The ego is the most flexible muscle in the human body, and rappers are motherfucking Soviet-Era Olympic gymnasts wit’ it. The best of the best often balance dizzyingly inflated, almost cartoonishly arrogant confidence levels with barbed-wire-raw vulnerability and expressions of insecurity. The ego has to constantly expand and contract in proportion to the pressures pressed upon it by the truly relentless artist.
Which brings us to Aubrey Graham. Champagne Papi. Young Drizzy a.k.a. Drake featuring Drake. The man who can wear all black in front of a gang full of hard looking thugged out dudes in one video, and then lounge next to a bubble bath in satin pyjamas in his next photo shoot. You gonna make someone around him catch a body like that. Same elastic, different stretches.
Ego is not the same thing as confidence, though. In fact even arguably “low ego” moves, like, for example, a grown man recording an entire song about drunk-dialing a woman who doesn’t love him anymore, requires massive reserves of core-confidence. But it requires the ego to step aside and cede the spotlight, at least for a few moments.
Dog, there’s an entire bloated sub-genre of rappers who are terrified to allow 16 consecutive bars pass without reminding you of how nice they are on the mic. Again, ego isn’t the same thing as confidence. These are egos that are incapable of stepping aside.
There’s also an entire sub-genre of rappers with egos who won’t step up. Who allow their music to revolve entirely around the dark corners of their psyche. The insecure, neurotic depths of the beautifully tragic self-indulgent tortured artist.
Most artists remain in a healthy middle-ground between these two soaring extremes. But every now and then a brilliant chameleon of an artist comes along who embodies almost exclusively the two farthest margins of the scale. Kanye is one of those artists, Eminem, for all my disenchantment, is one of those artists, and today, at this point in time, Drake is probably the best one of those artists.
Some allow those elastics to snap. Through the initial arc of his career DMX veered drunkenly and gloriously back and forth between a sort of cocksure bulletproof street-rap swagger and a spiritually tortured remorseful fatalism. The portrait painted was one of a man who had to embody every mistake he had made with arrogant abandon because it was far too late to repair them. Whether it was the pressure, or the drugs, or prison, or entropy, somehow or another those swerves have steadied and lost their elasticity in recent years.
Never trust a man who lets his Air Jordan’s get too dirty.
Never trust a man who keeps his Chuck Taylor’s too clean.
See, I can relate to an artist like Drake because I experience constant inconsistency in my own life. I happily, hungrily, excitedly embrace the peaks and valleys and stagger drunkenly through negative space with my eyes closed. I can stick my chest out and my chin up and just as comfortably collapse to my kitchen hardwood like a mannequin if that’s what I need to do in that moment. My ego expands or contracts to fill its needed role, but my confidence remains unshaken. Walking with confidence, speaking with confidence. These are the first skills you learn. It’s common as fuck. Once you understand how to bleed with confidence and cry with confidence you will find a type of freedom that cannot be replicated.
And you won’t be worried about your homies finding a bunch of Drake on your iPod.
Because fuck them, anyway, right?