To some people, no matter how big he gets, Drake will always be Wheelchair Jimmy. His Degrassi character has spawned a number of hilarious memes but has also been used in arguments against his “started from the bottom” celebrity status. As his music career began taking off back in 2006, he aimed to establish himself as a legitimate artist, separating himself from his past acting life to gain credibility as a rapper. Though he’s gone on to become a superstar in his own right, many of his most ardent critics are quick to remind his fanboys of his humble beginnings, alluding to the fact that his persona and image is indeed an act that has various holes in it. But whether you like him or not, there’s no denying that Drake is indeed the biggest hip-hop personality in the world right now.
Which is why I find it surprising that in a new interview with Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, the actor-turned-rapper now wants to become an actor-turned-rapper-turned-actor. In the interview, which took place on Calipari’s Coach Cal podcast, Drake talks about how he got his start on Degrassi, the first time he smoked weed (he cried after he got high), and his upcoming project, More Life. Talk of the project is interesting, as it’s being referred to as a “playlist project”, presumably meaning he will be shuffling the tracklist, adding and subtracting songs, editing tracks as he sees fit over time (See: Kanye West‘s The Life of Pablo). This of course is a move on the idea that playlists now mean more than albums, and once again Drake is looking to capitalize on the next big thing.
But the main part of the interview that I took away were his career intentions following the project’s release. When asked about any possible future acting, he told Calipari, “Acting is another thing that I just can’t wait to really dive into. I think after I release More Life, which is this playlist I’m working on and finish this tour, I think I’m going to really start to position myself in the acting world and, hopefully, take some great roles“. First of all, it’s funny how he says he’s wanting to “dive into” acting, considering that’s how he got his foot into the entertainment business in the first place. So really, it’s not some grand venture outside of his current realm, as say, it was for Kanye to take the fashion industry head-on. But it does seem that the world has come full circle. Drake, the artist who once was (and in the back of his mind, probably still is) distancing himself from his acting days to seem more “hard”, now isn’t content with touring the world in stadiums. Now he wants to be on the silver screen, or at least pop-up in your sixteenth-favorite Netflix series.
As sarcastic as I may seem, I have no real problem with Drake leaping into a new industry; it’s a road many famous rappers have taken. But to me, it signals that he’s accutely aware of his shelf-life. Everybody knows that the biggest rapper of the era has to have a downfall eventually. The rise to the top can be an enticing ride, but the ride down the other side isn’t nearly as forgiving. I believe what we’re seeing is a mid-life crisis of sorts.
I’d say 2015-2016 was the Peak Drake Era. His superstardom is unprecedented and his reach is global, but Views wasn’t exactly the Sgt. Pepper’s we expected. Though I’m certain More Life will provide more hit singles, if it doesn’t live up to a certain critical standard, we may be seeing the initial signs of the end of his reign. And he knows that. By saying he wants to take up acting again, he’s saying he wants to broaden his portfolio. He won’t by any means stop releasing music soon, but by returning to Hollywood (or Canada’s equivalent (which is probably still Hollywood)), his fame will reach a new boundary. Elsewhere in the interview, he talks about a potent fear he has, which is his spot being taken over by another musician: “my biggest fear is always when I’m not doing it, there’s someone else that’s doing it. That’s my biggest fear in life. When I’m not doing it. When I take a night off for my personal life. When I choose to decompress or relax…not in the back of my mind, in the front of my mind, my biggest fear is if somebody’s not relaxing right now and they’re going to stumble upon something. When you get in the studio you have these moments that ultimately propel your career, you have to ask yourself how many of those did I miss by not going in on this given night or that given night.”
Drake is nervous. He doesn’t want to give up his reign as the world’s hottest rapper. Or maybe, on the flip side, he thinks he’s invincible and acting is just one more way he can prove how dominant he is. This would, however, prove him to be flawed in his mindset. I believe he knows his time will come, it’s possibly already on its way, and acting is his next “hot young rapper” that he’s willing to immediately bed to stay relevant. Good thing they have a history together!