Rap Critic
Rap Critic Reviews: “Started From the Bottom” by Drake VS. “Juicy” by The Notorious B.I.G.
Part 1:

*shrugs* Okay. This is the lead single from Drake’s third album. And it’s obvious that he’s no longer trying. I mean, listen to this

Started from the bottom, now we here…
Started from the bottom, now my whole team fuckin’ here

Oh. A song about how you’re rich. We know, Drake. You know that we know. You made a song about the fact that you know that we know!

-clip from Drake’s “Headlines”-
But I ain’t even gotta say it, they know
They know, they know, they know

But yeah, since apparently no one’s tired about Drake sounding like he’s tired, here comes another song about how he’s made it, and how the haters keep hating and how his team is awesome, and… You know, this song is boring. And if I just talk about how boring this song is, this review is gonna be boring. Because honestly, there’s really not a lot to say about this. And the monotony of his flow in the verses and how it sounds exactly the same as the chorus doesn’t help. Especially when there are only eleven words in it!

Started from the bottom, now we here
Started from the bottom, now my whole team fuckin’ here…

In fact, the verses and the choruses are actually pretty short, but the expressionless flow is repeated so much, the song ends up sounding a lot longer than it actually is. And it’s a bit of a chore to get through

Boys tell stories ‘bout the man
Say I never struggled? Wasn’t hungry?
Yeah I doubt it n***a
I could turn your boy into da man

Like, dude, this sounds like something you threw together to hold the fans over until you actually had time to sit down and right something. Not the lead single to your friggin’ album!
So, instead of doing a straight review of this song, I wanted to do a comparison piece, and I’m gonna try to make a point with this. Okay, so what is this song about? It’s about how his life used to be terrible, but now it’s awesome because of his rap career. You know who also made a song like that? Biggie Smalls

-clip from Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy”-
Now, no one is arguing that Drake is better than Notorious B.I.G., in fact I’d like to give enough credit to Drake by believing that even he doesn’t think that, but I wanted to use Biggy’s sing Juicy in comparison to this song, Started From the Bottom, to show you why I believe this song is lacking. And how that lack of lyrical content changes how I view a song that tackles the topic. Specifically one as common in rap as this. Now let’s start with the intro of Started from the Bottom

Drake: Started…
- - -

Which sounds like Drake wanted to start the song, but then his producer cut him off and said, “NO! My name has to be at the start! This is MY beat, and I want people to know!” Once again, you don’t see producers from back in the day doing stuff like that!

-Clip of Michael Jackson’s “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”-
Each time the wind blows, I hear your voice so-YEAH, QUINCY JONES PRODUCED THIS TRACK! TRACK, TRACK!

Look, to all you producers out there… We don’t care. We are not listening to the song because we like you. Which is kind of funny because most people only like the beats, but regardless, that doesn’t mean we ultimately care about you. We care about the main guy rapping! Oddly enough though, for the beginning of Juicy, this is one of the few times where P. Diddy doesn’t talk all over the intro

(Fuck all you hoes) Get a grip motherfucker

Although I’m not 100% sure what that part relates to. Even on the Ready to Die album, there’s nothing prior to what he says that gives context to what he’s saying. He’s just kinda egrigant to some. But then he says…

Yeah, this album is dedicated to all the teachers that told me I’d never amount to nothin’

So already, we have context for Biggie. Not just the song, but his whole album is intended to offend all those who saw him worthless and good for nothing. Already we have a stronger inclination for what’s happening. With Drake, on the other hand…

Started from the bottom, now we here
Started from the bottom, now my whole team fuckin’ here
Started from the bottom, now we here
My friends and I were broke but now we’re not. My friends and I were broke but now we’re not. My friends and I were broke but now we’re not. To me it’s way too simple and blunt with its presentation. Now compare that to the chorus for Juicy

You know very well who you are
Don’t let ‘em hold you down, reach for the stars
*Also, P. Diddy muttering randomly in the background. In fact, the whole “producer-wanting-to-be-as-noticed-as-the-artist” thing is kinda his fault…*

