Part of artistry is recreation, which is why we love David Bowie and why we love Kanye West. Their careers found them always morphing into some new thing, complete with some new aesthetic, recreating themselves in the crucible of their emotions and the times. Drake does that, too, though his transformations are far less pronounced.
It’s more his music that changes: its affectations and affections. He’s gone from blues to trap; hyphy to grime; grime to dancehall in his now decade-plus long career. The switch-ups reflect his tastes and his past. From his father’s Memphis sound, his was but a stretch to Atlanta’s burgeoning one. His love of ‘Pac brought him to West Coast sounds like SoCal’s G-funk and Oakland’s hyphy. His commonwealth influence eventually carried him over to dancehall, which, eventually lead him to grime. And then there was one sound that many thought he blasphemed on: our beloved bounce, on his 2011 classic Take Care.
This time, though, bad mon’ Drizzy ain’t play no games. This time, on his new hit single “Nice For What,” he made sure he reached back to Louisiana and got some help.
He editorialized a wop that’s all but untouchable in a way that was all but unthinkable. He slowed down Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” produced by Mannie Fresh. I know. Let’s all take a moment, now, still, some seven years later. But the roots of it were there, though slathered in molasses. This time, though, bad mon’ Drizzy ain’t play no games. This time, on his new hit single “Nice For What,” he made sure he reached back to Louisiana and got some help. This time, he got legendary bounce producers BlaqNmilD and 5th Ward Weebie on the track as well as a classic yawp from the legendary Big Freedia.
Weebie and BlaqNmilD have been on a speaking tour of late, as magazines and blogs hit them up about their place on the record. In one, Weebie explained he was sought out by Lil Wayne’s manager Cortez Bryant, and he’s the one who reached out to BlaqNMild. They’d already worked together on a hilarious bop called “Let Me Find Out.” After partying with the 6God so hard in L.A they were seeing “two Kim Kardashians,” they hit the studio where Murda Muzik and Drake played them the record. Weebie claimed it was “already bounced out,” until BlaqNmilD replied, “it was bounced out in they mind.” That sounds about right, which is why they knew they had to get two authentic bounce producers to help with the track. Now pour over this video and bask in its glow.
Directed by Karen Evans and highlighting women like Issa Rae, Tiffany Haddish, Letitia Wright, and Yara Shahidi, the song is as much an ode to their greatness under pressure as it is Drizzy attaching himself to the present moment. The revolution of #MeToo, the toppling of powerful men from once secure perches of power, make Drake’s new one pregnant with possibility. In just five days it’s already racked up 15 million YouTube views, sure. But by combining a staccato sample of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” with Louisiana Bounce, Drake has managed to connect manic heartbreak with soul-freeing exuberance. He’s managed to capture a feeling and wrangle it into a phrase. “Nice For What,” asks women to put themselves first, when, as a culture, they’ve been clearing out a path to do just that. This way of distilling emotions into musical moments is why Drake has lasted this long. It’s why he’s not going anywhere any time soon. And the gateway has been, largely, southern music’s most overlooked group: women.
But by combining a staccato sample of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” with Louisiana Bounce, Drake has managed to connect manic heartbreak with soul-freeing exuberance. He’s managed to capture a feeling and wrangle it into a phrase.
So Drake’s dive into this pool is a kind of marriage. He’s spoken extensively on his love for southern music, yeah. But it’s his love of southern women — and women in general — that has been driving his sound and his career. It’s women who twerk to bounce, an activity they often do together, without men, at Freedia’s shows. It’s a revival of one’s ownership over one’s body that part of the point of Bounce. Itself a derivation of Afro-Caribbean carnivalesque bacchanal, a time to drive out the sin in you by indulging in it, before arriving to be cleansed during Lent.
Drake isn’t here to be cleansed. As he said, he’s here for a good time not a long time, but he is here to be in love or something like it. He continues that trajectory with “Nice For What,” buttressed by two legendary bounce producers in 5th Ward Weebie and BlaqNMild, and blessed by the voice of Big Freedia, who — a trans woman — was nowhere to be found in the video. A disappointment, Freedia had this to say about the snub to The Fader, “That’s when I say the proper recognition and the proper credit,” Freedia told the magazine. “You know, my voice be on a lot of different stuff and people want to use bounce music as a part of their music but when it comes to the proper recognition of me being in the video, that’s something that we’re steady working towards to make it happen.” Hopefully, for Drake for all of us, her inclusion will be met with two words: “soon come.”