Drake As Muse: A Thoughtful Discussion

Photographed by Ricky Michiels.

“it’s between me and drake”

I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard Drake. The year was 2009 and I was sitting in my friend's bedroom in Pittsburgh. I'm not sure why she wasn't there, but I had nothing better to do so naturally I was perusing the Internet. Whatever site I was on, the music video for "Best I Ever Had" popped up—I recognized the rapper as Aubrey Drake Graham from Degrassi, so I instantly clicked on it. After about an hour of frantic searching, I found Comeback Season and So Far Gone, then proceeded to download the mixtapes. (Note that this was the first illegal thing I ever downloaded and I was terrified that my laptop would catch a virus, but even then I knew that Drake was worth the risk.) From that day forward, my life was changed forever.

In the seven years that I have closely followed the career of Drake, I have developed what can only be described as a bond. Drake has been there with me for the best and worst times in my life. (I even chose to go to Bamboozle Festival to see him perform instead of attending my junior prom in 2010.) Anyone that knows me is fully aware of my mania with Drake. I don't know how I let my obsession escalate to the level it has currently reached, but it's gone to a point of no return and I honestly don't know what to do about it anymore. Last month, I became concerned about what was happening to me when I realized that people were associating Drake with my personality. Whenever my friends introduced me to someone new, they would say "This is Sydney, she really likes Drake." When Drake headlined Governor's Ball last year, all of my friends wanted to be with me so they could watch me cry. I didn't, but it was still a special moment to share.

2015 was hailed by many as the year of Drake. During the first quarter, Drake dropped his surprise If You're Reading This It's Too Late mixtape that dominated the Billboard charts for several weeks. For most of us, "Hotline Bling" was the song of summer, and we didn't think the season could get much better until Drake and Future teamed up on What A Time To Be Alive. You could say that we really have watched Drake go from zero to 100. Drake has gone from hosting the ESPYs in 2014 to coaching in the NBA and starring in a Super Bowl commercial. Drake has also made strides in another field—the art world. He started as a meme and worked his way to the level of collaborating on gallery exhibitions. He's also continued to build the October's Very Own (OVO) brand as something more than a record label—it's a lifestyle. (And the clothing line proves this point.) If life imitates art, Drake is a museum that needs to be explored.

Something that I've noticed over the years though is that Drake is one of the few successful mainstream artists that doesn't have a name for his fan base. In a way, we don't have an identity which is sort of cool in the sense that nobody labels us. Instead of writing out an entire personal narrative about analyzing my feelings for Drake—the man and the artist—and figuring out where I stand as a fan, I decided to consult others that might be going through the same thing as me. I reached out to Alt Space Brooklyn curator Grace Miceli (@artbabygirl), freelance illustrator Fabiola Lara (@champagne_fabi), and artist Shana Sadeghi-Ray (@scorpioincharge).

Not only are these twenty-somethings all feminist artists that I genuienly respect, but they also make Drake-inspired artwork. I had to know if I was slowly headed down a dangerous path of delusion, or if my feelings could be rationalized. For the first time ever, I felt like I was surrounded by people that completely understood me. "I don’t read reviews. I don’t want super thought out think pieces. I just want like, 'This is great!' That’s it. That’s all I want. I’m not in it to be intellectual about it," said Lara. "I just want to run like the Drake fandom. If you were a top fan, he would recognize you at some point."

It goes without saying that we got pretty emotional sharing our deepest thoughts about Drake, but it was comforting to talk about our various perspectives. Read our in-depth, round-table discussion in the gallery, above!

Photographed by Ricky Michiels.

