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As Aubrey Graham spits the first lines (“I can tell that money’s got you working”) from ‘Practice’, the last song off ‘Take Care’, it easy to suppose that this track will be another exercise in the comically misogynistic attitudes that have dominated mainstream rap lyrics since the early 90’s. Whereas Drake usually falls into this class of lyricists, characterized by excessively surreal bravado (bling, clothes and ho’s), this kind of content does little to address the reality of the common man, and simply serves to provide unrealistic expectations of relationships (and life) for young, black, men.
However, things quickly take a strange turn when Drizzy admits that he “can tell that [she]”, the girl who he’s about to have ‘relations’ with, has “been practicing” with, well…how do I put this…”other men”. When I first positively identified this lyric (probably on my third or fourth time through the song) it took a few seconds to fully re-attach my dropped jaw. I was stupefied. A rapper…especially one as grandiose as Drake (have you seen the jewels on the cover of ‘Take Care’?) admitting to himself and his audience that his current fling is actually human and not some only-present-for-music-video’s concubine? Something was definitely afoot. Backing (that ass) up a little to find out how we got to this unusual confession, let’s examine the origins of Drake’s current obsession.
He and this woman have been “talking” about and “waiting” for this moment for a long time, presumably because they’ve ‘known’ each other in the past. When Drake finally ‘get[s] [her] to [himself]’ he can recognize that she’s had a significant amount of sexual experience since they last met, but this doesn’t bother him. He justifies it as simply “practice…yeah, for me”. Although this is laughable reasoning (Yeah man…she definitely dated all of those other men just to prepare for this one night), it says something about Drake’s coming-to term’s with the reality of 21st century bedroom politics. He’s able to admit that the women he sees casually are obviously seeing other people as well, and he accepts this two-way street of sexual freedom by casting his concerns aside with a healthy dose of self-righteousness (Well hey! It had to have been practice babe, ‘cause it wasn’t me!).
To further complicate the sexually progressive narrative of the song, it’s clear the girl that Drake is dealing with is an alpha-female. While physically attractive (she does happen to be “working with some ass”), she’s also able to manipulate other men with her prowess making them “spend” up to a “couple thousand on [her] bag” and other women exhibit signs of jealousy, “[frowning] when [she] passed”. Understandably, Drake admits that in this situation, classic ‘casual’ relationship tropes have been reversed, and it is he who is helplessly submissive, inquiring as to how many “other people that [she’s] been with”, but in the end succumbing to temptation and giving her “the benefit of the doubt”.
Clearly, the subject of Drake’s interest in ‘Practice’ is the female version of a ‘player’. Whether or not the female at the center of ‘Practice’ is a positive role model is unimportant, what’s ground-breaking is that Drake is willing to accept his partner’s sexual freedom, and effortlessly able to view it with a positive spin. Taking an atypically calm and reasonable approach, Drake laughs off the idea of dealing with a female ‘player’ by noting that “there were things you had to learn” from all of the men that came before him, and at the end of the day “everything [happens] for a reason”.
Now that’s what I call keeping it real.
By Aaron R