The Artist vs. The Author And What Drake’s Dismissal of Magazine Interviews Means for Music Journalism


In what’s becoming an all-too-revealing trend in music journalism, Drake took to his Twitter this morning to harangue (without naming names) Rolling Stone for their profile feature on him in their latest issue, hitting newsstands on Friday.

Bits of the story have already made their rounds, as yesterday the world (via RS) caught wind of an excerpt from the piece in which Drake calls Macklemore’s apology to Kendrick Lamar after winning the Grammy for Best Rap Album “wack as fuck.”

“Why are you posting your text messages?” Drake ponders, referring to Macklemore’s now-infamous Instagram photo of a text he sent to Lamar after the latter’s snub. “Just chill. Take your W, and if you feel like you didn’t deserve it, go get better – make better music,” Drake added.

While the Toronto rapper seems to be standing by those words – in effect mentioning that he, Kanye, and Jay Z also should’ve received text messages from Macklemore – he seems to have been blindsided by some of the other choice quotes Rolling Stone‘s Jonah Weiner pulled for his story, which was published to the magazine’s site this morning.

In the feature profile, which was reportedly intended to be a cover story before the untimely death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Drake candidly rips into his recent friend-again Kanye West’s lyricism on his recent Yeezus, even throwing a shot at Brooklyn rapper Fabolous to boot.

“There were some real questionable bars on [Yeezus],” Drake admits, “Like that ‘Swaghili’ line? Come on, man. Even Fabolous wouldn’t say some shit like that.”

Now, it’s a subtle barb, but for those aware of Drake’s squeaky-clean record in the media (in large part due to his management’s approval process for magazine features), it’s an all-too-controversial one that seems out of character for the MC.

Elsewhere in the story, Drake calls out Jay Z for his new obsession with art-rap (“It’s like Hov can’t drop bars these days without at least four art references! I would love to collect at some point, but I think the whole rap/art world thing is getting kind of corny”) and takes shots at the Grammys, explaining that over time “it becomes more apparent how irrelevant our genre is to them. [The Grammys] were trying to utilize me to sell the show, requesting me to come and perform ‘Hold On We’re Going Home’ but they didn’t nominate it for anything!”

Expounding on his frustration, he adds, “They’re calling me, e-mailing me every day to do some elaborate performance and bring them viewers, but I didn’t get a nomination for Album of The Year. I didn’t get a nomination for Song Of The Year.” Fittingly, instead of attending this year’s Grammy Awards, he “partied at a West Hollywood nightclub.”

Again, Drake isn’t typically so vocal about such frustrations, but it was the mentions of Yeezus that’ve got him in a bad place. Defending his insults of the album on Twitter this morning, Drake wrote, “I never commented on Yeezus for my interview portion of Rolling Stone. They also took my cover from me last minute and ran the issue… I’m disgusted with that. RIP to Phillip Seymour Hoffman. All respect due. But the press is evil.” Ironically, the rapper’s sentiments harken back to those of Kanye West, the very man he seems to have taken unwarranted jabs at in the story in question.

Years ago, West was a fixture in print media, as fans gobbled up his cover stories via the likes of Rolling Stone, Complex, Vibe, The Fader, and XXL at a rapid pace, but upon the release of 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, frustrated with the way journalists could paint whatever picture of him they liked, West started to turn down print interviews, instead choosing to speak directly with fans via his Twitter and former blog, and of course, his music. (Mr. West has granted interviews to W and The New York Times since his self-imposed exile from print, though he would later go on record to say neither interview went the way he’d intended.)

Drake, for his part, echoes that exact notion with his final tweet of the morning: “I’m done doing interviews for magazines. I just want to give my music to the people. That’s the only way my message gets across accurately.”

Now, in light of Drake’s allegations that his quotes about Kanye’s album were taken out of context (or were revealed off the record), his decision to abandon interviews for magazines sparks a larger question: Do artists on the caliber of Drake and Kanye need magazines (or journalists) to document their stories anymore?

The short answer: No. At the points in their careers where these two have decided to no longer speak with magazine writers, they’re entirely in a position where they don’t necessarily need to. They have enough clout and enough power and enough influence to work around the tried-and-tested system and reach fans in different ways (i.e. open letters, video interviews, social media).

The same can be said for Kendrick Lamar, whose management questioned the credibility of GQ Magazine last year after they ran a cover story on Lamar that “put myself and my company in a negative light,” according to Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, CEO of Kendrick’s label, TDE. “[The] story was more focused on what most people would see as drama or bs,” added Tiffith, also arguing that there were “racial overtones” in the story, which compared TDE to a burgeoning Death Row Records.

In rap music and other image-obsessed genres, there’s always been a battle between how artists hope to be perceived by their fans and the general public, but it seems that in recent years, hip-hop stars and their handlers have slowly and surely realized that they no longer have to play the game, and if they choose to, they can curate exactly how it is played. If Kanye doesn’t want to talk to reporters, there will only be more people who want to talk to him and about him; if Drake vows to give no more magazine interviews, his records will still sell just as well; and if TDE never again works with GQ, they lose absolutely no credibility in the hip-hop world, for GQ has always been opportunistic of the genre in its coverage, anyway.

A great writer can and should get his or her subject to reveal those very things about themselves that they didn’t want anyone to know – from Gay Talese’s profile of Frank Sinatra to Truman Capote’s profile of Marlon Brando, this is a time-tested tradition – but if artists and managers continue to assure that no such thing is ever revealed without their consent, what, then, is a journalist’s relevance in a current climate that no longer necessarily needs them to document the culture?

This remains to be seen… but in the meantime, a print media culture without a Kendrick, Drake, and Kanye is a pretty boring one. Here’s to hoping journalistic integrity and artistic self-image preservation find a way to meet in the middle, before the remainder of music’s biggest and most interesting names write magazines off for good.

(Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone)



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