Drake and the Philosophy of #YOLO
Drake stays true to the old hip-hop vanguard, intent on spending Gs at every club in America. Odd Future presents a fresh alternative, though not particularly always pleasant, narrative that glorifies the hysteria of suburban adolescence. With their song "Swag Me Out," they talk about rape, cause, you know, that's what teenaged boys think is hi-lar-ious. Largely, their shock value reflects the same nihilism as YOLO. Tyler the Creator told Cool'eh magazine when asked to wade through all those swastikas and pentagrams and explain if his music is just "blatantly offensive," Tyler responded, "I don't know. It's the first shit that comes to our heads, seriously. I'm interested in serial killers' minds and shit, so I rap about it at the moment. Who the fuck knows, next week I can be rapping about oatmeal if that's what I'm into. And for the record, I don't worship the devil, I just hate religion." This led Pitchfork to say that for this "godless" rapper, "there is no compass."
And certainly, with no roots or compass, the bravado of Odd Future and Drake, has no depth or direction. Both YOLO and the "Swag Me Out" energy encourage a depressing sort of hedonism, one that festers on some middle class island with no attachment to the past. And for the record, there are still gangstas, but Drake and Tyler the Creator ain't them. In fact, there are no gangsters named Tyler or Drake.
Those like Drake and the Odd Future kids have less real life tragedy to lament than Biggie and Tupac, Jay-Z and Ice Cube. Gangsta rap was shocking, encouraged some bad behavior, and also employed the ethos of YOLO, but because it was grounded in real-life situations and stories, it didn't seem as cheap an excuse to be an asshole.
Drake was the guy in a wheelchair on Degrassi: The Next Generation, but he never ate a condiment on bread for dinner. Odd Future kids can rap about rape and sodomizing the Virgin Mary all they want, but they know little about earning real swag. The narratives of YOLO and Odd Future's swag are both attempts at uncovering a new direction for hip-hop. But without substance or history; thankfully, neither words are here to stay.