6. Drake "9AM in Dallas" (2010)
For Drake, this is the moment where everything clicked. When he first started buzzing, his mixtape So Far Gone featured tracks like the soul-baring "Say What's Real" and Drizzy holding his own alongside veterans like Lil Wayne and Bun B on "Uptown." But once he dropped a single like "Find Your Love," all bets were off. Purists were quick to crucify Drizzy as "emo" and a "singer." But they didn't do their research: Drake came up admiring acts like Little Brother and Slum Village and his early mixtape work had him earnestly trying to be lyrical, even if his flow just wasn't there yet. So when he unleashed "9 AM In Dallas" it silenced critics and was a shoutout to Drake fans who "missed the mean lyrics."
The extended verses still have him using a bit of the hashtag flow (which in retrospect, he may have abused on his debut album) but here it was still clever, "Smart kids that smoke weed, honor roll" and "Throwing up in the huddle nigga, Willie Beamen." Drake's appeal was never about wordplay, his gift is the ability to internalize life and explain it so matter of factly, "If you ain't got it, you ain't got it, the theory is brilliant." He takes the time to anonymously diss all the no-name rappers hating on him in his city but what makes it so brutal is that he's not just doing it to boast. What he's saying is actually true. Drake really was on top of the game, and with bars like this he was on his too. —Insanul Ahmed
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