Drake Is Music's Martin Scorsese
Fire & Desire & Goodfellas
I know we’re all busy, so let’s not waste time: Aubrey Drake Graham is the musical Martin Scorsese, and the sooner we make peace with that, the sooner we can get back to Views. (Bless us, everyone.)
Let’s start small: both creative mavericks, Drake and Scorsese have built careers based largely on being themselves. Drake basks in his reputation as a vulnerable emoter, wearing his heart on his sleeve in an industry where toxic masculinity often runs deep. While on the flipside, Scorsese has also courted controversy through films like Taxi Driver, which tackled sex work, mental illness, and the after effects of war in an era in which these topics were still relatively novel. There's one complication in my assertion about their professional similarities: their careers don’t run parallel, they’re largely inverted. But let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first.
Had Marty not chosen my boyfriend Leonardo DiCaprio as his muse, he could’ve chosen my best friend Aubrey, whose 2013 video for “Hold On We’re Going Home” showcased the former Degrassi star’s flare for the dramatic. As an homage to Scarface (which Brian De Palma directed — sorry, guys), we see Drizzy take on the characteristics of Al Pacino’s doomed gangster, committing to the tragic role and the baggage attached to it. Which also lends itself to the romanticized notion of organized crime that Scorsese has helped establish. On top of Goodfellas, the director produced (and directed episodes of) Boardwalk Empire and Vinyl, helmed The Departed and Gangs of New York, and brought us Casino, all adding to the mysticism of men with guns who can’t cope with their feelings.
See? So much angst. Which is a trademark that defines both Scorsese's male characters and the persona Drake has lent himself to. However, where Marty’s men are largely frozen in time (literally: most recently, they’re characters rooted and set in the past and we would all hate them IRL), Drake’s adapted himself to fit the current pop culture landscape. In the 2007 video for “Replacement Girl” — featuring Trey Songz — Drake hangs out on a car surrounded by dancing girls. Arguably, he’s 2007’s version of everybody in 2016’s Vinyl.
Which is exactly as creatively stimulating as watching The Wolf of Wall Street, a movie about a real man whose life of excess gets glorified through a fun-and-freewheeling retelling of his terribleness.
The difference? In 2007, Drake was a wee baby child, just entering his twenties. (So: he had a lot of growing up to do before becoming a 6ix God.) But in 2013, Scorsese was not. In 2013, Scorsese was an industry legend, a winner of trophies and accolades, and instead of moving forward to evolve as a storyteller, he opted to tell the tale of a man with the depth of a spoon and/or crumpled one dollar bill. Which means he pulled the anti-Drake, sticking to what was familiar instead of giving us footage of, say, somebody dancing around in various sweaters.
And this was a risk on par with a movie like Hugo, a far cry from the rest of Scorsese’s cinematic offerings. That said, it’s also a testament to what we know Martin’s capable of. Like Drake, Marty (we’re pals) hasn’t always approached his art from a two-dimensional perspective (which makes this Wolf of Wall Street/Vinyl phase a serious buzzkill). And we know this from his work in the seventies — which saw Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore lead to Taxi Driver lead to Raging Bull lead to After Hours. He’s never been afraid of characters who are damaged, complicated, and confrontational — and neither has Drake. The only difference is that Drake plays them all.
See? No two Drakes are ever the same — just like Scorsese’s seventies, eighties, nineties, and even early noughties’ offerings, where the only constant was a cast of characters who were deeply complex.
But Drake is defined by these complexities, too. (Duh.) He’s treated each album more cinematically than the last, with Views taking the cake with its extensive marketing strategy (spanning months), its corresponding album art, and its theme fixating on his city and home and his changing perspectives. Previously, his albums have seen him wrestle with fame (Thank Me Later), heartbreak (Take Care), and his past versus present self (Nothing Was The Same). And while he’s been the creative mastermind behind each, he performer self adapted to suit each instalment — the way a director would with film.
Plus, he and Scorsese have explored similar themes: they’ve tackled loyalty, friendship, and family (The Departed and If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late). They’ve embraced religious themes (The Last Temptation of Christ and “6ix God”). And to add a little more “me too!” to the mix, they’ve both been shunned by the awards circuit at one point or another. (Martin didn’t win his first Oscar until 2007, and Drake failed to score any of the five Grammys he was nominated for this year.)
And of course, if this was to be a mathematical diagram (which I know my writing just screams), this would be the last similarity before we acknowledged that while Drake is moving forward, Scorsese is moving back. But that’s fine: at Drake’s age, Marty was making waves in an industry that tended to be desperately afraid of them — while Drizzy is doing something similar now by combining his background as an actor with his skills as musician to create an approach to music that’s equal parts thought-provoking, emotionally rousing, smart, and witty. He’s doing for his industry what Marty S. did for his. And while we can pray to the 6ix God for some miracle Scorsese/Graham collaboration one day, know that I’ll settle for a Leonardo Di Caprio cameo for the next Drake vid.