems to support the idea of feuding with another woman over a man. That last point echoes especially poignantly in light of the recent events surrounding 16-year-old Amy Joyner, allegedly jumped and murdered in a school restroom over a boy.
Perhaps the perfect feminist would have focused all of her attention on her unfaithful man, but just as she’s always been, Beyoncé isn’t the perfect feminist. She’s human and her experiences are communicated as such. And I’m personally not above expressing any ill feelings toward the “side chick.”
A few of the lyrics on Bey’s other new tracks lean toward the side of the patriarchy. In one line in “6 INCH,” a song that alludes to a hard working stripper, Bey sings, “She don’t gotta give it up ‘cause she professional.” Could that line be interpreted to suggest that if the song’s subject did choose to “give it up,” she’d be any less of a professional, or that the line is bashing sex workers? Maybe. But it doesn’t take away from the empowering message behind the overall track, that blares hardworking womanhood: “She grinds day and night”…”She too smart to crave material things.” And she’s metaphorically murdering everyone while she’s doing it.
Now on “VIEWS,” Drake shows once again why he’s rap’s fearless feminist golden boy, allowing men, who are usually forced to shutter their emotions, scream it from the rooftops. On the album’s seventh track “Redemption,” Champagne Papi asks ever so gently,
“Why do I want an independent woman to feel like she needs me?”
Is that Papi exploring his own patriarchal feelings? “I lost my way,” he proclaims. But what he found, though, is that sweet and sour emotional balance that makes him hip-hop’s pro-woman anomaly.