Drake has spent his entire career putting women who dance on pedestals on pedestals. Asking if the erstwhile Aubrey Graham likes strippers is like asking if Lil’ Wayne likes lean, or if Kanye likes outfitting women in neutral-toned, skintight athleisure sets. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, Drake’s 17-track paean to women, Canada, and more women, shouts out at least 12 different, fully-fleshed ladies—all of whom exist for the express purpose of sleeping with, taking care of, and/or texting Drake.
On “Legend,” he raps, “Got a girl, she from the South / Used to work, used to dance in Texas, now she clean the house.” It only takes a passing knowledge of Drake’s music—the kind you get from going to the club once, going to your local bodega once a week, or just leaving your house—to realize that this lyric encapsulates Drake’s ideal woman. Much like a Bachelor franchise contestant, Drake doesn’t see unemployment as a deal breaker. In fact, he prefers a former stripper to a working girl. Drake wants all of the sex appeal with none of that “actually supporting yourself and making a living” nonsense. Drake wants to literally separate you from your entire family and transplant you to his mansion so you can entertain him and clean his house, like a refugee sex Roomba.
On “Energy,” Drake cites a different exotic dancer—his “ex-girl, who’s the stripper version of me.” On “Company,” Aubrey asks a new stripper to come visit him after her shift is over; by the middle of the song, he’s contemplating a proposal to yet another woman. There’s Courtney from Hooters on Peachtree, Porsche from Treasures, Maliah and Chyna. Drake’s love of women is rivaled only by his penchant for citing proper nouns.
Drake is also obsessed with saving women, buying them things, and footing their tuition bills. Given his fetish for raising up fallen women, it was only a matter of time before he opened the world’s most chivalrous strip club.
Over Labor Day weekend, the rapper announced his latest business venture, a Houston club called The Ballet. On Monday, Drake teased his definitely-not-a-strip club strip club in an Instagram post, captioned, “Treat yourself don't cheat yourself. Where the women are on a pedestal and the surroundings are unforgettable...Grand opening early 2017.” During a pop-up event surrounding the mysterious announcement, he told the crowd, “There’s a culture out there of dancing. And it’s not about no strip club shit. It’s really about these amazing women that we got in one spot. This music that we got. This Houston culture that we got.” As Drake denigrated “strip club shit,” half-naked women performed on stage and dollars bills rained down from above.
Clearly, Drake is trying to create an R-rated home base for men like Drake—dudes who claim to put women on pedestals, but low-key don’t want them working on one. Drake, who has supported and dated strippers for years, seems to think that calling a woman a stripper is an insult—which, in and of itself, is pretty insulting.
Of course, the greatest irony of Drake’s ill-informed savior complex is that he’s not really the baller he thinks he is. Basically, Drake has relationship dysmorphia—he sees himself as an alpha male, but consistently plays the role of stay-at-home hubby. In common parlance, Drake has become shorthand for a sensitive dude who will build a home for himself in your friend zone. Drake likes to act like he’s out touring the world with an ex-stripper in his compound and Nicki Minaj in his passenger seat. In actuality, he’s cheering for Serena Williams from the sidelines and scrolling through his camera roll looking for old pictures of him and Rihanna. When his girl goes to the club to have some fun with her friends, he stays up all night in the studio rapping about how she did him dirty. He essentially spent seven years waiting for Rihanna to take him seriously. So when you think about it, Drake is actually Drake’s ideal girlfriend.
But if you only have four minutes and 27 seconds to really understand Drake’s approach to the fairer sex, look no further than “Hotline Bling.” In addition to being the Drake-iest music video that Drake has ever Draked—that turtleneck! those over-confident Bar Mitzvah boy dance moves!—“Hotline Bling” fully outlines Drake’s problem with women. The track deep dives into Drake’s specific definition of a “good girl”: a woman who spends her entire day waiting to talk to Drake on the phone. Unfortunately, Drake’s good girl has gone bad, exhibiting such untoward behavior as going out with her friends, dressing up for the club, and running out of pages in her passport.
