Aubrey Graham has completed the greatest con act in the history of music. He has somehow convinced the rap game that he is deserving of a spot in the highest echelon of the industry, up there with Kendrick Lamar and (insert third rapper here). It has been completed by media/chart success, attractiveness, and just an overall likability that has the entire music world under his spell. His star power has completely overshadowed the idea of lyrical skill and rapping ability, rendering any sort of objectiveness to be thrown out of the window.
A top-tier rapper demonstrates his skill by being the best on any track he blesses with his presence. That’s what being the GOAT is: being the best at what you do all the time. This is how you know Kendrick Lamar is a top-tier rapper. He is more often than not the best RAPPER on whatever song he is on, whether it be his own or a feature. Whereas a rapper like G-Eazy will never, ever be considered a top-tier rapper. He continually gets washed off of every track that he is on, begging the question as to why he continues to put his name on songs. Other top-tier rappers are listed as follows: André 3000, Killer Mike, Busta Rhymes, Pusha-T, Lauryn Hill, Del the Funky Homosapien, Big K.R.I.T., Jay Electronica. Rappers who are not a part of this top-tier are: Kyle, Kodak Black, Vanilla Ice, Mark Wahlberg (from his Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch days), Chris Brown, Famous Dex, Matty B Raps.
Where does Drake stand in this dichotomy? That is what I am going to delve into. First, let us get something clear about the Drake effect. The Drake effect is when Drake cosigns a younger artist or a song, and it explodes up the charts. It becomes the song of the summer, a certified hit, unequivocally a jam (see “Tuesday,” “Yes Indeed,” “Look Alive”). Whether or not Drake performs well is irrelevant. The presence of Drake alone makes the song a success. It is entirely possible that Drake gets out-rapped by the other artists on the song. But that is not the narrative that is held by the majority. It is always that Drake carried the track to widespread to success.
The question posed in the last paragraph will be answered only by one method: going through the songs that Drake has had other rappers feature on and songs that he gave feature verses for and seeing if he got out-rapped by anybody on the track. The less that he has been washed by other rappers, the better. If he continually gets outperformed by other rappers, then it is clear that he is not a top-tier rapper and just a really handsome guy who raps well enough. This list will exclude songs that only have singers on them because that makes sense. It will also exclude songs in which Drake featured on a producer track alone, so “For Free” is out of the running.
I‘m going to get all of the features out of the way right now, so here they are:
“Moment 4 Life” – No. This song had one of the best Nicki Minaj verses ever, so it’s understandable that Drake was not the best rapper here.
“Right Above It” – No. “Slumdog Millionaire, Bollywood Flow.” Nope. Lil Wayne won here.
“Aston Martin Music” – No. He was singing here so I guess this one does not really count. Rick Ross is still a better rapper than him anyway so it is applicable.
“Forever” – Yes. On a star-studded track, Drake came in with one of the best verse starters in rap history with, “Last name ever. First name greatest.” He didn’t drop the ball the rest of the verse, so he wins here.
“Loving You No More” – I guess. Diddy barely rapped on the track so he wins by default.
“Deuces Remix” – No. This may have been one of his worst verses ever. He was out of the running when he opened his mouth. André 3000 was there so he wins.
“Put It Down” – No. Bun B is by and large a better rapper than Drake and it was apparent on this track.
“It’s Been A Pleasure” – No. Same see above for reasoning.
“Poppin’ Bottles” – Yes. Drake had a lengthy verse which allowed him to find his comfort zone on this club beat, so it worked alright.
“I’m On One” – No. He had a really good performance on this track, but Lil Wayne flicked the lighter one and it was over after that.
“It’s Good” – No. Nothing is funnier than Drake trying to be hard, especially when he is sandwiched between Jadakiss and Lil Wayne. He got outworked here, but he gave a valiant effort.
“Champion” – No. Trying to out-rap early 2010s Nicki Minaj is a daunting task, then add Nas and Jeezy to the track, and you have a virtually impossible fight to win.
“Good Girls Go Bad” – No. The Game is a consistently underrated with a gritty flow and compelling lyrics. He outperformed Drake here.
“In the Morning” – No. While J. Cole might be boring, his flow is like an ear worm that makes his way into your brain and is sonically pleasing. His relaxed delivery on this track was much better than Drake’s raspy voice, 3am voicemail he left on this track.
“Round of Applause” – Yes. As much as I like Waka Flocka Flame, he is not a better rapper than Drake. That showed here, where Drake did more with 50 seconds than Waka did with the remaining 3 and a half minutes.
“Poetic Justice” – No. Lol. No.
“Diced Pineapples” – No. Drake was here more for the chorus, but it wasn’t better than Wale and Rick Ross delivering an oddly smooth performance.
“Still Got It” – No. Before Tyga became a permanent joke, he was recognized as one of the best rappers in 2012. He showed it here, flowing quickly and decisively while Drake mailed it in.
“No Lie” – No. This was one of the many times that Drake and 2Chainz linked up, and coincidentally one of the many times that 2Chainz out-rapped Drake on a track. 2Chainz’s wordplay and bravado is unmatchable.
“Stay Schemin” – Yes. He actually balled out here, considering how hot Rick Ross and French Montana were at this point. It was here when I realized that Drake works best with more time to rap. He needs time to warm up and get comfortable on the beat. “Bitch you wasn’t with me shootin’ in the gym!”