It’s weird because Drake is the only artist to make me have like a cry-type reaction. I literally get so excited and so overwhelmed with emotions that I start to tear up.
Fabi: He makes me feel like I’m 13 and I don’t know why.
Grace: I know, there’s something I can be boy band-ish crazy about. 
Shana: I mean, I’m sure there have been like books written on that—the whole fanatic fandom. It’s great, as an adult, to still make me feel that uncontrolled emotion.
Grace: So many people lose that and they’re like, 'Oh why are you such a freak about Drake?' And I’m like 'I feel sorry for you, but you don’t have anything in your life that gives you this.'
Fabi: That’s why I respect One Direction fandom, Zayn fandom, and the Justin Bieber fandom of course. Total respect.
I’ve only seen Drake twice because every other time I would have had to go by myself. But the next time he goes on tour, I don't care. I’m going no matter what.
Fabi: I went with my boyfriend and I was like, 'This is not about you today, but thanks for the ticket. This is between me and Drake.' I feel bad for boyfriends at Drake shows, like it’s literally not about you at all... I’m just in the zone. I was screaming, I was about to cry. 
When did you start listening to Drake?
Fabi: I got in really late. I got in at 2012 and he came to my school.
Grace: When I first heard [Thank Me Later], I was living in London and it was just everyday. I would just be like, 'Oh, repeat' and listen to it five times in my room.
Fabi: I did my Spotify year-end review and it’s all Thank Me Later this year.
Shana: Yeah, so I think there’s something to be said. And I’ve said this before, that whenever I feel weird or kind of sad or just out of it, I’ll be like 'Oh I haven’t listened to Drake in a few days.' And then when you do, you kind of reset yourself and say 'Alright, I’m good.'
Fabi: There's a song for everything! It took my first breakup and then I got into Drake. Coincidence? Don’t think so. 
Shana: It’s this library you can just pick from and I don’t know if that can be said for some other singular music artists.
Grace: That’s how it is for me now. Whenever I’m really sad, I feel like Drake knows and he’ll drop something new. Except I’m waiting on his newest album.
I can’t wait for Views From The Six to drop. I’m going to lose my mind probably... And black out.
Grace: Depending how it goes, I’m getting Views tattooed on my hand. 
Fabi: I need it so bad. I need a new thing to be obsessed with.
Shana: That’s one of my favorite things about Drake—when you’re least expecting it, he pops us with something that he’s not used to doing. All these new beats, so good and uncharacteristic of his older style. It’s just like, 'Where are you pulling these from?'

Photographed by Ricky Michiels.

How did you get into making Drake art? Tell me about the work that you've made.
Grace: I’m trying to think of the first Drake thing I did… I don’t know, I consider myself to work in the vein of being a pop artist sort of. So I think for me it’s just that I’m always pulling stuff from whatever. It just made sense and that’s how I thought about it first, but then it’s like certain pieces…
Shana: It's direct influence.
Grace: Yeah, you’re just like, 'This is a thing I think about all the time.'
Fabi: Because otherwise you’d be avoiding it.
Grace: Exactly, and I think I’ve always want to. The first clothing piece that I made was the shirt of Drake in the style of Jenny Holzer. For me, I wanted something Drake, but I wanted to come at it from a different way. I didn’t want to just draw a Drake and put it on a shirt.
Yeah, I remember seeing that going around on Tumblr first, and I was like 'Who made this? It’s amazing.'
Grace: Yeah, for me it was like, 'Oh wouldn’t it be funny if you did this?' And then you do and you put it out there to see everyone freak out.
Fabi: I feel like everything is always just a joke. Like me joking with myself.
Grace: Yeah, so I think it’s just a way to express—it’s not fan art—but it’s just a way to express yourself. I mean, I guess it is and it’s just like, maybe we’ll make items of clothing that reference it because we know that our people want it and want to wear it too. There’s just an overlap in audience, so it makes sense, but yeah it’s totally a selfish thing. It’s like, 'I want this shirt so I’m going to make it.' Drake with the wheelchair—I had a shirt with that image that I made myself years ago, to the point that it was white but it’s gray now because I just wear it so much.  And we’ve joked too about how it’s fine if Drake finds it and sues us because then it’s a way to get his attention. [laughs]
Fabi: Oh my god, if he gave me a cease and desist, I would sell the cease and desist on a T-shirt. I did the wrapping paper and I was almost not going to do it because I was afraid of being traced, but then I realized... This is fine. 
Grace: I think he’s very supportive of people making fan art.
Not like Taylor Swift dropping copyrights.
Grace: Right, like when the Drake Shake app was made, the creator had to forge Drake’s signature when he made the app because they weren’t going to put it in the app store otherwise. And Drake ended up using it, but that’s a huge risk, he could’ve gone to jail for forging someone’s signature. We’re not looking to do that.
Fabi: That's why every time I’m making something, I think 'Just one more for the books.' I gotta put in my dues so that way when he calls me, I can be like, 'Yes, this is all I’ve done for you.'

