Shout out to KD, we relate, we get the same attention
-Drake, ‘Weston Road Flows’, Views (2016)
People love to see shit get shaken up. People HATE seeing the shit-shakers become the standard. Despite a difference in how these two gamechangers became villains in their respective games, Drake and KD both have the world fixated on their stories.
Though that line in ‘Weston Road Flows’ came before Kevin Durant’s move to the Golden State Warriors, it’s even truer now than it was when Views dropped.
Celebrity in the United States is extremely strange. It’s beautiful and gross. The mind control some people have as a result of a well-crafted image is admirable in a frustrating way. Like, how can someone upset you to your core and still demand your attention? Brilliant, right? That being said, the seriousness people treat the lives of others because they are on a screen is disgusting.
But that’s what makes the stories of Drake and KD special. These are the kinds of celebrity stories that embody Batman’s infamous quote from the last scene of The Dark Knight:
You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain
Americans expect their most famous people to represent their values for them. They also get tired of famous people very quickly. This makes A-list fame unique. There’s a weird dependence on extremely famous people to do things for us to react to. This process helps us figure out what we as a culture actually want.
We need heroes. We need villains. And people rarely consider big-time celebrities outside of these extremes.
It’s why we ride LeBron so hard, for instance. He makes us ask so many questions about what we want in a generational icon. A superhuman? A talented team-first player? Someone who spends his entire career selflessly committed to his hometown?
LeBron’s saga is exceptionally complicated—which is why SportsCenter will never get tired of it—but it had many of the same pitfalls that Drake, and now Kevin Durant, are experiencing. Upon entering the public eye, they were beloved. Then they failed to become everything people wanted them to be (i.e. Cavs Finals loss, Thunder Finals loss, Drake’s underwhelming Thank Me Later), but people still prayed for them to pull through. Then they made power moves which led to success (to be determined with Durant), but people despised them for it (i.e. James’ move to the Heat, