Let me tell you a true story
I once heard how a college near where I lived would be having a concert with Drake. I didn't care...until I was told that the opening act for him was Clipse. Now, I love me some Malice and Pusha T so you know I got those tickets. I went to the show, and to my utmost disappointment Clipse was unable to be the opening act that night and they substituted some dull rapper as the opening. Then Drake came out, did some of his songs that never really impressed me and I left halfway through the concert so I could get to a nearby Barnes and Noble I liked before it closed--and so I could beat any traffic. Clearly, I haven't had the most positive feelings about Drake. I don't hate him--I've just lacked any sensation of caring about his music.
I've followed Drake with a mild curiousity, noticing on songs how he will occasionally show a hint of talent with a clever verse or two. I just haven't found him to be that good though. He often has a weird monotone voice, doesn't have lyrics that usually seem especially deep, and basically comes off as quite mediocre. Then he released, "Started From The Bottom."
"Started From The Bottom," is a Drake that I've only ever seen glimpses of until now. It's introspective, but self-aware in its navel-gazing in a way that benefits the song. It is in a way a song about bragging, how Drake is now on top, but it has some sadness, pointing out it all started out at the bottom. The first verse is in my opinion the strongest, telling a story of arguments with his mother, working all night only to be bothered by his Uncle for borrowing the car--it paints a picture in the way my favorite rap artists are able to with their lyrics.
The music video carries its bits of depression and self-deprecation too, with Drake working at a drugstore and getting all excited at being promoted to Night Manager. The video morphs into a bit of the cliche rap video with smoke being blown, girls dancing, and drinks being downed, but it feels like it is doing that in the interest of showing a stark contrast to the past. We see a Drake who is just ecstatic that this life of luxury is possible and all his friends ("My whole team") can share in his happiness. He's wearing all his chains now, and its good.
There still is that hint of melancholy though that makes the song really work for me. We get an ending wondering about who real friends are, with, "fake friends" being a concern. Drake contends he's stayed the same, but the question lingers of if, "The story stay the same through all the money and the fame," or whether Drake is just trying to convince himself of that--that he's still the same man working hard all night and not some nouveau riche elitist.
Perhaps Drake is finally starting to express the potential I thought he had, but for all I know his future songs will go back to feeling formulaic and otherwise unimpressive. I hope he keeps growing as an artist though, and assuming he does we may very well have a Drake who is both successful and talented. Therefore, I give this song...
4 out of 5 stars.
May there be many more that get high marks.