For a rapper who’s made a career out of being your sensitive, emotive, imaginary boyfriend, Drake sounds like he would be a horrible partner. His Phyllis Schlafly-style gender roles—seriously, Drake, your girl can’t go on a plane without you?—as well as his need to monitor and control his girlfriends’ behavior are serious red flags. He even has the audacity to accuse his bad girlfriend of not being true to herself, because Drake can’t fathom why someone would actually want a hobby or two outside of being his sex buddy.
While Drake is out living the life, Drake’s girls aren’t allowed to have one. But it’s important to note that the rapper’s particularly egregious everyday sexism isn’t all that uncommon. We all know an IRL Drake; he’s the self-proclaimed feminist who doesn’t understand why you can’t be his girlfriend, his mom, and his cleaning lady. He expects you to like all of his Instagram photos, and wants you to make your account private. He loves going through your text messages, but gets all defensive when you ask who “RiRi” is and why she’s always blowing up his phone.
Drake’s particular brand of misogyny might be less alienating than his peers’ but it’s far more insidious. Unfortunately, we’ve become all but inured to blatant, gendered slurs in popular music. Most women can bump a track about bitches giving blowjobs and more or less block out the message to appreciate the music. It’s not a good feeling, but it’s also not a new one. Drake, on the other hand, is a fresh disappointment. Drake swears that he loves women. Most importantly, he loves women who don’t get enough mainstream adoration, specifically black women. But for all of Drake’s efforts to act as a woman-worshipping hip-hop corrective, his double-edged praise consistently falls short. Drake doesn’t put women on a pedestal so much as he pushes them back into a box.
Drake will praise you for being a working woman every chance he gets, but on the third date, he’ll ask you to quit your job and move into his Toronto compound. This hypocrisy is most overt when it comes to stripping, a field that’s apparently full of women whom Drake both loves exactly as they are and wants to change in every way. He simultaneously wants to fund entire strip clubs with never-ending singles, and take all of their best dancers out of commission.
On “Energy,” he raps, “I got strippers in my life, but they virgins to me.” This is the crux of Drake’s problem: He thinks that he’s saving women by believing that all of them—even the ones who gyrate for a living—have the potential to be born-again virgins. He doesn’t seem to realize that in 2016, virginity isn’t synonymous with virtue, and some women might actually prefer working over being Drake’s stay-at-home wifey. Like countless men before him, Aubrey Graham is dead-set on rescuing women who don’t need saving.
And Drake doesn’t just sing about strippers—he puts his money where his mouth is. Dancers have regaled the internet with stories of Drake spending $15,000 to keep a club open after-hours, or bringing $50,000 to a Charlotte strip joint. And according to one Atlanta strip club DJ, the affection is mutual: “The girls in love club loooove Drake.”
But Drake’s history with strippers, much like his history with Degrassi, Rihanna, and facial hair, is complicated. In 2014, the rapper made a casual hookup faux pas when he allegedly ditched one stripper, Jhonni Blaze, for another alum of the same club, V Live. Blaze later claimed that after she called Drake out, he sent members of his entourage over to V Live to threaten her about going to the press. She proceeded to file a police report against Drake citing threats and harassment; and publicly outed their affair through a series of text screenshots.
After years of haunting strip clubs with a stack of singles and a misogynistic savior complex, Drake has finally ended up with the kind of woman who terrifies him. Rihanna parties harder than Drake, unabashedly owns her sexuality, and doesn’t even seem to like him that much. RiRi even puts Drake’s stripper obsession to shame. Hopefully, the love (ambivalence?) of a lady who has consistently championed women and refused to be characterized as a victim will convince Drake to hang up his White Knight’s cape once and for all. Because aside from Drake’s sexist scruples, his strip club sounds pretty lit.