sign up 4 e-mails when i write something or have a show here or follow me on twitter or instagram or just e-mail me at ✨ love u

Sep 25, 2013

Unpacking "Lil' Bitch"

The final two words of Drake’s Nothing Was The Same are the most powerful. Seriously.
Last lines have always held an intense artistic significance, like “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” from Casablanca, or “The truth is, I am Iron Man,” from... actually I forget where that one’s from. Opening lines may pump you up for what’s to come, but it’s the closing line that sticks with you, satisfies you, completes you—like deep-dish pizza, but more cerebral.

But “lil’ bitch”? No, that’s not how you end an album. 

That’s what high-schoolers call the goody-two-shoes that won’t take a pull of straight Smirnoff. That’s what white girls call their slutty friend after they hooked up with, like, the only hot guy in class. That’s what black guys call other black guys when they don’t... actually I don’t know, but I like to think that black guys call each other lil’ bitches. But still, there’s no way that Drake, the rapper renowned for his incredible command of emotion, just signed off his latest masterpiece with “lil’ bitch.” Plus, he didn’t even say it. That honor somehow goes to Big Sean, a 'rapper' whose biggest song is him repeating “ASS ASS ASS ASS” for three straight minutes. I felt unfulfilled, let down, like someone ate the last chip without warning me (LIKE ANY HALF-DECENT HUMAN WOULD DO, MARIA). The last hour of my life was a stunning modern orchestra, then it just... stopped.
To be honest, there were roughly three seconds left after Big Sean’s eloquent finish, and the childishly innocent part of me (the part I thought was mercilessly destroyed when I realized Santa and the Easter Bunny have the same handwriting) was in denial. It’s not too late. The album’s not over. Santa’s just illiterate and has to dictate messages through my dad. Drake’s just waiting to squeeze in a final blow at the very end—a hyper-distilled, two-second central thesis. Something like, “IUSEDTONOTBEFAMOUS,” or “GIRLSJEEZAMIRIGHT?” ...Something, anything to give it symmetry.
I still felt unsettled, until it hit me—it’s not that he ended with “lil’ bitch,” it’s that Big Sean ended with “lil’ bitch.” Drake didn’t even have the last word. There’s a reason Drake is as famous as he is, besides the fact that we needed a Canadian rapper to meet our diversity quota—he’s fucking smart. He knows the impact of the last line. He concluded his debut album Thank Me Later with “But later doesn’t always come so instead, it’s okay- you can thank me now.” He ended Take Care with, what else, “Take care, n****.” But his third album is different. In fact, it’s so different, that it is literally called Nothing Was The Same, so this isn’t going to end with the usual arrogant, self-referential send-off.
            Drake letting Big Sean deliver the last bar of the last song is the audio equivalent to sneaking off stage right as the last song of the concert is finishing up. We want to scream for you. We want to scream for an encore. We want to scream for no particular reason because we’re AT A CONCERT AND I’M SO EXCITED I WANNA PUNCH YOU RIGHT IN THE FACE WAIT WE’RE STILL AT THE CONCESSION STAND WHY ARE WE YELLING. However, Drake doesn’t care how excited we are. Drake doesn’t want the applause. He doesn’t end his latest with his signature overconfidence, because he’s not the same as he was at the end of the last two albums. The unifying theme in all of his albums is dealing with the very real pitfalls of fame, and the fact that he doesn’t even stick around to the end of the last song truly attests to his complicated relationship with his career. He did what he came to do. He did what he was born to do, but he doesn’t want the attention that comes after. Big Sean can deal with the bright lights.
            When I first listened to Nothing Was The Same all the way through, the last five seconds confused me, bothered me. But most of all, they stuck with me. Maybe the most powerful endings aren’t the ideal ones. Maybe we truly grow up when we grasp that it’d be extremely terrifying for an old man to burglarize our house every Christmas Eve. Maybe we learn more from artistic works that don’t play out like we hoped. Maybe, wait... oh my god, am I... crying? Damnit, Drake, you’re good.