“Make Me Proud,” the new Drake track that premiered on Funkmaster Flex’s show last night, is virtually guaranteed to be a hit. It’s a song about and for women, who have been a crucial part of the Canadian MC’s fanbase since “Best I Ever Had.” It’s got a distinctive sound—clean, deep drums and bass, a synth effect that simulates a landing strip—thanks to Toronto’s T-Minus, one of the few young locals Drake’s relying on for his sophomore album, Take Care. And it’s got a catchy hook and a verse from fellow pop-rap icon Nicki Minaj, bragging about the condition of both her real estate portfolio and her vagina as only she can.
It’s also got all of the things that make Drake the most loathsome pop star of the current moment.
Drake has mastered marketing like few other rappers; he knows exactly what people look for in the songs he drops, and he rarely delivers anything else. “Headlines” is an aggressive first single that manufactures a world in which one of the world’s most popular rappers “fell off” and is “back,” allows those who sing along to pretend that they, too, are “too strung out on compliments,” and positions the Degrassi veteran as a person who can credibly put money on a head. It’s silly, but that’s because Drake, a star of sorts for over a decade, knows exactly how silly fame can be and how appealing it is despite that encumbrance; he’s a vessel for the generation that doesn’t “(have) it like that” but wishes it did, and he makes sure to acknowledge how good he has it just often enough to be a walking, frowning humblebrag in a sweater.
“Make Me Proud” is the song written by that guy for the stripper he’s proud to have put through college … except the song sounds like what’s going to be playing at the strip club when he finds the next stripper du jour. The title’s a command; Drake’s verse begins with the tweet-ready “I like a woman wit’ a future and a past” and then devolves to the laundry list of what Drake seems to need in a woman to be proud of her. “Runnin’ on a treadmill and only eatin’ salad”? Check, and blech. “Sound so smart, like you graduated college/ Like you went to Yale,” he appraises, correcting with the cynical “But you prob’ly went to Howard, knowin’ you.” And of course, there’s the work ethic to do homework over a weekend in Miami, much as exactly zero typical college students do. (“You got it” for Drake, means that they (read: dudes) are “lookin’ at you everywhere you go”; it’s almost funny, because women who turned down Yale for Howard might have been trying to avoid the male gaze, considering the school’s massive female population.)
If it surprises you that Drake is aiming directly at the coed from “Best I Ever Had,” two years and a bachelor’s later, you’re not paying close enough attention. “A girl whose opinion I respect greatly hit me, and she was like, ‘There’s nothing on the radio for us right now. There’s nothing to make women feel good like they did when we had ‘Best I Ever Had,'” Drake told Flex on Thursday. “She was just like, I just wanna feel good. So I just wanna let you know, this is your time, man. And the song’s called “Make Me Proud,” so, you know, go out there and make me proud, baby, you know what it is. Any girl, anybody, doing anything for yourself.” Making Drake proud: Now something you do for yourself, apparently.
Drake can’t get over himself, can’t talk with instead of to a woman, and makes lame stretches for feminism like this: “That’s why you wanna have no sex/ Why you wanna protest, why you wanna fight for your right/ ‘Cause you don’t love them boys/ Pussy run everything, fuck that noise.” That it will probably work on women who don’t stop to consider the objectifying and sexualizing nature of the phrase “Pussy run everything” is dispiriting, but there’s obviously a market for music for women as far from Betty Friedan as Drake is from Jay-Z.
It’s okay, though: Those women could still enjoy Drake’s whirling dervish of a co-star. Nicki’s still playing with the hashtag construction—”I’m a star, sheriff badge” and “Double D up, hoes, Dolly Parton”—but is bragging about what she does rather than how she looks. Who brags about having the best legal team, a ledger’s worth of ventures, and a schedule so busy that she can only say hi and bye? A woman who will never need to hear “Make Me Proud” roll into its disingenuous “I’m so, I’m so, I’m so, I’m so proud of you” hook, perhaps, because she takes pride in things more valuable than Drake’s esteem.