DrakeWalter

As far as I know, Drake has never murdered anyone (although, “you never know“). And contrary to that outdated yet stubbornly resilient rapper stereotype, he’s never been involved with selling drugs. But as I was undertaking the absurd and Herculean task of ranking the rapper’s 100 best songs earlier this week, I kept noticing how much Drake’s attitude resembled that of Walter White, Breaking Bad’s most antiheroic of antiheroes — and that was before I was even aware of the viral Tumblr Drake-ing Bad, in which the great Houston rap journalist Shea Serrano paints Drake into scenes from the show. (Still decided to call this essay Drake-ing Bad because like Aubrey Graham and Walter White, I am stubborn.) I made the connection explicit in my writeup for “I’m On One,” which concluded like so: “in Drake’s world — much like his fellow egotist Walter White’s world — there’s no such thing as happy endings for ruthless conquerors.”

The more I thought about it, the more I realized these guys are kindred spirits, all the way down to being fictional characters of a sort if you buy Jeremy Larson’s argument that Drake’s emotional expression is a performance. They’re two of a kind, and considering this week marks the release of Drake’s Nothing Was The Same and the series finale of Breaking Bad, we might as well count the ways. (WARNING: Breaking Bad spoilers ahead.)

Both men seemed like harmless wimps at first but gradually revealed their inner monsters. People still crack jokes about how soft Drake is. The hilarious rap blogger/Ghostface Killah parody Big GhostFASE has made a cottage industry of it; his Take Care review is internet canon, and if you haven’t read his Nothing Was The Same review yet, you’re missing out, nah mean? But as Drake has grown more and more powerful and encountered more and more conflict, the cruel, merciless aggressor who was in there all along has come to the surface — call it the “Tough Drake” era if you’re feeling favorable toward him; proclaim “the mansion doors swing shut behind you and he mostly stops pretending to be nice” if not. A similar rise to power and the struggle to maintain that power turned mild-mannered chemistry teacher Walter White into a murderous drug kingpin. (Unlike Aubrey and Walter, we’re merciful around here, so we’ll spare you that oft-repeated maxim about Walt’s transformation.)

Both alienate friends and family while claiming everything they do is for friends and family. Drake likes to talk about how everything he does is for his people; think “All I care about is money and the city that I’m from” or “There’s times when I might blow like 50K on a vacation for all my soldiers just to see the looks on all their faces.” But he frequently ends up shitting all over those same people when they rub him the wrong way. “Too Much” is the latest example of Drake using his records to put people on blast. On Fallon, he offered a disclaimer that he only wants what’s best for his loved ones, but I can’t imagine his mother enjoyed having a national TV audience hear that she’s “cooped up in her apartment, telling herself that she’s too sick to get dressed up and go do shit.” Nor could any of his friends and family been pleased to hear Drake bragging that he achieved success all by himself on “All Me” — not the mother who sacrificed so much for him, not the uncle who let him borrow his Lexus back in the day, not the producers and cast of DeGrassi, not mentors Birdman and Lil Wayne, not signature producers Noah “40″ Shebib and Boi-1da, etc. etc. etc. Months after celebrating about “the whole team” being on top with him, he slapped the whole team in the face. As for Mr. White, he always insisted that his quest to become top dog in the meth game was to provide for his family before cancer took him out of the picture, but his actions directly resulted in his brother-in-law being euthanized Old Yeller style, his wife facing prison time and his son shouting “Why won’t you just die already?” while refusing those barrels full of blood money, rendering all the soul-crushing bloodshed, sweat and tears for nothing once and for all.

Both are emotional manipulators. Walter White has a long track record of toying with the emotions of his supposed friends and family in order to get what he wants, particularly his partner and protege Jesse Pinkman. By tapping into Jesse’s need for a father figure’s approval, he’s managed to convince the poor kid to do everything from breaking up with his girlfriend to getting deep in the meth business to murdering a hapless twerp. He’s made marionettes out of his actual family too, nudging his wife into a criminal enterprise and making a fool of his teenage son. As with most of these categories, Drake hasn’t sunken to the same extreme depths, but his catalog is littered with passive-aggression, mostly toward women who’ve spurned him; you can’t wring your hands over all the good women settling down with somebody else (see: “Good Ones Go (Interlude),” “From Time”) when you insist on sleeping around (see: the 2 Chainz collabs “No Lie” and “All Me”). But that’s exactly what he does on “Marvins Room.” The sad-sack rapper connives to convince a woman to take him back, shit-talking her current boyfriend while casually mentioning all the other women he’s been banging.

