Power. It is the single most sought after attribute that people hope to attain in their lifetime. Often mistaken for money or fame, sheer power is the driving force of today’s music industry, especially in the sport that we call Hip-Hop. Those who experience a reign in the perceived top spot in the game, however long or short, fall in love with the endless praise and attention and so they seek to maintain the position as long as possible before inevitable downfall – which no individual is exempt from. It’s a cruel deal that you’d assume there is no assistance with. But you’d be wrong.
Robert Greene stumbled upon a classic with his first book The 48 Laws Of Power, a self-help option often referred to as the instruction manual and ultimate guide to battle of any kind. It can essentially be translated to outline the rules to coming out at the top of any situation. Dig deep and you’ll undoubtedly find contradictions. It could even be argued that a large number of the laws are outdated and obsolete but its impact today is undeniable.
Last summer when Drake and Meek Mill battled, the parallels between Drake’s methods and The 48 Laws were touched on at a surface level but never really delved into. We were mostly reminded about his mention of the book on ‘What I’m Thinkin Right Now’ and his obedience of Law 15: Crush Your Enemy Totally in reference to dropping two diss songs back to back (pun intended). However, it’s hard to argue that Drake doesn’t use The 48 Laws as a guideline in the entirety of his career. He often laughs at himself in old pictures, not appearing too perfect and he always says less than necessary by not doing interviews but some of the less obvious laws are being overlooked.
Take Law 7 for example. Get Others To Do The Work For You, But Always Take The Credit. By now, people are relatively accepting of Drake’s use of writers, but it goes far deeper than some low-quality recordings of some reference tracks. In 2011, The Weeknd lent Drake multiple songs which made the cut on Take Care and ‘Legend’ and ‘Company’ from If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late were originally PARTYNEXTDOOR’s ideas. Often accused of stealing material and riding popular waves by social media, Drake receives all the credit from the mainstream audience without doing any of the real groundwork. It’s a harsh reality for those individuals who assist and take solace in the short moment of recognition because in the long term, they will unfortunately be forgotten.
Regardless of how he got there or maintains it, that position of power we talked about? Drake has owned it for a few years now, but that’s not news to anyone. The real story is his balance of braggadocio and humility at the top. On the intro to Nothing Was The Same, he rapped “I’m just as famous as my mentor, but that’s still the boss, don’t get sent for”. He has cited many as inspirations in the past but in that particular instance, he was referring to Lil Wayne, his current boss of almost seven years. The two went on a battle-styled tour in 2014 and even though Drake was declared the winner at more shows, they decided to end it on a tie, epitomising Law 1: Never Outshine The Master, the benefit of which is not to inflame insecurity or jealousy.
Speaking of Wayne, it’s a little surreal to be reminded that Drake is actually still a part of Young Money, a crew which houses eclectic acts like Gudda Gudda and Austin Mahone. He creates respect and honour by being absent from regular posse cuts – that’s Law 16, by the way – and guards his reputation from naysayers (Law 5) by disassociating himself from the situations with Birdman and building his own brand with OVO Sound. However, a shoutout here and there in the song keeps him a part of the brand.
However, Law 48 itself is perhaps most relevant to Drake and his current career trajectory: Assume Formlessness. With every passing album he changes his image ever so slightly, subtle enough that he’s still familiar yet bold enough to make it feel like a new time marker in his journey. Aesthetically, it could be something as simple as him growing his beard out but a more magnified look will show you that Drake is ever evolving. From Thank Me Later to now, he’s taken on new sounds and genres and for a while it seemed impossible to predict what his next step would be but VIEWS is potentially the peak of Drake’s power. Just like the final law states, “everything changes”. All things considered, him sitting on the CN Tower couldn’t be more accurate. Whether he continues to rise with his reign of power or starts to fall, only time will tell.
– by Akaash Sharma