All Adventurous Rappers: On Lena Dunham, Drake, and Where They Meet In The Middle

All Adventurous Rappers: On Lena Dunham, Drake, and Where They Meet In The Middle

It's been a hell of a week for Lena Dunham. On the eve of the second season premiere of HBO's Girls—the show she writes, produces, and stars in—she scored herself a Golden Globe for acting, and Girls took home the award for Best Comedy or Musical on Television. And yet, as far as news or context on Girls is concerned, it all pales in comparison to what may be both the least surprising and most revealing piece of information on The Mind of Lena Dunham yet:

She's a big, big fan of Drake.

In an interview with Vulture published on Friday, Dunham explained:

I just loved—I felt this real kinship when I listened to [Drake's] last album that he was sort of ... I think kinship is the wrong word, but I don’t think I understood how much of a rap trope talking about [how] the bitches and the weed and the money was not satisfying you was. I thought he was a fucking rap revolutionary.

Now, Dunham—who dates one of the guys in Fun—probably can't be counted on to be as much of a rap connoisseur as your average reader of Complex, let alone your average Drake listener.

As such, she's not likely to realize that talking about "the bitches and the weed and the money..not satisfying you" isn't as much of a "rap trope" as she thinks it is. Also, that Drake's existential despair about the "bitches and the weed and the money" is so much of what initially distinguished him, and also, subjected him to criticism and/or mockery from People Who Don't Fux With Drake.

One of the earliest—and still, one of the best—examples of Drake distinguishing himself in this way came in the form of a 2009 interview with Complex, in which Drake explained the title of the mixtape that blew him up, So Far Gone:

One night [my friend Oliver and I] were having a discussion about women and the way we were talking about them, it was so brazen and so disrespectful. He texted me right after we got off the phone and he was like, "Are we becoming the men that our mothers divorced?" That's really where the cover comes from, too. It's just this kid in pursuit of love and money. [...] Sometimes you just get so far gone, you get wrapped up in this shit. 

Back to Dunham: Not being a rap connoisseur or someone who likely keeps up with critical thought about rap, she probably isn't entirely aware of specific rap game backlash against Drake. And sure, all rappers talk about their haters (that is, in fact, a very real rap trope).

The two crucial differences between Drake and other rappers is (A) Drake's origins and cultural makeup—a half-white, half-black, half-Jewish² Canadian whose initial platform for fame was Degrassi—and (B) the nature of those criticisms: They start with "DRAKE IS A GATEWAY DRUG TO BITCH-ASSNESS." and keep going well after "Does Drake Actually Care About Women?"

And if you know anything about Lena Dunham and Girls, you know there are people who really, really dislike her and her show. For Dunham, those criticisms start at birth: She's the white, upper-middle-class well-educated daughter of two artists. Her show? Besides the fact that it stars people just like her? Well, it's whitewashed, it's classist, she's ugly, it's a failure of feminism, it's whiny, etc, etc, etc. 

And this is where Drake and Lena Dunham meet in the middle.

All it takes is one listen to Drake's Take Care—not two minutes in—to be clued in to the fact that there are criticisms against him:

And I don't ever be trippin off of what ain't mine/
And I be hearing the shit you say through the grapevine/
But jealousy is just love and hate at the same time/
Yeah...It's been that way from the beginning

And later, the nature of those criticisms: "I know that showing emotion don't ever mean I'm a pussy."

Sound familiar? For all the respect Dunham's been given about baring herself—literally—as a woman with a "real body" on television, she's actually been critiqued for it. For all the praise she's received for accurately portraying the low-stakes life of a self-obsessed 25-year-old in New York City, however critically, she's been knocked for it.

On the second song on Take Care, "Shot For Me," Drake asks his former lovers to take a shot for him, not just because they inspired his work, but because they're pissed about it:

Bitch, I'm the man/
Don't you forget it/
The way you walk, that's me/
The way you talk, that's me [...]
Can't you see/ 

That I made it?/
Yeah, I made it/
First I made you who you are/
and then I made it.
And you're wasted/
With your latest/
Yeah, I'm the reason why you always getting faded...

It's pretty apparent that Dunham takes quite a bit of Girls from her and her friends' experiences,  and there's little doubt here that there are probably a few aggrieved former lovers in the wake of Girls. But more critically, here in New York—the hemorrhaging brain of American Media Output, where so many of the insipid blog posts about Girls emerge from, and also where Girls is set—there's always been a pronounced hostility towards the show. In the same way that people from West Virginia are upset about Buckwild, and Chris Christie was mad at Jersey Shore, it's only natural that Girls would upset a few very loud natives. It's a show that portrays a life that's regularly lived by a lot of people writing those pissed off blog posts: 20-somethings and early 30-somethings who live in Brooklyn, with far less enviable writing jobs (and paychecks) than the one Dunham currently has. 

And this is where Lena Dunham and Drake start to click, too perfectly: They've been written off from where they came from, who they fundamentally are right now, and the way in which they both distinguish themselves from the current landscapes of television and rap, respectively. People love to talk about them, something they're both keenly aware of. In the same way that Drake would lose at least a fourth of his source material without his haters, the New York City that is so decidedly critical of Girls also yielded (and will continue to propagate the culture power of) it. Then there are the more superficial, obvious themes: "Marvin's Room" might as well be an episode of GirlsLena Dunham gets knocked for casting Girls with other daughters of famous artists; she probably really feels "Crew Love." Drake and Lena Dunham will never make a dollar—let alone $3.7 million—that people won't be pissed about or scrutinize. The struggle for Hannah and Co. to regularly embody the "YOLO" ethos of Drake and Co. on Girls (and the ostensible consequences of doing so). And so on. 

If you hate Drake and Lena Dunham, this is likely to only make you hate them more, and reinforce a case against artists who protect themselves in a bubble of self-regard by refusing to see past their own success and acknowledging haters and critics as part of life (as opposed to people with points to make), while both constantly disregarding the problems each of them present to young people/television/women/the rap game/the Greater Toronto Chamber of Commerce/gentrified Brooklyn/measures of quality.

And if you love Drake and Lena Dunham, well, you've now got yourself a new perspective with which to enjoy both. It's a cultural context thing, more than anything else.³ If you're looking for some sort of crucial takeaway here, though, it's not that Drake is the Lena Dunham of Rap, and Lena Dunham is the Drake of Television (although, as evidenced, that couldn't be more true).

It's that Judd Apatow and Birdman are basically the same person, in that they will be reaping royalties from dominating of-the-moment cultural forces of the television and rap game (as they have for the last few years) for some time to come. Which, for lack of a better term, is fucking crazy.

Not that your average Drake listener is necessarily a rap connoisseur, per se, but they're probably more of one than Dunham, is the point. As a basis for comparison, we can probably acknowledge here with confidence that your average Dipset listener is what one would traditionally think of as a "rap connoisseur."

² Lena Dunham, like Drake, is also half-Jewish by her mother. So there's that, too.

³ But after cultural context, it's also an incredible introduction to the fact that Dunham's choice for a black character—after all that talk from men and especially women who took issue with the show's lack of diversity—is a black Republican. Named "Sandy." Who is played by a guy who once rapped that he's "a rapist" who "love[s] these hipster girls/and they feel the same/now they don't have to choose when someone asks them Drake or Wayne." Which, intentional or not, is just exceptional, game-changing trolling on Dunham's part.

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Written by Foster Kamer (@weareyourfek)

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Tags: lena-dunham, girls, hbo, drake, take-care
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