“We In This 1.5” – No. He came off as whiney here. He doesn’t work best on Atlanta style beats.
“Amen” – No.
“Tony Montana” – No. He was outdone by Future on this sleeper classic.
“No New Friends” – No. Lil Wayne had the best verse here. Not surprising here.
“Love Me” – No. Lil Wayne carried the verses, Future took the chorus, and Drake just showed up.
“Pop That” – Yes. On maybe my favorite song of 2013 (I’ll have to fact check that), Drake showed out on a star-studded list of rap heavyweights. It was the kind of performance that a top-tier rapper would have, especially amongst the company he was.
“I Do It” – No. 2Chainz.
“F**kin’ Problems” – No. Forget what I said a couple of seconds ago, this was my favorite song of 2013. There are few instances that a rap song is perfect, and this was one of the time. The best performance was Kendrick for sure though, with 2Chainz coming in second. In fact, here is the ranking of performances, first to last: Kendrick Lamar, 2Chainz, Drake, A$AP Rocky.
“Killer” – No. Nipsey Hussle rarely gets out shined. This was not one of those times.
“Know Bout Me” – No. A short Drake verse is not conducive to successful. Timbaland had the best performance.
“Who Do You Love” – No. YG has perfected the West Coast sound, and any time anyone else tries to hop onto his tracks, they get embarrassed.
“Grindin'” – No.
“Never Satisfied” – No. He was singing here, don’t need that.
“Believe Me” – Yes. This was one of the most fun tracks because him and Lil Wayne were trading bars on here, and he controlled the song instantly and never let go.
“Tuesday” – Yes. This song would have never made it out with Drake honestly. It is a miracle of the Drake effect.
“DnF” – No. Preme did his thing here.
“Only” – Yes. This song was garbage. Drake was still the best one here though.
“Versace” – No. I know what I said about lengthy Drake verses, but Quavo was the best rapper here without a doubt.
“Blessings (Extended Version)” – No. Why this version didn’t make the album is beyond me. Maybe because of the Kanye verse. I guess. Big Sean had the best performance though.
“100” – No. The Game outdid him again.
“R.I.C.O.” – Yes.
“Where Ya At” – No. Weird how this was the only feature throughout the whole album.
“Work” – No. Rihanna is a better rapper than Drake.
“Why You Always Hatin?” – No. YG AND Kamaiyah on a West Coast beat??? Drake had no chance.
“No Shopping” – Yes.
“Back On Road” – No. Gucci Mane came out of prison firing on all cylinders here.
“100it Racks” – No. 2Chainz killed his verse again, as usual.
“Wanna Know” – No. This was one of the supposed Drake effect songs. The original was better, and Dave showed that he was better than Drake at this point.
“Used to This” – Yes? I guess. This song wasn’t good either.
“Both” – No. Gucci took his lunch money again.
“Big Amount” – No. Lol. 2Chainz again.
“No Complaints” – No. Offset won.
“Walk It Talk It” – Yes (This album was so underwhelming).
“Look Alive” – No. Drake may have brought this to the forefront, but there is no chance that it was better than the BlocBoy verse. At all. No question.
“Yes Indeed” – No. “Wah Wah Wah, bitch I’m Lil Baby.”
“Bigger Than You” – No.
“SICKO WORLD” – No. On an album that doesn’t exist, Travis Scott did a good job.
Now here are his own songs (this is going to be more abridged):
“Make Me Proud” – Yes. It’s when he does both the hook and a verse that he is at his best.
“I’m Goin In” – No. Lil Wayne delivered a top three verse starter and it was over from then, again.
“Fancy” – No. Swizz Beatz solely because of the, “Oh you fancy, huh?”
“HYFR” – Yes. A top Drake performance on one of his best albums.
“Lord Knows” – Yes.
“The Motto” – Yes. Prime. Drake.
“Pound Cake / Paris Morton Music 2” – No. Fun fact, each remix of this song is better than the original (see “Russell Westbrook on a Farm” and “Childish Gambino Sway Freestyle). Anyway, Jay-Z gave us the cake bars, so it was quiet for Drake.
“All Me” – No. LOL. No. He got WASHED on this track, sandwiched between two rappers who were having top-notch years. These were a couple of my favorite verses from both 2Chainz and Big Sean.
The Entire What A Time To Be Alive album – No. Maybe except for “Big Rings.” Yeah, he did his thing on “Big Rings.”
“Grammys” – Yes. One of the rare times he outperformed Future.
“Pop Style” – No. Here is the thing about this one. Drake first released this as a single featuring Jay-Z and Kanye. People were excited about the prospect of this because we got one hell of a Kanye verse. Do you know what happened when it came time for Views? “Pop Style” was there, noticeably missing the Kanye verse. I can only assume that Drake couldn’t afford to be shown up on his on album.
“No Long Talk” – No. He was doing this weird thing where he couldn’t decide where he was from. His raps took a hit because of it.
“KMT” – No. Giggs killed him again. Twice in one album.
“Sacrifices” – No. How are you going to have 2Chainz and Young Thug on the same track and expect it to go well for you.
“Portland” – Yes.
Drake is not a top-tier rapper. He continually got outperformed by other rappers on their tracks and his own tracks. The best rapper in the game is supposed to control the pace and set the tone. Drake does this far too little to be considered a top-tier rapper. Glad this has finally been to put to rest. He should never, ever be placed in the same category as Kendrick.