Which re-appropriates the chorus of Matumae’s “Juicy” for to act as encouragement for the rapper. It sounds really kind and tearing, and works as a chorus that can be sung by someone who still knows the struggle that Biggie went through

You had a goal, but not that many
‘Cause you’re the only one I’ll give you good and plenty

Uh…hm. You know, now that I think about it, I think that they just went with this chorus because of those first two lines. Because these lines just kinda seem like they didn’t know how to rearrange the rest of the lyrics from the sample to make it make sense, but it was already too late to change the chorus to something else? So they just kinda kept it. But anyway, let’s get into the meat of why Started From the Bottom doesn’t work. Context, context, context

In Juicy, Biggie tells us that the current life he’s living in used to be nothing more than an unobtainable fantasy. Something that only his famous rappers would live. And that he looked up to these rappers and was a huge fan

It was all a dream
I used to read Word Up magazine

Hangin’ pictures on my wall
Every Saturday Rap Attack, Mr. Magic, Marley Marl
I let my tape rock ‘til my tape popped

In Started From the Bottom, we get no indication of passion or even a slight affinity for rap music! So the success that he gets related to rap music holds no real value! In fact, I don’t-

Man in music video: Started from the bottom, now the whole team’s… -sees a brunette woman in a gray shirt with her cleavage visible who puts down a basket- Freaking here! -He looks at her boobs- Oh my bosh!
Oh, wow. Did this happen the last time I reviewed a song by Drake?

-Clip from his review of Drake’s “Best I Ever Had-

Well, at least they figured out how bad an actor Drake really is, and had the intelligence to completely cut him out of this scene. Wait…who directed this music video?

-Cut to the very end of the music video as it is fading out, which says “By Director X and Drake”-

Oh. Well, I admire your honesty

Part 2:

But like I was saying, very little in the song gives us much background. And any that does feels ultimately inconsequential

Living at my mama’s house we’d argue every month

Oh, no! Not disagreeing with your parents! Aka, that thing that all teenagers do! I mean, maybe there’s more to that story. Maybe there were serious disagreements he had with his mom. But you know why I don’t care? Because he doesn’t tell me about them! Now over here in Juicy, Biggie speaks of complete poverty

Born sinner, the opposite of a winner
Remember when I used to eat sardines for dinner

We used to fuss when the landlord dissed us
No heat, wonderin’ why Christmas missed us

I can comprehend that. I can visualize and understand that. I can feel the despair of that situation. What hardships does Drake speak about in his song?

I was trying to get it on my own
Working all night, traffic on the way home

Oh, no! Not working night shifts at a grocery store! (As this video seems to indicate…) And encountering traffic on the way home?! ANYTHING BUT THAT! What I’m trying to say is, nothing here really sticks to you. Any details on his life that could give context to his words, you’d have to look up to find out about. Thing is, I shouldn’t have to look up your life’s story to figure out what you’re trying to express. That’s what the words in the song are for!

We don’t like to do too much explaining

That’s the problem! Sure, there’s always extra meaning that can be derived from a song if you know the artist’s personal life, but I shouldn’t have to already know your life’s story in order to understand the song

Story stayed the same, I never changed it

But, see, you never told us a story. I mean, sure, when it comes to topics about girls, you spill your heart out. And I’m sure all the strippers you’ve written songs about really appreciate that. But whenever it comes to the getting into your life and your success, there should be something strong to make me understand your obstacle so that your victory becomes that much more enjoyable! But when I hear this…

Just as a reminder to myself
I wear every single chain, even when I’m in the house

Which doesn’t even rhyme; when I hear this, I don’t think “wow, I respect this guy’s hustle”. I think, “well, if it’s all about money and nothing else, why doesn’t Warren Buffet have a rapping career?”. -cover of SellingPower magazine that mentions Warren Buffet- I’m fairly sure one of the richest men in the world knows more about having money than Drake does!

