Drake unveils "Over," has barely even begun

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"I know way too many people here right now that I didn't know last year/Who the fuck are y'all?/I swear, feels like the last few nights we been everywhere and back, but I just can't remember it all." So begins "Over," the latest singer from singer/MC-it-boy Drake, all syrupy, dazed Auto-Tune drawl and new-money befuddlement.

It's an apt acknowledgment of the proverbial elephant in the VIP room: the dizzying speed with which this unlikely future-of-rap candidate (and former TV star) has improbably become, well, the anointed future of rap, with all the drama that comes with that title.

Producers Boi-1da and Al Khaaliq pile on scissor-kicking string-section flurries, see-saw tinkling synths, and handclaps to form am event-rap worthy backdrop for a self-backpatting party of one; the song sounds like what fistfuls of diamonds and other precious stones being hurled into the air like confetti probably look like, and hundreds of MCs are probably freestyling dope mixtape bait over the beat as you read this. (Which is exactly what happened with "Forever," an earlier Drake single. You may remember him, Eminem, and Lil Wayne closing out the Grammies telecast with that one a few weeks back. Given that rap time is measured in light years, that was kind of like Dakota Fanning presenting an Oscar with Betty White and Meryl Streep at her side.)

Drake uses "Over" as a platform to declare unequivocably that he's just getting warmed up. He makes a reference to a forgotten Jada Pinkett Smith movie. He shouts out his label, Young Money. He tosses out a limpid pick-up line. He compares himself to Michael Jackson: "All I need's a fucking red jacket with some zippers." He nods to his improbably, meteoric success, and implies that he sometimes partakes of illicit smokables. And so on, and so on, for what can feel like the longest four minutes ever if you're paying too much attention.

You know, I don't loathe "Over"; it's harmless, ephemeral pop-rap if you hear it while you're paying attention to something else, and I'm actually psyched to hear great rappers re-work it. But this song highlights Drake's pointlessness in the same way that "Forever" and "Best I Ever Had" and everything on his mixtapes and guest spots has: there's absolutely nothing about this guy and his fourth-rate Kanye jackassery that merits "legend" status or even "round-the-way-mixtape-only-knucklehead" status.

If "Over" carries any sense of being some sort of watershed moment, it's a side effect of the mass-media narrative being generated by outlets that don't usually cater to rap audiences or outlets that do but know better than to champion this guy. In fact, the "Drake-as-legend" meme has been joined recently, in just about every article I've come across about him, by the "expectations-for-Drake's-debut-are-impossibly-high" meme; these articles tend to quote their subject admitting that the bar has been set so high that he doesn't expect to reach it on his first time out. No wonder his first album will be titled -- wait for it -- Thank Me Later.

Given the recent flops of next-big-rapper non-sensations like Kid Cudi, maybe this is an understandable promotional approach, so we'll all be amazed if the disc actually sells strong. But all of this doesn't explain what it is that people see in Drake, the desire to invest so much in such a forgettable spitter. Sure, he can rap and sing, but as a presence he's a void, a blank space. Thus far, he hasn't done anything special to set himself apart from all the other wannabes out there, unless you count choosing killer beats.

What's the appeal? Is it that he's a TV product who actually managed to break into the rap industry, unlike some other not-so-ultimately-notable aspirants? Is it that he's vaguely telegenic at certain angles under favorable lighting conditions? Is it that he's Canadian, and that's weird and eh but also sorta fresh and intriguing? Is it the suave bi-racial thing? The haircut?

I don't get it, at all; I must be missing something.

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