Photographed by Ricky Michiels.

How would you describe Drake's relationship with the art world? I think there's definitely something there beyond him embracing meme culture—he did that collaboration with Sotheby's and had that cover for W magazine's art issue...
Shana: That’s why he’s super relatable. That’s why I freaked out over the "Hotline Bling" video, because I love [James] Turrell and he was obviously influenced by that, and it’s just like...this is sick. My favorite artist and Drake—it’s tight.
Fabi: It’s fluid.
Grace: Right, because these days, creative content producers, and really everyone, is doing everything and I feel like he gets that that’s what makes sense. It’s not weird where he’s actor turned rapper. That’s what everyone does now. Everyone has their hands in all forms of media. So, I think he gets that.
Shana: I think he realizes that art is one of the most valuable things you could own.
Grace: Jay Z was one of the first to kind of be all about the art that he collects and shooting videos in galleries. It’s a status symbol, but he’s coming at it from a little bit of a different angle.
I feel like Drake has kind of tiptoed with every move that he’s made, but it makes sense for him. I’ve never been like, “Oh why is Drake doing this?” I just accept it for what it is, I don’t really question it.
Fabi: Everything he does is sort of like, 'Oh, so where do I come in?'
Grace: I know, the one thing I’m not impressed by is the merch, and I’ve talked about this before, but the graphic design element of the OVO stuff is boring.
Fabi: It’s the basics. Which should exist, but there should be more. It should be more creative, it’s not like he sucks, it’s just he assigned someone to make a merch store and he’s not really doing anything for it.
What do you like about Drake as a person and as an artist?
Grace: I think it’s hard for someone like Drake who is so transparent; you kind of just assume that Drake as the person is Drake as the artist. You think of him as one person, but that’s not true.
Shana: I feel like his on-stage persona is more aligned with himself than maybe other artists. But there’s still a distance there that has to be acknowledged.
Grace: I always assume that as a performance artist, his lyrics are not hard, you know? He doesn’t kill people, he doesn’t carry guns.

Photographed by Ricky Michiels

As feminists, how do you feel about the way Drake portrays women in his songs? He approaches women in so many different ways, from "Hotline Bling" to "Hold On, We're Going Home" to "Make Me Proud"...
Grace: I don't know. At the end of the day, he is still this younger guy that I think is still a man. But of course, he should be critiqued and I feel like you could still be a fan of his. That’s the thing, with hip-hop being my favorite genre of music, you have to accept certain truths about it that you can’t always stand behind 100 percent. Yeah, it definitely can be frustrating for someone that you put so high up to say stupid things.
Fabi: I guess I kind of dismiss it. I’m just like, 'Oh Drake, you socked me right in the neck.'
Shana: I feel like he’s come a long way though. I’ve watched interviews from when he was younger, and he would say like crazy stuff like 'You should never get a breast reduction...'
Grace: He's learning!
Shana: And again, him being self-aware. I feel like these articles that are being written about it, even if he doesn’t read them, I can see his team seeing them and being like, 'We have to be a little more respectful of women.'
Fabi: Yeah, it’s hard because we all understand what he’s doing wrong, but we still like what he’s doing right.

