Drake and the Philosophy of #YOLO

Categories: Talking Shit
In "The Motto," Young Money rapper and former actor Drake raps in his lazy, Weezy-wannabe singsong manner: "You only live once/That's motto, nigga, Y.O.L.O./And we 'bout it e'ryday..." His lines always seemingly drenched in ennui, Drake was once best described by a fellow New Times writer as a guy who's depressed even while getting a lap dance.

One day, we will all properly blame YOLO for legions of unwanted pregnancies (pay up, Drake) and inexcusable foolishness by scores of cross-eyed frat guys with white powder all up in their nose hairs.

To say "you only live once" is kind of a big claim. And, as an ontological statement, there's plenty of room for argument. Like, what the hell does Drake know about the nature of reality that the rest of us don't?

As always though, it's fine to play with philosophy, it's when you get into the ethics of it that things get funky. If YOLO's the case, then why not just go and #YOLO all over the place? Ervin McKinness, an aspiring rapper, tweeted, "Drunk af going 120 drifting corners #FuckIt YOLO," before slamming his car into a wall and killing himself and four others. Yeah, well, you may only live once, but now #RIP.

There's a recurring narrative in rap that involves the artist going from rags to riches. He, or she, starts out eating mayonnaise sandwiches and ends up popping bottles and spraying bubbly on boobies. The experience of this real-life transition gives the artists and their songs integrity, something a new generation of MCs, like Drake and Odd Future, don't have.

The rhymes of these artists reference this theme, but from a very postgangsta world. The new narrative has no connection to the old. When Biggie said he was Ready to Die in 1994, that was because he'd lived a hard life, and he earned that enjoyment. His YOLOing was done with purpose. It was reflective, as represented by the classic line in "Juicy": "Birthdays was the worst days/Now we sip champagne when we thirsty."

Though YOLO was on the short list for Oxford University Press' "word of the year," it lost to GIF. Even Drake told MTV News it was "an epidemic," you know, like a disease. The year prior, swag gained the title of hip-hop word of 2011, at least according to NPR's All Things Considered. It was originated by Jay-Z and hyper-popularized by rap collective Odd Future.

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