the gang feels a whole lotta yolo going on…
This week, our song for The Singles Party comes to us from our resident hip-hop writer and graphic designer, Nick Porcaro. While we’ve been spending the past few weeks looking at more danceable pop and hip-hop (Mika, JT, Macklemore, Icona Pop), Nick asked us to follow him down the rabbit hole of hip-hop and examine the newest track from the genre’s megastar, Drake.
And if you’re wondering, yes, there will be plenty of Degrassi High references made throughout this.
Nick Porcaro: Wheelchair Jimmy’s latest track proves the old axiom right: “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.” Drake’s occasionally impressive lyricism is practically non-existent here—and his vague tale of struggle is dubious, to say the least—but that stupid-simple hook and those sinister piano loops just drill themselves into your memory and stay right put. Not bad for a guy who only four years ago was spitting convoluted, clunky flows over old-hat Jay-Z beats. (It’s all too easy to forget that.) The Canadian One has served up less of a single than a mission statement: “I’m here to stay,” his sing-songy flow taunts from atop a pile of money. “Deal with it.” Verdict: Add to playlist.
Lauren Stern: While the rest of the country might adore Drake’s rhymes and his “YOLO” attitude, I’m sitting in the corner with my arms crossed, making the Mckayla Marooney “not impressed” face. I’m not sure why this is because I’ve tried a few times to really listen to some of Drake’s rhymes, but there’s something about his music doesn’t blow me away.
So for the sake of this week’s Single’s Party, I really tried being as open-minded as possible going into my first listen of “Starting from the Bottom.” In fact, I really wanted it to change my opinion of Drake altogether and get me on the bandwagon. But it didn’t do any of that. It just made me regret putting it on in the first place.
I’m sorry to say that I thought this song was just plain awful from start to finish. I don’t know how people find this to be catchy because to me it was just plain irritating. I don’t know what was worse the repeating piano loop or the awful rhyme on top of it. And putting the two together was just a plain awful combination.
Sorry Drake. If it’s any consolation, I really liked you as Jimmy on Degrassi. Verdict: One and Done
Brent Johnson: Okay, Drake. I’ll give you this: The beat and synth riff aren’t bad. It’s awesome that you’re able to stand up in a moving convertible and rap — IN THE SNOW! Those white guys in the supermarket? Wicked funny. And yes, your rags-to-riches story is probably inspiring to many. But remind me: Did you start from the bottom? I don’t think I heard you the first 50 times. It’s one thing to be proud. It’s another thing to be redundant. For a mission statement and a true-life memoir, the whole thing feels kinda slight. Verdict: One and Done.
Jason Kundrath: Despite his ever-growing popularity, this is officially the first Drake track I’ve ever heard. And I must admit my ambivalence. One the one hand, the beat is simple, stark and undeniable. Guaranteed to make your head nod. And the piano loop is mesmerizing. On the other hand, there is Drake himself. His carefully under-enunciated flow certainly isn’t unique to the game, but it does sound a bit contrived and lazy. That said, he makes it work. And I can appreciate the “rags to riches” theme. The video is pretty good, too. Yes, I like this track. But there is something else: the way he casually threads the word “nigga” into the hook is an issue for me as a white person. Damn it, Drake! You’ve opened a can of sociological issues here. I can deal with a few N-bombs in my rap and hip/hop. It’s art. It’s real. (Hell, I loved Django Unchained.) But you see, as hot as this track may be, I can’t really add it to MY playlist. I won’t be blasting this track in my car. I would just feel a little weird about it. This track was made well. It just wasn’t made for me. Am I overreacting here? Hmmmm… maybe. Verdict: Abstain.
Kelly Gonsalves: I’ll be blunt: Forcing myself to listen to this entire song was close to unbearable, and under no circumstances would I have sat through those torturous five minutes and 15 seconds by choice. The message is acceptable – the story of a kid growing up from what he perceives to be “the bottom” and working his way to success – but it’s nothing new from Drake and from the rap genre in general. And the eerie background piano melody on repeat hardly goes hand-in-hand with this idea of accomplishment and self-assurance; in fact, the music and words are so discordant as to make me less inclined to feel any sort of happiness for the rapper’s success. The least I’d expect would be a somewhat catchy beat or at least a gem of a line somewhere amid the dry verses and repetitive, uninteresting chorus, but those are both lacking from this piece as well. I admittedly tend to have a lot respect for Drake’s style and work in general, but this single honestly fell flat on its face. Verdict: One and done.
Bill Bodkin: Every rapper has this ‘started from the bottom now I’m taking care of my crew because we on top’ track in their musical arsenal just like 80s hair bands had songs about groupies or strippers. Unfortunately for the artist who doesn’t want to be known as Aubrey, he takes a classic hip-hop theme and puts little effort into it. His monotone flow sounds as if he’s bored and is just waiting for his fat royalty check to come in. I’ll agree with Singles Party guest writer Nick Porcaro — the beat is catchy and this’ll be the cause for “Started From the Bottom” to be a club anthem and fertile for fodder for remixes. But in the end, this song should avoid your playlist at all costs. Verdict: One and done.
Joe Zorzi: While many people would say Drake did not start at “the bottom”, the rap superstar and former child actor decided to make a song about his come up. “Started From the Bottom” does not sound like the Drake we all know. He hopped on that trap beat, simple flow bandwagon that’s been blowing up with artists like 2 Chainz and Chief Keef. And while it’s obviously just Drake trying to stay relevant, he did a damn good job with it. The main complaint I’ve always had about a lot of these trap rappers is that they have the style but they have no talent. They can’t flow, they can barely stay on beat and half of their verses just don’t make sense. But Drake is truly great at his craft and this song shows he can hop on any style and make it work. Even if you don’t throw this on your playlist, after one listen it’ll be stuck in your head for days. Verdict: Add to Playlist
Final Verdict: It’s looking like Drake’s ‘Started From the Bottom’ has split the crew. Joe, Nick and Jay both enjoy it, while Brent, Bill, Kelly and Lauren kinda hate everything about it. This is one of those ‘listen at your own risk’ tracks — it’s a love it or hate it…we’ll let you decide on this one.