Now, contrast that to Biggie Smalls once again. He talks about how the good life never seemed like a reality to him. Because the way he lived never gave credence to the idea that it was even possible!

I never thought it could happen, this rappin’ stuff
I was too used to packin’ gats and stuff

Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis
When I was dead broke, man I couldn’t picture this

He talks about how he was never attractive to some girls, but now that he’s famous, those same girls are all of a sudden into him!

Girls used to diss me
Now they write letters ‘cause they miss me

There’s even depth to be pulled out of a line as simple as this!

Birthdays was the worst days
Now we sip champagne when we thirst-ay

Think about that for a second. As a kid, on the day that you’re supposed to feel special, he was crestfallen due to his poverty. But now, when the slightest hang of difficulty comes into his life, he has the finest solutions to his problems

And here’s one of my favorite lines, which is simple but poignant

Living life without fear

Just the comfort of knowing that he doesn’t have to be one paycheck away from destitution gives validation behind the song. Gives it meaning and depth. I as a listener am invested into the persona presented in this song. What do I have to be invested in emotionally with Started From the Bottom?! What, am I supposed to be happy that you’re a self-righteous douchebag who flaunts his wealth in a time where the unemployment rate is in the double digits? Well, congratulations! But I don’t care!

And you know what? I might have cared, if there was any punchline, any joke, any clever play on words or indication of humor or lightheartedness about the topic. I really would give you points for that! I always give points to someone who’s a douchebag but can be funny about it. But when all you have is a repetitive drone about how great it is to be you, I’m unable to generate a response beyond, “Uh, oh, okay.” There’s a lot of talk about how Drake really didn’t struggle in his life, and that he was a spoiled rich kid, and since he was on a TV show, that means he’s fake, and never really went through hard times in his life…

And to be honest, I don’t agree with that. I do feel that he has gone through struggles in his life. They may not be the exact archetype of struggles that are typical of the hip-hop culture, but as a rapper, I do believe that he does have a story to tell. For a closer look at a rapper who’s not going to gangsta rap route with their music, look at Childish Gambino’s song “Hold You Down” on his latest album, Camp

Culture shock at barber shops, ‘cause I ain’t hood enough
We all look the same to the cops, ain’t that good enough?

This one kid said something that was really bad
He said I wasn’t really black because I had a dad
I think that’s kinda sad
Mostly ‘cause a lot of black kids think they should agree with that

You see? I understand what’s happening in his life. I get his story. The problem with Started From the Bottom is that… he doesn’t tell a story. He gives us surfaced, skimming details and rallies off weak as water brag-raps. And when you can’t give us any account of real pain in your past in your music (especially when that’s kinda how most people are gonna know you), yeah, I completely understand why people say what they say! And this song sounds like an embarrassingly ineffective way to respond to naysayers! If all you have are vague descriptions of conflict, I can only assume that your inability to elaborate stems from the fact that you have no conflicts!

Say I never struggled? Wasn’t hungry?
Yeah, I doubt it, n***a

Well…HOW did you struggle? You just had a venue to discuss it, we listened, and you said nothing beyond, “I totally struggled, just trust me”

Overall, this gets a 0 out of 5 from me. It’s boring (did I mention repetitive?), and uninspired. Drake knows he doesn’t have to try anymore, and he’s exploiting that fact. And for those who are gonna ask, of course I give Juicy a 5 out of 5. And those ratings aren’t to hyperbolically exaggerate a contrast. Started From the Bottom lacks everything that makes this type of song good, and Juicy in my opinion has all of those things to a T. I really hope that fans of Drake that bothered to watch all the way through understand my disappointment with him. Because I do feel like has potential to be a truly great artist, but with the path he’s going right now, it feels like he’s squandering it with mediocrity

Well, that’s what I have to say about that. I’m the Rap Critic. You don’t have to like my opinion, but I don’t have to like your song