Drake’s “Soft” Power: Defending The Expressive Male In Recession
On May 8, 2012, 9:27 AM by Savannah Cox
Young men have been some of the hardest hit groups following the recession, it’s time for them to express how they feel.
Somewhat reminiscent of Kanye West’s critically contentious 808’s and Heartbreaks, the 2011 release of Drake’s Take Care spurred as much praise as it did protest throughout the music community. The album’s fans widely regarded it as brutally—even refreshingly—honest and one whose beats served more as punctuation in an intimate diary entry than they did club-ready accoutrements. Meanwhile, some of its detractors took to virtual piñata bashing via thorny blog posts and casually dismissed Drake’s sophomore album as little more than a “soft” flop—largely because they claimed he relies too heavily on R&B to warrant the title of a true rap artist and that the actor-turned-rapper spends too much of the album shedding light on the problems in his past relationships as opposed to those present on the streets (the same streets on which, let’s be honest, Drake never lived).
In light of the album’s widespread digital denunciation, Drake seized an opportunity in an L.A. Times interview to respond to a number of Take Care’s naysayers. In it, he said the following: “I don’t know if it frustrates people because [I rap and sing] or there’s some men out there that hear R&B and start feeling weird inside and don’t wanna accept it, so they start using stupid words like “you’re gay” for doing that…I don’t understand our generation, where nobody is allowed to really express any real emotion. I think that’s a scary place for our youth.”
The thing is that he’s right—especially for young men living in America. It’s no surprise that many college students are greeting their upcoming graduation ceremonies with ambivalence; the job market is weaker now than it has been in decades and increasing tuition costs have left many to wonder how they’re ever going to pay off their debts if they have no means in which to do so. What is surprising, though, is that young American men (often considered one of the luckiest and most privileged populations in the world) are not immune to these economic woes. In fact, they are some of the most susceptible to them.
Disillusioned and dejected: the recession’s effect on young men
As the waves of a global recession crested and peaked at US borders in 2007, males from 25 to 34 years of age were some of those hardest hit. As of November 2011, the unemployment rate for men within that age range with high school diplomas was a whopping 14.4%, up 6.1% from the recession’s 2007 inception and much higher than the current national average of 8.1%. And for males falling within the ages of 20 to 24, the statistics are even direr: an ominous 22.4% unemployment rate, up a staggering 10.4% from 2007.
They’re also back at home. Results from the 2011 U.S. Census Population Survey showed a young male population nearly twice as likely to live with their parents than young women, which is the largest gender gap that specific survey has seen in 50 years. And as anticipated, of these young men living with mom and dad a considerable chunk of them do so because they are jobless. Naturally, parents are worried. Says Sue Preston, mother of a 25 year old living at home, “They’re working minimum-wage jobs and a lot of times, they don’t have benefits, they don’t have a full 40 hours a week. It’s such a struggle they’re kind of like, What for?”
That tragic sense of disenchantment bordering on depression is, unfortunately, a symptom of a recession and one that has potentially damning aftershocks. As UC Berkeley public health professor Ralph Catalano states, “We’re at risk of having a generation of young males who aren’t well-connected to the labor market and who don’t feel strong ownership of community or society because they haven’t benefited from it.”
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