Apart from inspiring a pretty hilarious meme, the reaction of critics and fans to Drake’s latest album, the long-awaited Views, has been mixed to muted. The Canadian rapper and actor shouldn’t start panicking anytime soon. Views will be a massive hit anyway, and Drake can trade on his name value alone for years to come. But the album could mark the point at which his career slowly but surely begins to decline. This is only natural, according to an article at Genius by “lifelong hip-hop fan” Incilin called “Drake & Why Rappers Fall Off After 5 Years.” According to this writer, “a rapper can only be in his or her prime for five years before the culture inevitably shifts.” And now Drake’s five years are up, Incilin says. Like many before him, the rapper has reached the point where he has run out of original things to say and is now merely repeating himself. It happens.
To be clear, Incilin is not saying that rappers’ careers only last five years. That obviously isn’t true, and the article cites Kanye West as an artist who has “seemingly defied gravity” and stayed relevant beyond the five-year bubble. But, in general, a popular rapper can only expect to rule the game for a half-decade “before the culture inevitably shifts.” Why? There are several reasons. Some run into legal or label problems. Others, like Eminem, develop drug problems. But the real threat to a rapper’s relevance is what Incilin calls “artistic stagnation—when artists become parodies of themselves.” That’s what’s happening to Drake right now, even though his career hit new heights in 2015. “But guess what comes after a peak? A decline.” The article points out that the former Degrassi: The Next Generation star is already eyeing a movie career, following the lead of Will Smith. None of this means that Drake’s skills are declining. But skills aren’t everything, as Incilin points out:
Yes, you can still be a technician of the genre where your mic skills never fade, but it doesn’t matter if you aren’t relevant. In a five-year span, middle school kids turn into high school kids who turn into college kids who start living in their mothers’ basements.