I’m really nervous that something bad is going to happen and then I’m going to have to write a think piece about derailing my Drake obsession. I remember when Meaghan Garvey wrote that piece for Pitchfork called "I'm Breaking Up With Drake"—that's when I knew I might be in too deep.
Fabi: I hope he never has a scandal.
Same, I hope he never does anything.
Fabi: Oh can we talk about who he hangs with? Just because they’re all townies. It’s cute and I appreciate that he sticks to his roots, but it’s so confusing because he still has his same squad and it’s like, 'Who are these people?' He’s trying to put them on, but nobody really is paying attention. 
Shana: The stuff with Baka... I had to step back from that for a minute. Everyone that was bringing it up was joking and I was like, 'I don’t want to talk about it.'
Grace: My friend has this really good article that she just wrote for herself about like Drake’s ties to Baka. It’s so good. It’s so silly too, though. It’s like news reporting, but obviously it’s not news.
I’m just always like, 'Drake needs to separate himself from bad company and continue to not be controversial.'
Fabi: He wants to be a bad boy, kind of, you know? He wishes he was kind of hard so he does like these things with these people.
Grace: Right, and you’re just like, stop.
Fabi: Drake, you’re going on the wrong path. And he never gets too deep in, either.

Photos by Ricky Michiels, Savanna Ruedy + Tatum Mangus.

What are some of your favorite things about Drake? I know we’ve talked about so much, but if you could pinpoint a few key things...
Fabi: He has a really good smile. [laughs] Honestly, and that little hair thing—I wonder when he’s ever going to change it? He has had the same haircut for forever, and I don’t know if it’s iconic or stale. Food for thought.
Grace: I don’t know, there’s just something about it that’s just so comforting. I mean it’s obviously one-sided, but I feel like there’s a friendship. Like he’s my friend. I know he doesn’t know who I am, but...
Fabi: He’s relatable! To me personally.
Shana: Like I can cry to Drake songs and be like, 'Drake you get it. Nobody else gets it.'
And it’s going to be okay.
Fabi: Yeah, I’ll survive.
I love that kind of whiny, singing voice that he does. I don’t know why but that specific type of...
Grace: That slightly nasally 'youuuu.'
Yes! That I always love. Anytime that happens in a song. 
Fabi: Because it’s so cute. It’s like, 'Oh, you’re really trying to sing.'
I hear it in my ear like he’s right there and saying it to me up close.
Fabi: He can do no wrong in his songs.
Talking to you all has made me feel so much better. My friends literally do not understand, I can’t explain it to them. It’s just really nice to know that there are other people out there just going through the feels too...that have been touched by the comfort of Drake.
Fabi: Even sometimes if it’s a song that doesn’t necessarily like, I can stick it in a particular mindset and be like, 'Oh yeah, this is gonna be good later.' This is perfect for another time. I think there's just a song for every mood. But also not, because he’s not that poetic. His lyrics are good, but it’s funny because it’s not cryptic and I love that.
Shana: I think they’re super obvious.
Grace: Which you don’t get from men often. [laughs]
Fabi: [laughs] He’s one of the few men that I’m a fan of.
Grace: That’s what I like about him, I don’t know.
Fabi: You just get it, that’s it. Don’t try and make me think, that’s annoying. Leave that for someone else.
Grace: His vulnerability, that’s something I like about him and that’s inspiring. He’s inspiring to me. It makes me want to share my feelings. 
Fabi: I also like that he knows that he doesn’t come from a super hard place.
Grace: He’s not trying to be anything that he’s not.
Fabi: Which, I love.
Grace: These are good, we’re not picking physical traits about him.
Fabi: I said his smile was good, his hair, his soft, hard body... [laughs] Oh my god, his ab photos.
Yeah, I was like, 'How did we get here?'
Fabi: It’s so funny because it's like he just worked out for two weeks and then he got really excited and took a photo.
Shana: He’s so fast to post a thing. He doesn’t wait until he’s fully developed; he has to post it right then and there.
He's about that fit fam life.
Shana: But he knows and I love that he makes fun of himself. That got me a lot.
Grace: Yeah, his self-awareness is another thing. 
Shana: It’s great because I feel like no other artist makes fun of themselves, really.
Fabi: Yeah, he has a playful side. I can tell...from over here.