“I’m tryna do it all tonight, I got Plans”
I was a freshman in college when Drake dropped So Far Gone, the mixtape that would take him from MySpace music hopeful and former actor to a household name.
Before Drake was known for providing the anthems to our summers each year, and before there was an Instagram to use his lyrics as captions for, the project spoke to young, Black kids in college as we tried to get money we never had and the attention we always wanted, doing it all for the cities that made us—especially those of us from Texas. It gave a new voice to our ambition, and for better or for worse, shaped our romantic conversations and encounters.
Simpler times. The best kind of nostalgia.
So Far Gone felt as young and out of control as our basest instincts would tempt us to be if we had the means, from the money we wanted to spend, to the lust we wanted to act on, to the shit we wanted to talk. It was a reflection of the growing pains that come with fumbling the good things we weren’t ready for, and the sadness that came with losing things we’d later be thankful that we never quite had.
Drake gave us raps over classic samples on November 18 and Ignant Shit, and verses and features from Bun B, Omarion, Lloyd, Trey Songz, and of course, Lil Wayne (an all-star lineup in 2009). We lived vicariously through him as he talked us through flexing with money, acknowledging that it isn’t everything, but damn if it didn’t feel better than not having it.
Perhaps the biggest draw was the balancing act the project displayed, not only with singing and rapping, but also with wanting to be on top and feeling as if he was already there. He balanced work with play, telling us how to move when you take a night off and finally get a moment to yourself, getting us all a little more acquainted with the things we could do with it. In his more bragadocious moments, Drake balanced the fact that the women of other men were obsessed with him with the reality that love isn’t easy and lust is more fickle than fame.
And even more fickle when you actually have fame.
I’ve always treated music as a full sensory experience. It’s never just been about the way the music sounded, but the way I felt when I heard it first or listened to it the most, the way rooms smelled, the food I was eating, the things I saw, the lyrics that made me think or remember, even when I wanted to forget. So to me, So Far Gone still smells like a rug that never quite stopped smelling like a dropped bottle of passionfruit Skyy vodka in my friend’s dorm room, and all the other liquor we drank that our stomachs and palettes wouldn’t tolerate now.
It looks like trips to the small shopping mall in our small college town to find the right outfit for when the DJ played A Night Off or Brand New at the party later that night. It feels like tired arms as we blow dried and flat ironed hair and weaves to Houstalantavegas, Uptown, and Best I Ever Had. It sounds like every pre-game, every college party, every Black campus event, and every trip back home to Dallas for the weekend.
Since the project we’ve seen some shifts in Drake. He’s fully transitioned from the kid from Degrassi into the 6 god. While he’s still more vulnerable than most are prepared for, his shit-talking stings a little more, and his jabs connect more directly. Though he said in Successful that we’d never hear replies to disses directed toward him, we’ve seen—and still quote—several.
I’d be remiss not to mention a questionable lyric about sleeping with dancers who are too “fucked up” in Houstalantavegas that wouldn’t go over well today, or the diet-misogyny we’ve sometimes gotten from him over the years. Or how fuckboys have made him their patron saint with faux displays of vulnerability as a means to run game on people who should really know better at this point. But that’s a conversation for a different time.
For now we’ll acknowledge that many of us were entering adulthood as he was entering the spotlight, and that we’ve all done a lot of growing. And we’ll celebrate a mixtape that could’ve been album of the year. One that might go down as having changed, well, everything.
Still need him and J. Cole to re-do Jodeci Freestyle though. Still need that.
Lauren Whiteman is from Dallas, she eats Rudy’s, it’s been a while since she’s been to Big T though. She has a couple of degrees from the University of Oklahoma and is now an educator in the Dallas area. Lauren’s work focuses on advocacy, student development, and the miseducation of Black and African American students in higher education. She’s a TEDx presenter and hopes future generations never forget what to do for the 99 and the 2000. For her twitter shenanigans, visit @itsmewhiteman.