When an artist as big as Drake shares something on Instagram, the world pays attention. It’s an embarassing part of humanity as it exists in 2020, but it’s real. And when that artist is in the midst of an apparent rollout for a collaborative project with another ridiculously famous rapper (Future), the stakes are even higher.
Every upload is picked apart by fans and perceived as a clue: Does a late-night pic with a caption like “2020 is my year” mean a new song is imminent, or did Drake and his boys just have too many Virginia Blacks and he was feelin’ himself?
These are the circumstances we found ourselves in when Drake uploaded four images to his Instagram Story late Tuesday night. The first was an illustration of Belle from Beauty and the Beast holding a basket and gazing at a smartphone in her hand. The second was a drawing of the four main characters from The Flinstones sharing an embrace in a scene that looks like something straight out of an episode of Wife Swap. The third was an artist’s representation of Winnie The Pooh passed out on the floor after drinking too much honey. And the fourth was a startling illustration of Garfield receiving Botox injections.
What the fuck?
What does this mean? Is Drake about to executive produce his own parody animated film? Is What a Time to Be Alive 2 going to be about the misadventures of middle-aged Garfield and his cartoon pals?
I fully understand that no one asked for this, but I had to investigate.
My first tip came from Complex staff writer Lei Takanashi, who pointed out there is an “RX” tag in the lower right corner of each illustration. After a little Googling, we found an Instagram page for something called RX Strip, which is full of strange illustrations. The style seemed similar, but it wasn’t clear if this was actually the work of the same artist.
Then, after scrolling past 49 images... Bingo! The Garfield drawing. Nine posts later: The Flinstones. This was it. Drake’s cartoons were originally posted in the summer of 2019 to an Instagram page with less than 25k followers.
This was a start, but there were still unanswered questions. Now I knew where the photos came from, but not why.
Then I noticed a short bio on the RX Strip Instagram page: “Exploring the Pop (paradox) art. If you take please tag or link [which Drake most certainly did not do] www.rxstrip.it.” Clicking the link, I was taken to a website with an email address, so I wrote a message and asked what was going on.
Six hours later, I received a response: “Hi, thanks for your message. If you hadn’t written to me I probably would never have discovered it. If you want I am available to answer some questions. I would prefer via email because I am Italian and unfortunately English is not my mother tongue...”
I sent more questions. 48 hours later, I got more answers.
“For the last [few] years I have been working on the dark side of human (and animal) mind,” the artist behind RX Strip told me. “I often do it through the reference of some of the most famous pop characters. Through them, the message is easier and clearer to understand.” After more prodding, they explained: “I know the general impression is one of a ‘dark’ interpretation. What I do is to take these ‘perfect’ characters and put them in the real world, where nobody is perfect and where everyone can be wrong.”
Then, one more explanation. Answering why they describe their work as “pop-paradox,” they wrote: “By the term ‘pop-paradox’ I mean the parody of a parody. In fact, my artworks are a parody of something that is already a parody.”
Ohhhhh. This was finally starting to make sense. Drake is an artist who has spent his whole career building up a seemingly perfect rap persona, while also writing vulnerable songs about the dark sides of the real world. Of course he would love this shit. This is the most Drake-y art ever.
But how did he find it? And does it give us any clues about the music he’s working on?
Probably not. The artist told me they haven’t been contacted by Drake and they don’t know for sure how he came across their work. “I have no idea why Drake posted some of my drawings in his stories,” they wrote. “Maybe he found them on some artistic insta page. Some of my drawings recently became ‘viral.’”
So, the conclusion to this dumb investigation was one I should have predicted from the beginning. Drake was probably just high on Instagram late Tuesday night, found some deep cartoons that spoke to him, and shared them with the rest of the world.
Stars... they’re just like us.
I ended my exchange by asking RX Strip if they had any parting words for our readers.
“Yes, social networks, if used correctly, are also a place where you can find a lot of art and food for thought.”