Well, now I guess we know why Jay-Z didn’t let Drake rap on “Off That.” Big event rap records–this one, self-defeatingly, is destined for the soundtrack of the LeBron James doc More Than a Game–haven’t really lived up to their billing in hip-hop’s email era. It’s too easy for rappers to literally mail in tracks. By the time they hear the dude that got ’em, the song is already on the radio. “Swagger Like Us,” the last record that came close to being as symbolically loaded as this one, was not encouraging. And Lil Wayne, who featured on both that track and this one (as did/does Kanye), has the dubious honor of taking last place on both songs. But beyond that, the comparisons stop.
From the suitably epic production by Boi-1da, the guy who produced “Best I Ever Had” and thereby guaranteed what will likely be a long and lucrative career, to the swap-outs of Jay and T.I. for Drake and Eminem–the latter of whom is not so secretly every rapper’s most-wanted feature–to the overall timing (Drake bidding for rap supremacy; Kanye riding his latest win streak; Eminem redeeming himself after Relapse; and Wayne, well, forget about Wayne), this song has more in its favor, right off the bat.
And it delivers, in a right-now kind of way. Drake still has a lot to prove, and knows it: “Dropped a mixtape, that shit sounded like an album/ Who’da thought a country-wide tour be the outcome?/ Labels want my name beside an X like Malcolm/ Everybody got a deal, I did it without one.” Beyond the weird echo chamber effect of hearing Drake on a song with the two guys who most directly fathered his style (Kanye, Wayne, and in fact, Em might be the distant third here, as far as what Drake’s going for), he can be proud of this one. He certainly comes harder than Jay did on “S.L.U.”
And Kanye’s been serving dudes with verses a lot like the one he has here. But Eminem is neither old-Jay nor confused Clipse, and his mercifully accentless verse is a technical marvel: “The passion and the flame is ignited, you can’t put it out once we light it/
This shit is exactly what the fuck that I’m talkin’ about when we riot/ You dealin’ with a few true villains who stand inside of the booth true spillin’/ And spit true feelings until our tooth fillings come flyin’ out of our mouths, no rewind it.” Try even attempting that out loud, as slow as you want to–that he can still do this remains borderline incredible.
As for Wayne, well, he probably won’t be this track, the next time four famous rappers get together to make it.