Okay, so if you’re tapped into at least one social media platform, you know that Drake, AKA Drizzy, dropped his single “Hotline Bling” a few days ago. If, some how, you haven’t lifted that rock you call home in a while, here’s the video. Now try and keep up.
Oh, wait. I guess you probably want some background information on him too, right? Well he’s 29, Black and Jewish, loves his white mama, used to be on Degrassi, and is in that dope ass video you just watched (and enjoyed?).
Drake’s character from Degrassi, Jimmy Brooks, used a wheelchair after one of his peers brings a gun to school and shoots some folks, including Brooks. It should be noted that Drake does not have a disability that requires use of a wheelchair, but he was playing a disabled character on TV. Get at me in the comments if you’d like to chat about how messed up that is and commiserate over why it keeps happening, as if there aren’t talented disabled actors that need jobs!
Get out of here with your “but the character became disabled later in the show, so the actor would’ve needed to be –” crap. I hear you. I do. And we STILL NEED better, more accurate representations of disabled people in all forms of media! Including, the fact that most of us will move from abled to disabled in the course of our lifetime. Like I said, hit me up in the comments section, or send me a PM, or an email, and I’ll go there with you.
A necessary digression. We don’t get to pick and choose what parts of our oppression we want to be about today. Well, at least I don’t get to…
Anyway, back to it. So, what is Drake doing with this song and this video?
I see him doing a few things. Below, I outline my Black feminist reading of Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” Come on y’all, this is not a stretch. I will discuss Drizzy’s [fragile] masculinity, the ways he engages misogynoir, how “Hotline” exposed some of my homies’ anti-Blackness, and just how queer this song is. K, let’s go!
Misogynoir and Drake’s obsession with “good girls”: unfortunately, by working within the confines of toxic masculinity, Drake is easily able to slut shame all of us who aren’t “good girls”; a recurring theme in his songs. Tahriah Hairston, over at Fusion.net, takes him down in her recent article where she cites his covert sexist lyrics as patently unacceptable, but vows to keep dancing, because, let’s be real, #YourFaveIsAlwaysProblematic.
What further complicates Drake’s frequent ventures into misogynoir territory, for me, is the presence of all these fat babes in the video! Who’re almost exclusively light-skinned and white/passing.* To be clear, the presence of fat [a few] Black and Brown women in his video doesn’t negate his misogynoirism, or his sexism. Especially if he can’t show love for dark-skinned women.
On Nicki Minaj’s song “Only,” Drake raps these lyrics, “She say I’m obsessed with thick women and I agree. I like my girls BBW…so thick that everybody else in the room is so uncomfortable.” So, we know Drizzy loves fat women, but does he love us as more than props?
Let’s talk about how masculinity is working in “Hotline” and how it’s portrayed visually in the music video for the song.
In the song, Drake seems to be singing to only one woman. But the video shows a range of women answering phones at the supposed “Hotline.” I argue that his heart really is tangled up in only one woman and the presence of the hotline is for us to assume that so many women love him, he had to hire some babes to answer the phones and take his messages. I read this as masculine posturing. Drizzy can’t just be a beggin-ass crybaby, bruh. He’s contractually obligated by the patriarchy to act like he’s down with the ways his rap game partners exploit women. I mean, Drake can’t be crying on his mom’s shoulder, whining about some girl, in every video — cause ya’ know, #MasculintySoFragile.
One of the more disappointing responses to Drake’s song, were the forays into anti-Blackness that I witnessed from my friends.
A bunch of my Latni@** homies came out to discuss Drizzy on social media and how many folks are jokingly claiming him as Dominican. I was real disappointed to find out that some of y’all are hackled by this idea. The African Diaspora is deep and we outchea. Also, this may be a little awkward for us, and I’m sorry if no one told y’all this before, and this is the first time you’re finding out, but — SOME OF Y’ALL ARE BLACK, TOO. Dominicans are Black!?! I know! Weird, right!? Anyway, welcome to the family! You may want to get to the library and read up, peep this on PBS, or hop on google and get your learn on.
The fact that [some of] y’all Latin@s are black doesn’t at all negate you’re Latni@ heritage and upbringing; think of it more as an added layer. Albeit, a hella complex one, but one worth understanding and learning to love. Many of us from the Caribbean (myself included) are multi-racial and multi-ethnic. Instead of wanting everyone to be either this or that, why don’t we find ways to hold the complexities, knowing that we’re capable of grasping more than one complex idea at a time?
Be #TeamDrake if you wanna, or don’t. Just please don’t activate the anti-Blackness feature in the white supremacy app that was installed in (everyone’s) personal operating system. We need to work on reprogramming/deleting that shit. It’s tired. And it’s not going to get ANY of us free.
But what’s queer about Drake? You mean besides his fan base!? Okay, but really, here’s what I been thinking about:
In one of Drake’s lyrics from “Hotline,” he says, “You used to call me on my cell phone.” Used to, cause she dumped his ass, or; she did the fade away when he “left the city.” I don’t know, I can’t say for sure, I wasn’t there; but we do know that she left him, and Drizzy has all these fee fees about this woman not being interested in him anymore. Later, he sings, “Hangin’ with some girls I never seen before.”
You know why he doesn’t know these “new” women his ex is chillin’ with? Cause they’re her girlfriends. And I don’t mean that in a Traci Ellis Ross, early 2000’s, TV show Girlfriends kind of way. I mean to say that these women are her dates. They’re her lovers. Her girlfriends. I don’t know about y’all, but I def don’t go out of my way to introduce my exes to my new boo(s). Naturally, Drake wouldn’t know who these women are; especially if he moved out of the city in which they all lived.
And let’s be real. History shows us that Drake loves bisexual and queer women. Just look at how he carried (carries?) a torch for Nicki Minaj, an out bisexual. He has wanted to wife her for years, and she’s been like, nah, boo, you’re like my brother. Even though, from the outside, it looks like most of the crew over at YMCM has a fairly incestuous relationship. But that’s a whole other essay.
I also invite you to turn your attention to this lyric from “Hotline” where Drake so emphatically sings, “These days / All I do is wonder if you’re bendin’ over backwards for someone else / Wonder if you’re rollin’ over backwards for someone else / Doin’ things I taught you / Gettin’ nasty for someone else / You don’t need no one else / You don’t need nobody else / No.”
Drake tried to play a pronoun game with us, but we saw right through that one didn’t we, friends? This “somebody,” is just him, again, trying to grasp onto the vestiges of toxic masculinity cause he can’t just come out and say, “yo, my girl left me for some femme babe in the city.” So, he low key hides it in the folds of his poetry, in the build-up of his song. He knows we’ll be too busy dancing to catch on. But if you’re like me and you “accidentally” press repeat 1 on your iPod and then get in the shower, you may start to hear some things…
Let me know what y’all think about Drake and “Hotline Bling”! Did he just massively troll all of us, or nah? Nah, he’s too sensitive to smash all our hearts at once like that…right? Right!?!
*Thanks for alerting me to my oversight in the write up, AT. You’re the best editor.
**The @ symbol is used to express these racialized people beyond the gender binary.
Note: if you are using any part of this writing, for anything, you must cite this page and me, Samantha L. Taylor, the author. Don’t steal my words. Don’t be a jerk. Jesus is watching you! Ha, JK! But he might be, so have some integrity and cite your source, homie!