Column: Swag or Sexist?

Do you still listen to the same artists you listened to in middle school? What about high school? My musical tastes are always changing, whether I outgrow the pop-iness of N*Sync or decide that Tyler, the Creator really does write like he’s an 18 year old, I’m cycling through artists constantly.

I’m a big Drake fan. I think he’s good with words, and I like words so I think that’s cool. In his musical career, he’s put out three mixtapes -- Room for Improvement, Comeback Season, and So Far Gone -- and one studio album, "Thank Me Later." His next studio album "Take Care" is scheduled to drop on Oct. 24 this year. This last Saturday, he dropped a few new tracks from "Take Care" through his blog OctobersVeryOwn.

I thought “Club Paradise,” the first new track that he posted was great. This new album is being partly recorded in his hometown of Toronto, Canada, and it reflects in the new track. He throws back to his sound on So Far Gone a little bit, some of which was also recorded in Toronto. The premise of Club Paradise is that Drake has returned to Toronto to record again, and he’s found out that most of the women that he used to be with have moved on. The hook ends with, “You think I’m so caught up in where I am right now, but believe I remember it all.”

I like Drake’s style. I see a distinct respect for women in his music, which I can relate to because I share it. “There’s a sort of fine line between demeaning and fun and wit, and a lot of the music me and (Lil) Wayne make … is fun,” Drake said in an interview with Katie Couric. I saw this same respect in Club Paradise in that he’s acknowledging hurt caused by women in his past. But the track that he put out immediately following Club Paradise was a different story.

This track, called “Free Spirit,” (which features Rick Ross) starts right off with a hook that goes, “Tatt my name on you girl so I know it’s real. Tatt my fucking name on you so I know it’s real.” Those lines hit pretty hard, as I’m sure Drake and Ross intended them to, and I got a little conflicted about them.

Hip-hop has this context that makes some words almost completely independent of what they mean. So when a rapper is referring to a bitch, he doesn’t mean a female dog or the expletive definition. Most rappers call women bitches, and brag about how many of them they can get, etc. It’s part of the game. Talk the talk, if you will. Hell, on his most recent album "Watch the Throne," Jay-Z referred to his wife Beyonce as ”that hot bitch in my home.” I don’t take offense to that kind of terminology at all. I see it as an accepted “thing,” and it sounds good which lends itself well to music.

I think it’s the concept of labeling a person that made “Tatt my name on you” sound so bad to me. There’s a big difference between saying “Hey I can get a lot of women,” and “Hey I made my girlfriend get a tattoo of my name so I knew she loved me, and I didn’t care that it hurt her really” (which is, in fact, in the song). So it’s the content here that put me on the soccer-mom level of offense, not the terminology.

In context, though, the hook actually resonates with me a little bit. It’s an almost sinister look at relationships and how taxing they can be. It’s a final sigh that says, “I’m done, unless you’re about to tattoo my name on you.” It fits beautifully with some lyrics from verses in the song: “They told me shit would change, but I don’t really see no change in us.”

So are the lyrics sexist? Maybe a little bit, but I think the context helps me, as a listener, take them for more than face value. So what each person individually has to decide is how far context can go? If you let Jay-Z get away with calling Beyonce “that bitch at home,” and Drake and Rick Ross say, “Tatt my fucking name on you so I know its real. I know it hurts, but I ain’t trying to hear it,” where do they have to stop before you stop listening? To be honest I probably won’t.

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