“I like a woman with a future and a past,” is how Drake opens his just-leaked single “Make Me Proud,” off his forthcoming sophomore disc, Take Care. How strange, then, that he’d enlist Nicki Minaj to personify said woman on the track. After all, any given Nicki persona is about as permanent as her scowl. She’s said a lot in the past two years, but what do we actually know about her that goes beyond mannerism and tic?
“Make Me Proud” houses a fascinating dichotomy, with Drake obsessing about the female psyche (“It must be hard to be that fine / When all these motherfuckers want to waste your time”) and Nicki foiling all of that by keeping her guest rapping/singing within the superficial realm (“It’s Mac, Opi and a fragrance too / Apparel, I’m dominating every avenue / Cobblestone, good view, lil gravel too / Gotta pay for the entourage travel too”). Maybe that’s part of the point. Since the woman Drake rhapsodizes has been “through hell and back,” making her “bad as fuck” she’s accomplished enough to do away with introspection and live in the hedonistic moment. Or maybe this is a subtle barb thrown at Drake’s sensitive-guy image — he’s wrapped up in his object of desire’s interior monologue way more than she is. She doesn’t need his patronization (“I’m so, I’m so, I’m so, I’m so proud of you”); she’s got her own soothing success.
The gentle discord runs all the way through the track’s construction. Loving lyrical content is matched with a frenetic snare click and a guttural click. It’s the sound of loving to death. Drake’s crooning sticks out like an enthusiastic thumbs-up, much like it does in the greater context of his being played on hip-hop radio. “Make Me Proud” is a microcosm of everything he means to his genre, and thankfully, his shtick continues to fascinate.
Rich Juzwiak is a writer and video editor whose work has appeared in the Village Voice, Jezebel, and on This American Life. He runs the pop culture blog fourfour.