Drake — “Best I Ever Had”

Released: 6.16.09

Peak: #2

Drake was something of a historic inevitability. The passive-aggressive sing-rap of Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreak, the smoked out self-absorption of Kid Cudi’s “Day ‘N’ Nite,” the shameless infatuation of Soulja Boy’s “Kiss Me Through the Phone” — in hindsight, the path couldn’t have been more clearly paved for Drizzy’s sullen girl-friendly ascendance. Of all people, the constantly if not cripplingly stoned Lil Wayne noticed this, and between court dates at that. We should be ashamed.

What’s more, Drake had matriculated from Degrassi, and as the decade mercilessly reminded us, from American Idol to the Disney Channel tween-pop farm league to Glee, folks are always more willing to fuck with music if it’s affiliated with the medium that’s their one true love. If nothing else, Drake proved himself a particularly versatile post-teen actor on “Best I Ever Had,” pulling off puppy dog (“You can have my heart or we can share it like the last slice”) and pussy hound (“All up in yo slot until the nigga hit the jackpot”) with equal charm. Because I am squeamish and chivalrous and old enough to recognize the limitation of aurally evaluating your partner’s sexual pleasure, I wish he took less pride in his girl’s genital whistling. But I get that his appeal derives from his acknowledging how vast an expanse stretches between virginity and mansluttery, and in his encamping on a specific point somewhere along that sexscape. So, er, put those lips together and blow.

As Drake moved beyond mixtapes, he’d come to inhabit musical settings that were both more lush and less inviting. Here, though, Boi-1da cuts up “Fallin’ in Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds in a manner that mirrors and flatters the rapper’s sexy insouciance. Drake’s opener — “You know a lot of girls be/ Thinkin’ my songs are about them/ This is not to get confused/ This one’s for you” — is in a class with Usher or Justin Timberlake; this guy could clearly have coasted to a series of easy teen idol hits if he’d chosen to play it safe. Sometimes, when listening to his first two proper albums, and trying to figure whether he’s better understood as a potential catalyst for a more emotionally resonant hip-hop or a symptom of his humorless, spiritually starved generation, I wish he had.

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