Drake should not be “mentoring” anyone or even leading this conversation based on what we know about his pattern of behavior.
When I was much younger, I had a crush on the visiting youth pastor of my church. This sounds like the beginning of some strange church fic, but it’s true. And all it took was ol’ dude strumming a guitar because I was a very basic child and the sum of my romantic experience all stemmed from the pages of romance and young adult books, which, don’t drag me, is not much experience at all.
That said, while he never technically crossed a line, I suspect that he picked up on it (cishet men are never as oblivious as they want us to think). So he was very chummy with me and considered me one of his favorite “youths”. And he probably would have been texting me outside of church if texting were as a big a thing then as it is now. Thankfully, an older Black girl chose to intervene before things could take a turn. She pulled me aside and gave me the whole spiel about how she had been in my position before and how crushes were okay, but how, unfortunately, grown-ass men could take advantage and prey on the affection of young girls like me who adored them and idolized them—which could lead to something far more sinister in a quest to pad their already fragile egos.
I’m not going to lie to you. I was embarrassed after being cornered like that and for a long time, I resented this woman. But as time has passed, I realized she was just looking out for me, maybe in a way that she wished someone had looked out for her.
And I am here to do the same for Millie Bobby Brown, Billie Eilish, and all the other unnamed teenage girls—famous or otherwise—that Aubrey “Drake” Graham has no fucking business texting.
Drake is a fascinating cultural figure. The 32-year-old went from being hapless Jimmy Brooks on Degrassi to being one of the most enduring figures in hip hop and our musical landscape at-large in the last decade. Part of this comes from his penchant for “rap-singing”, which contrary to popular (re: whiter) belief, he did not start. Part of this also comes from the “softboi” routine that he puts on to be the “nice guy” that he believes himself to be. Part of this also comes from his affinity for hopping around the African diaspora and cosplaying whatever musical style of the hour that will help to, for lack of a better word, spice up his music. He is also attractive (re: light-skinned, but sure) to some mostly because of his nicely-groomed beard and popcorn muscles.
Still. All of these things have made him very popular with the public and have shielded him from intense scrutiny for his shittier public behavior—most famously his lack of boundaries and respect for autonomy when it came to music colleague and former friend Rihanna. Ironically, however, his gross public displays of “adoration” for Rihanna did not pan out well, since she is arguably more popular than he is. So, he ended up coming off as a creep and in retaliation, went on to collaborate with her abusive ex Chris Brown even though I’m like 99.9% she is too busy counting her Fenty money to think about them at all. And yet, the interesting thing about this cultural flash-point is that it was a fascinating study on what can happen in a just version of the world where one adult is being virulently inappropriate with another adult and the power at play is equal. I’m sure Drake zero-ed in on this as well.
Which makes his pivot to teen girls far more…perturbing.
This was first brought to the public’s attention last year when a then 14-year-old Millie Bobby Brown had revealed that she and Drake had a “close friendship” and that they text each other about assorted things—including teenage boys. And then just last week, 17-year-old Billie Eilish described him as “nice” and revealed that she and Drake had also been texting. And then we found out that Drake and 22-year-old Kylie Jenner were flirting with the idea of dating before Jenner distanced herself because of his “womanizer” reputation. Brown defended him and called everyone “weird” for expressing concern (as teenage girls tend to do). Eilish, interestingly enough, let the word “nice” speak for itself—stating that he technically did “not need to be nice” to her. And the Kylie thing… kind of speaks for itself. To the naked eye, this may not seem particularly problematic. I mean, both Brown and Eilish, in particular, are industry kids, right? Don’t we want decent industry people to be looking out for them? And making sure they aren’t taken advantage of? These are fair questions. And there is genuine concern about how to go about mentoring and protecting child stars, since we know, historically, how bad it can get for them.
But Drake should not be “mentoring” anyone or even leading this conversation based on what we know about his pattern of behavior.
His ordeal with Rihanna is damning enough, but there have also been other… incidents. The first one goes as far back as 2010, when the then 23-year-old rapper invited a young fan on stage during a Denver concert. After kissing the back of her neck, slow-dancing with her, and commenting on the smell of her hair, he added that he may be “getting carried away” and then asked how old she was. She answered: 17. While 17 is technically the age of consent in Colorado, a sane adult would have apologized for his overzealousness, thanked her for attending his concert, and sent her on her way. But instead, this fucking cornball-turned-creep goes, “I can’t go to jail yet, man!”, before adding, “Why do you look like that? You thick. Look at all this,” motioning to the rest of her body. Which is repugnant, considering how predators always justify preying on young Black girls and our “shapely” bodies.
But wait! There’s more.
Fast forward to 2016 and then 29-year-old Drake was reportedly dating 19-year-old Hailey Baldwin… which is especially heinous since he met her when she was 14. And this thread of grimey behavior continued in 2018 when he was rumoured to be dating 18-year-old model Bella Harris, whom he met when she was 16… ironically during his Summer Sixteen Tour with Future, his fuckboi tether.
And this brings me back to something I mentioned earlier: the word “technically”.
It’s such a tricky little word. Inserted in most spaces to impart “nuance” or to create a gray area in what previously was considered a black and white issue. And it is the perfect word to capture the ominous nature of what Drake is up to. Technically, Drake hasn’t done anything wrong. Technically, he is waiting until these girls hit a legal age before he considers approaching them romantically. Technically, Drake isn’t the first person to do this… with Jerry Seinfield, Leonardo DiCaprio, and even Scott Disick being prominent examples. Technically, Jenner is a young adult and it should be okay for Drake to express interest in her. And technically, Drake hasn’t crossed any clear lines with Brown or Eilish besides texting… that we know of.
But, technicality and legality do not automatically equate morality. Many things have been technically legal in this country that were never “right” or ethical. Slavery. Child labor. Women and Black people not being able to vote. Men like Drake are aware of this and thrive in this gray area, continuing to engage in supposedly harmless behavior at best and creepy behavior at worst. This is by design, and it is designed to give perceived empowerment and autonomy to those caught up at the center of this classic groomer behavior (re: Brown) and make the rest of us look crazy for waving red flags or worse, getting off the sidelines and speaking up. But when does it technically become okay to say something? Do we continue to ignore the grooming of these young stars because Drake is attractive and “popular”? Or do we wait until he finally decides to go full R. Kelly and we all look like dickheads for trying to remain neutral based on a technicality?
The choice is ours.