By: Dequan Huggins
Graduating high school is supposed to be the focal point of a teenager’s life. Walking across the stage became more and more of a reality and it only led to questions that I wasn’t prepared to deal with— “You must be so excited?” and “What do you want to do with your life?”—I was more confused than ever. Attempting to deal with the loss of my grandmother, losing the state championship in football, and the end of a not quite so but at the time ever so serious relationship all within a calendar year, I confided in the only thing that hadn’t let me down thus far… music. Already a blooming introvert, I scoured the Internet and stumbled upon a Toronto rapper whose makeup of doubt and self-awareness mirrored my own. I was a lost kid, but that day I found a mixtape that would forever change the landscape of hip-hop.
At 17 I began forming my own musical opinions. I loved hip-hop more than any other genre, but I also knew I had an affection for music that seemed to lack a genre; things that wouldn’t get me cool points if I played it in the car with my friends. Drake was an artist that understood my need for balance, a rapper who appreciates Lykke Li and Santigold but understands the magnitude of a Bun B verse. His eclecticism and his emotional transparency made for a refreshing combination. I didn’t need another machismo gangster rapper, I didn’t need a larger than life social activist; I needed a human being. There were nights I would stay up late at night rewinding “The Calm” hoping to decipher one piece of advice I could apply to my life. Of course I can’t relate to being a Canadian hoping to make an imprint within the rap game, but listening to his problems became therapeutic. Rappers always try to incorporate a “venting” track somewhere in the sequence of their project but this was different, this was real. Whether it was dealing with breakups or being afraid of what the future holds, So Far Gone spoke vicariously for my faux pas world ending problems.
The aspiring record label A&R in me realized that this had to be a bigger connection than within myself. Whether it was playing the mixtape for my little sister as loud as possible in my little red Honda on our way to school, or making copies for all of my friends; I wanted everyone to organically feel So Far Gone the way that I did. After everyone’s snarky response of “You know this is the guy from Degrassi right?” I had gotten what I wanted, my peers and I coming to a mutual agreement that Drake’s music was in fact enjoyable. Looking back on it, it wasn’t the acceptance of my musical taste that I cared about but the knowledge that I wasn’t the only one who needed guidance. Drake was the ambassador of emotional development and we all blindly followed the sound of his music.
I’m sure my contemporaries and myself would have gotten through our teenage problems without Drake, but I’m definitely appreciative of his emotional bravery to step forward and say, “I’m not okay.” I’d be lying to you if I told you being one of the first people in my inner circle to find Drake’s music wasn’t satisfying, but there’s more joy in knowing the world can see what you see in somebody. In the past five years its hard to recall a project that was as honestly narcissistic as So Far Gone. The mixtape was more than just music; it was a moment. It went against the grain of what traditional hip-hop should sound like, and we embraced it with open arms continuing to be one of the precedents of current hip-hop.