Drake: Rap, Rhyme, and Rhythm

Aubrey Drake Graham, commonly known by his stage name “Drake,” is a modern-day Renaissance man, a jack of all trades. From acting in the role of Jimmy Brooks in Canada’s signature teen television show Degrassi, to hosting the 2014 ESPY awards with a combination of hilarious skits and songs. From working as the Toronto Raptors basketball team’s Global Ambassador, to becoming Grammy award-winning artist and innovative influencer in rap culture and commentary. If there’s one thing for sure, he definitely knows how to stay relevant. Almost too relevant, even, as he is also the root cause for the popularized use of the acronym “YOLO,” standing for “You Only Live Once.” While many of his commoner critics are concerned over the term’s transition from awe-inspiring to annoying, those within the music industry, specifically rap-naysayers, are opposed to rap’s inclination to be overly boastful and brash, and those within the rap genre are against his vocal combination of classic components of rap and his signature flair, both of which will be contested in this exhibit, Drake: Rap, Rhythm, and Rhyme.

The largest audible contrast between traditional “songs” and rap is the vocal delivery, the first is sung, while the latter is spoken. In addition, the lyrical content of most songs is centered around emotions that are generally considered to be more genuine and heartfelt, like love, pain, and anguish, while rap is infamous for being home to what some would call a cesspool of degrading references to money, drug abuse, and sexual activity. When combining the two points of analysis together, both vocal delivery and lyrical content, we arrive at the term “paralinguistics,” which entails vocal effects that are used to augment and/or alter the desired meaning and mood of the words being produced, an area of rapping which Drake’s voice has captured and captivated with.

Specifically in his “Forever” verse, which, fittingly, was written and recorded for the soundtrack of the "More Than a Game" documentary about professional basketball player LeBron James, Drake embodies a crucial, captivating blend of technical choices that illuminate his innovation and ingenuity not only in the sphere of rap, or even music, but the idea of voice as a whole. His paralinguistics dodge the stereotype of rap’s usual topicality by enlightening a empathic story of struggle to success and ambition against adversity through pause and pace, tone and timbre, and volume and vocal fermata. His specific angle on these tactics maintains the down-to-earth, almost-rough feel of classic hip hop, while revealing the emotional honesty in his rhyme and rhythm that is present in spoken word poetry, which rap is a derivative of. Though preserving these roots of rap, his vocal performance avoids the sneer and distatched disdain that other rappers (as will be seen with an audio recording from Childish Gambino) exhaust unto their audiences, and instead, offers a motivational and engaging conversation of his background and becoming that compels those who hear him to find commonality in and inspiration from. At heart, his voice speaks with, not at, his listeners.

In virtue of his array of ability and affect, Drake’s unique voice creates a channel of connection through the shared emotion and energy in his rap(s) that his audience can genuinely identify with, and subsequently, be inspired by. Ultimately, one does not listen to a Drake song to hear Drake. Instead, one truly listens to a Drake song to hear themselves, and in that self-reflective respect, Drake’s voice is captivating.


By Jason Fotso