Both present themselves as an array of different characters depending on who’s watching. As referenced above, Drake is an actor at heart. He first made his name playing a character on a teen soap, and he’s the definitive rapper of the carefully constructed social media era. That background shines through in his music, in which he takes on countless guises depending on the occasion. For evidence of his chameleonic tendencies, look no further than the first two singles from Nothing Was The Same; the ice-cold paranoia of “Started From The Bottom” and the warm goop of “Hold On, We’re Going Home” couldn’t be farther apart. Those are the two basic archetypes; you could boil it down to playing to the men vs. playing to the ladies, but it’s deeper and more nuanced than that. His career is one big carefully orchestrated Facebook profile with gregarious talk-show appearances and mean-mugging rap-beefs shaping his public persona alongside the same way you or I would purposefully construct our lists of favorite bands and TV shows. Breaking Bad’s main character has two primary modes too — suburban dweeb Walter White and the vicious gangster Heisenberg — and he’s been known to toggle between them depending on whether he’s trying to convince present company that he wouldn’t hurt a fly or that he is the one who knocks. Walter White himself is a fictionalized construct, of course, but some of Bryan Cranston’s best scenes on the show are Walt’s performances within a performance, like that awful video confession he used to back Hank and Marie into a corner.

Neither one can let go of a grudge. Walter’s lingering resentment toward his wife, his employer and his former business partners is what launched his entire drug escapade in the first place, and judging from last week’s “Charlie Rose ex machina,” it’s also the catalyst that will bring the whole thing to a close. Drake is controlled by his grudges too. On songs like “Shot For Me,” Drake airs grievances against ex-girlfriends who have no way to respond, while tracks like “The Motion” showcase his bitterness toward rappers who he believes have wronged him.

Both reveal the emptiness of the success fantasy, although both are too blinded by their egos to realize that. Drake famously rapped about his desire to be successful, then spent the majority of his career spouting lyrics like “Having a hard time adjusting to fame” and “What am I afraid of? This is supposed to be what dreams are made of.” No matter how much he (rightfully) gloats about being rap’s current king, he doesn’t seem to enjoy it at all. Walt at least seemed to have fun during his brief tenure at the top, but he was in denial about the consequences of his actions, his heart 99 percent hardened because of it.

Most importantly, both are driven by their maniacal pride. Underneath all these parallels is the motivation for such monstrous behavior: a smoldering wounded ego of burning-star-core propotions. Drake can’t stand the thought of being viewed as someone whose powerful friends and privilege were behind his success; Walt’s ego can’t allow him to let Hank go on thinking that sniveling Gale was Heisenberg. At the bottom of their blackened hearts, these men desire not only absolute power but unanimous recognition of their absolute power. They want to be known as royal geniuses, and it makes them royal pricks.

Comments (52)
  1. I heard that Drake invented music, freedom, laughter and Coca-Cola. Dude’s everywhere.

  2. One of them is a cartoonish fake character. The other one is Walter White, and unlike Drake, people not in high school actually care about him.

  3. This is seriously one of the most stupid and pointless think pieces I’ve ever read on Stereogum.

    Also according to a friend of mine from Toronto who has mutual friends with Drake, the guy’s always been a cocky douche bag, he just presents his wimpy character to us.

    STOP.

    • This article should honestly be taken down, make a Drake fansite where you do shit like this, but don’t post it here. Breaking Bad is wrapping up in mere days and this does not deserve to ride it

      • Noisey pulls stuff like this on the daily multiple times of day. It’s just where music writing is these days.

        • so you’re saying it’s okay for Stereogum to stoop down to a level like this?

          • No, I’m not defending it, but I’ve learned to concede that all of these sites are getting a bit more troll-y with their content for whatever reason (I’m sure their analytics teams have found justification to write them or whatevs.) Look at Pitchfork and their kinda new blog called “The Pitch” which had three think pieces alone by their writers in the past week on Drake, and I’m not sure if any of it was necessary.

