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The definitive breakdown of Drake’s raps as seen on ‘Degrassi: The Next Generation’
A look at how Wheelchair Jimmy became Champagne Papi.
I love Drake. Odds are you do too, considering If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late was the first album to go platinum this year. This marks the fourth-consecutive album by Aubrey “Drake” Graham to sell more than one million copies in the United States. To honor our Champagne Papi, I thought I’d go back to the place where it all started: Degrassi Junior High.
For the record, I had Drake’s non-hit, circa-Comeback Season single “City is Mine” auto-play on my MySpace page. This is the only credential I hold (and need) to provide you with an annotation of Wheelchair Jimmy’s first televised rap performances.
In season 3, episode 18 of Degrassi: The Next Generation, titled “Rock and Roll High School” Jimmy Brooks and Gavin “Spinner” Mason (Shane Kippel) freestyle a rap they believe can win the upcoming battle of the bands competition against, Craig (Jake Epstein) and Jimmy’s ex-girlfriend Ashley Kerwin (Melissa McIntyre).
I won’t hold it against him, but Drake has never been much of a freestyler. So understand that at the ripe age of 17, he was much worse.
Our homey is a player and that is all
so why’d you have to go and kick his
Balls. And Jane ain’t that your name?
Cuz you a playa hate and that’s a shame.
And chicks like you ain’t worth too much.
So shut up girl and
[Jimmy & Spinner]
Make my lunch. YEAH!
*proceeds to cross arms like a tool*
I’m going to overlook the blatant misogyny and chalk this up to Drake’s worst ghostwriters thus far. Everyone knows Aubrey is too sensitive to address any woman in that tone. Nay, the Aubrey Graham we know and love is more likely to fashion a woman’s portrait out of tears and tissues. This is not an insult. Let’s remember that Drake’s feelings are exactly why he’s the hottest rapper in hip-hop right now.
These lyrics are abysmal, the flow is basic, this rap (and I use the term loosely) is the best example of how bad Drake is at being someone he’s not. Aubrey Graham may wear baggy clothes, but he is not a gangsta. He may date many women, but he is not a player. He may want some lunch but the only person who is making this thin Jewish boy’s lunch is his mom, Sandi Graham. As far as first performances go, this shows a fraction of Drake’s true talent. All artists must start somewhere, and clearly, Drizzy started from the bottom.
In episode 4, season 7, “It’s Tricky,” Ashley tries to break into the music industry despite her limited talent. At a talent show, she sings “Tell Me Lies” and is publicly shamed because she is the human manifestation of vanilla pudding. Always the gentleman, Wheelchair Jimmy Brooks literally rolls on stage and spits a verse that merits a standing ovation (an ironically cruel joke by the folks at Degrassi).
*Jimmy rolls up and steals the spotlight*
Thankfully, this rap is much closer to our present day Drake than the garbage he vomits in season 3.
Look me and the mic we co-exist
Brooks and his microphone live in harmony together, because Drake is Canadian and he tries not to have beef with anyone (unless of course you send for him, and in that case Toronto Councillor Norm Kelly has his back).
Ma flow is a glass box with no exits
So you could observe why you trapped in it
This is Drake’s first use of metaphor. It can’t get more clear—glass is for looking. We’re supposed to observe Drake’s flow and be wildly impressed. In all honestly, I’m most impressed with his wheelchair mobility. It’s hard for me to keep rhythm without tapping my feet, and Drake is doing just great keeping time with his erratic hand gestures.
Took my ladies track and sprinkled some rap in it
Do you see these people?
They are angry. They are used to the Canadian talents of Celine Dion, Avril Lavigne, and Sarah McLachlan. They don’t want to see this D-list talent show, they need a pop star. Drake understands that and that’s why he re-ups Ashley’s trash song, and gives her a certified classic remix.
They tellin’ me lies
Someone, somewhere isn’t keeping it 100 with Drizzy Drake. He’s not easily fooled, though. He sees the future as clear as the glass box he’s trapped in and it’s going to be full of expensive champagne and songs about his breakup with Rihanna.
They like please, please tell me your reality J
We can’t fathom how it feel to be forever confined
Degrassi is really pouring salt. Jimmy’s classmates can’t understand what it’s like to be in a wheelchair. What a sick-freaking-joke! I thought Canadians were more sensitive but obviously people at Degrassi Junior High keep flaunting their flexibility at Jimmy Brooks. Disgusting. This is Drake method acting. Contrary to popular belief, he can walk and is only pretending to be paralyzed. However, like a true artist, he harnesses “J” (Jimmy’s) pain and channels it into beautiful music.
Ma mother always told me what to do with my best foot
So to this day you know that it ain’t never behind
Oh my goodness. Wait, I didn’t think this could possibly go on. His mother is telling him to put his best foot forward knowing he can’t even walk? Are people in Toronto just so sadistic that they can’t bare the thought of ignoring the wheeled elephant in the room? Yes, Jimmy is in a wheelchair. But that’s not his fault, Spinner is to blame for this. They all need to move forward and pray for medical advancements.
And metaphorically I’m ahead of the rest
And proud of the fact that I’ve accomplished that
This is Drake’s second metaphor of the rap. I know this because he used the word “metaphorically.” It’s a complex moment because he acknowledges that while he physically can’t be ahead of the rest he can be figuratively. This foreshadows Drake’s eventual rise to superstardom, becoming the rapper that everyone wants to be or knock out of the game.
And every time I say that I can do it myself
In the same breath, I wonder where my accomplice is at
On the one hand, Drake believes he can do it on his own. We see that notion repeated throughout his career especially on “All Me“—“Came up, that’s all me. Stay true, that’s all me. No help, that’s all me, all me for real.” But on the other hand, Drake just needs someone by his side, whether that’s Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, or Courtney from Peachtree and other various Hooters employees/strippers he’s met.
It’s like tell me anything but the truth cause
I don’t really know if I can take it now
Twist. Drake has changed his mind about lies. He’s pretty fickle which comes with being a rapper in touch with his emotions. This time Drizzy doesn’t want to hear the truth, because he can’t handle it.
Note: In the second version of the song at minute 1:36, Drake ends his rap differently.
Cause the fabrication would help to settle that
And imagination would ease the pain
I came into this world as honest and pure
But can’t guarantee to you that I’mma leave the same, so
He’s worried that he won’t leave this world as the wholesome Canadian that he started out as. But look at this beautiful face!
Drake will never forget where he came from. And if you’re a Degrassi/Drake fangirl like me, take a look at the behind the scenes for this glorious rap scene right here.
Photo via champagnepapi/Instagram
Ziwe Fumudoh is a writer and comedian. Her work has appeared in the Onion and Reductress, and she is a co-host at Crooked Media.