Drake has leapt from his perch atop the CN Tower to begin world domination at ground level. Specifically, dude recently announced plans to open a “classy” (huh?) new establishment in Houston — namely, a “dance experience” (hmmm) at which attendees will be urged to “treat yourself, don’t cheat yourself” (oh, boy) while abiding by a business dress code. The aim is to put women “on a pedestal.” But don’t worry: “It’s not about no strip club shit.”
And, like, OK! It’s great if Drake really does want to create a dance and/or strip club that celebrates dancers and their artistry. All venues should herald their talent as pillars of the establishment, because without them, there would be no clubs at all. Wonderful.
But also: That is not what Drake seems to be doing.
His description of his business venture, which he’s christened “The Ballet,” is about as clear as a teenager trying to explain to his parents that where they found him wasn’t actually a strip club, just a study group with friends set in a very dark place that serves alcohol. See?
“Tonight is a different take on how it should be done in Houston,” the Instagram caption reads. “Treat yourself don’t cheat yourself. Where the women are on a pedestal and the surroundings are unforgettable. The Ballet pop up tonight for [Houston Appreciation Week]. Grand opening early 2017. 😇 #HelloWorld”
Aubrey, please. Just be cool.
A lot has happened for Drake over the last couple of weeks. First he mounted billboards around L.A. that congratulated Rihanna for her big VMAs honor (“#welcometothefamily”) and urged Americans to be more like Canadians. (Which, as a Canadian, I apologize for.) Then he got into a food fight with Tyra Banks in the video for “Childs Play.” His new not-strip-club strip club is but the cherry atop this Aubrey Graham–shaped sundae of news.
We know Drake’s relationship with women is a complicated phenomenon. While he idolizes both his mom and his frequent collaborator Rihanna, he typically sings about any and all other women in a way formerly reserved for indie sad-boys of the mid-2000s. (Is he the Ben Gibbard of 2016 hip-hop? He is.) Drake laments about women, projects onto women, and turns women into villains ... but then he claims to also love women. In “Childs Play,” he describes the makings of a sad-ass relationship in which he and his love fight at the Cheesecake Factory but are fine enough afterward that he’ll buy her something at the mall. In his 2009 breakthrough hit, “Best I Ever Had,” Drake sings his subject’s praises before getting distracted and bragging about his own sexual prowess. And in last year’s omnipresent “Hotline Bling,” he has a temper tantrum about the way his ex dresses in his absence. It seems like women can never just be people for Drake. In his lyrics, they’re meant to either be fawned over and worshiped, or, well, kind of shit on.
But again, that is “Drake” — a fictional creation of master thespian Aubrey Graham, as I’ve explained at length before. We know Drake is a persona. We know Drake is an artistic extension of a man whose past is rooted in pretending. Drake is a stage name, a myth, a legend. Drake is not Aubrey, a man who once played a wheelchair-bound teenager on a beloved Canadian series. So when Drake writes and creates songs about women, we can chalk it up to his artistic self, right?
Well ... when Aubrey steals Rihanna’s thunder, billboards his sentiments around town, and then announces the opening of an “honest and genuine” dance/strip club, we have no one to blame but the actual person. Those are the actions and emotional investments of Aubrey Drake Graham, a human slowly morphing into Just Drake™, a character. And that’s kind of a buzzkill.
We’ve seen Aubrey host SNL, engage splendidly on camera with Tyra Banks, and sit courtside at Raptors games, brimming with hope. But recently, we’ve also seen him buy into his myth by doing everything from trying to kiss Rihanna onstage at the VMAs (boy, bye) to urging Americans to be just like us. (News flash: Canada has problems too.) Now he opts to open a strip club under the guise of it not being a strip club at all, as if strip clubs are bad or embarrassing or beneath him, as if the women who work there don’t need to be respected as equals but instead need him to put them on pedestals. That’s classic Drake-think: Women are good or bad, on a pedestal or back at Cheesecake.
It would’ve been cool as hell for Drake to be honest about his Ballet endeavor — to celebrate strip- and dance-club culture and to create a space in which everybody is welcome, instead of draping it in mystery and feeding the myth of “class” and decadence. It would’ve been refreshing to see him choose between either a Rihanna-oriented billboard or public declarations of love, instead of laying the foundation for the thirst marathon that’s begun to dictate their dynamic. But most of all, it would be awesome to see Aubrey begin to approach women from the angle of a man who actually likes and respects them. Because while he obviously has the best intentions, he seems to have lost himself in the mythos of the character he created. Women are more than heroes or villains. Frankly, we’re just as complex and interesting as Aubrey Drake Graham.