In late 2002, Source magazine publisher and sometime rapper Ray "Benzino" Scott declared war on Eminem-he produced a tape of the Detroit superstar rapping the n-word as a teenager, called him "the rap Hitler," and mentioned that, by the way, there was a new Benzino record hitting stores soon. At root, Scott's beef revolved around issues of cultural ownership and privilege: Did a white kid really deserve to be the world's biggest hip-hop star? One thing Scott said on the subject was a bit more measured-and rang a bit truer-than the "rap Hitler" stuff: "Eminem gets to talk about his issues and his pain," he told MTV, adding, "We have to rock the party in order to get spins and burn on the radio. We have to entertain more than expose our true issues. When black and Latino people try to give our pain on there we couldn't get burn. The machine doesn't want our pain to be out there."
And then there's a 23-year-old, half-black, half-Jewish, all-Canadian rapper named Drake, whose much-anticipated debut album, Thank Me Later, will be released on June 15. Drake, born Aubrey Drake Graham, is not only the most heralded rookie in hip-hop, but he's also the poster boy for what some call the genre's "emo" phase. As fond of pickup lines as he is of punch lines, Drake is a smoothie with a twist: The good life gets him down. "I want the money, money and the cars, cars and the clothes, and the hoes," begins the hook to 2009's "Successful," before ending on a note of ambivalence: "I suppose." In an interview with Billboard, the programming director at New York's Hot 97 summed up the Drake brand in three words: "flossy yet vulnerable."