By Jimmy Jordan
Hip-hop music has long been a pariah in the musical world due to its oftentimes-gritty and explicit nature. One of the main contentions of critics is the multitude of misogynistic lyrics that are nonchalantly thrown around in songs. It might come, as a surprise to some that the genre seems to be leaning towards a more respectful direction concerning woman as of late. Not only has the newest big time female rapper, Nicki Minaj, become respected based on her abilities instead of pure sex appeal, but also male rappers are starting to show less misogynous lyrics in their work. The epicenter of this subtle shift stems from one of the breakout artists on Lil Wayne’s label, Drake. Drake has in the past year or so climbed the billboard charts with his smooth mix of singing and rapping. His style could be labeled as Kanye West meets Lil Wayne mix of introspection and punch lines with a dash of female sensibility. His breakthrough hit (which perfectly captures his style) was released last summer, “Best I Ever Had”. In the first verse, Drake raps with sincerity about placing one girl above all others, “Sweatpants, hair tied, chillin’ with no makeup on/That’s when you’re the prettiest, I hope that you don’t take it wrong”. The second verse is more standard rap braggadocio, but the effect has already been achieved. While a song respectful towards woman is nothing revolutionary, this song (which peaked at #2 on the billboard charts) marked a rare feat in the ascendance of a rap star based off of respect for women. Drake is one of the few on a short list of emerging hip-hop stars who can actually sell albums (his debut album recently achieved platinum status). Selling is important because of the follow-the-leader nature of mainstream hip-hop. Anytime a style becomes popular, other rappers will seek to emulate it. It is a competitive genre where there are few true trailblazing acts. So due to this newfound success not only is Drake one of the prominent go-to rappers for collaboration, but he has also altered some of the viewpoints espoused by his contemporaries in their lyrics. On the single “Fancy” off his debut album “Thank Me Later” Drake waxes poetics about liking a girl who has respect for herself and not only is good looking, but is smart as well. Alongside him raps T.I., one of rap’s few superstars. In 2008, T.I. had the most successful single of the year with “Whatever You Like”, a song that glorified gold digging and viewed a relationship as little more than a step above sex for money. On “Fancy”, T.I. seems to have changed his tune rapping “Well aren’t you a breath of fresh air/From all these superficial gold digging bitches in here”. He goes on to match Drake when it comes to reverence for a girl who can support herself. While this shift is nothing-seismic coming from a single rapper, it does however denotes a change in tune from one of the biggest rappers out currently which means many more are sure to follow.