            Plus, it’s getting toward the end of the year. Things gey a bit cray around here in the think piece department. We got handed a steaming hot pile of troll shit platter in the form of that Mumfords defense this time last year, so I’m looking at this as ‘Gums warm up to an even bigger entertaining argument.

          • If this is a think piece, this is insulting.

  4. Really, stereogum? REALLY?

  5. May I suggest the following thinkpieces:

    - F is for Drake: The Aubrey Graham/Orson Welles Connection
    - Drake Boss: The Cake Boss/ Aubrey Graham Connection
    - Top of the Drake: Aubrey Graham, Jane Campion, and Patriarchy
    - Drake, Rattle, and Roll: How Aubrey Graham is Redefining Rock and Roll
    - I’ve Made a Huge Misdrake: The Arrested Development of Aubrey Graham
    -”I’m cold and I am shamed, lying [Drake]d on the floor”: Celebrating 16 Years of Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” Which is Basically a Drake Song, When You Think About it.

  6. What the fuck is this shit, Stereogum? This sounds like something some idiot football player would write for his high school English class!

    So I leave you with this:

  7. Saul Goodman’s reaction to this post:

  8. It’s all uphill from here, Stereogum. This must be rock bottom for this site, no?

  9. It’s never good when “The Drakeography: The 100 Best Drake Songs” isn’t your worst Drake related piece of the week.

  10. stop, please, i’m sorry for whatever it was i did

    no more…

  11. Can I at least say that I like Chris tackling different topics and drawing interesting parallels while discussing said topics? (e.g. two Deconstructing pieces last week)

    That being said, I haven’t read this one yet.

  12. Do y’all get paid every time you print the word “Drake”? Does Amanda Bynes write for this site? This is just goddamned pathetic.

  13. Before I read this, I just want to say to my friends and family “I want the best for everybody, I love you all”.

  14. My goodness, that picture is insulting enough.

  15. Anyone else feel like Pitchfork and Stereogum to a certain extent are getting into Rolling Stone/NME territory nowadays? Perhaps some new publication will spring up soon that has swagger and covers legit shit. Underground music is getting a lot of decent coverage here, but it seems like it’s no longer the main focus.

    • In my opinion Pitchfork has been putting out great features of late. I love their cover stories (for the brilliant design and the interesting content), I usually enjoy reading their articles, and they’re constantly putting out other good features. They’ve definitely improved over the past year.

      And did you just say “swagger”?

  16. It’s fine to publish articles on Drake and Kanye because their musical cache skews mainstream/underground label. That said, this is almost indefensible. I appreciate the attempt at a connection, but it could’ve been fleshed more and with a different rapper perhaps?

  17. (WARNING: Breaking Bad spoilers and compete horse shit ahead.)

  18. Whole lotta people without a sense of humor in this site I guess. Hardly doubt this article was designed to offend any of your guys sensibilities, dunno why everyone’s taking it so seriously. Keep doin’ what yr doin’ stereogum.

  19. good thing I don’t like neither drake or breaking bad because I sure wished I had a specific gif reaction to use for this god damn horrible post. wh stereogum?

  20. I really hope a meaningless character who looks just like Drake gets killed in the finale tonight by Walt.

  21. Fuck this. Seriously.

    Seriously.

    Shut the fuck up.

    I am so close to being done with this site.

  22. Actually, I think I’m done.

    Good night, stereogum.

  23. I knew I shouldn’t have come in here. Three days ago I fucking knew nothing good could possibly be in here and I was fucking right (with the exception of crania’s and a few other comments). Get this dribble off my stereogum.

  24. I think the think pieces have finally jumped the shark, guys.

  25. “Both cook meth and murder without remorse.”

  26. Some Drake puns to complement the piece and crania americana’s comment:
    1.Count Drake-ula.
    2. “The Drakes of Canada” as performed by Surfjan Stevens.
    3. “Let them eat Drake.” -Marie Antoinette, who much prefers Kanye.
    That’s it. I hope you reading this doesn’t cause you to Drake your computers.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post, reply to, or rate a comment.

%s1 / %s2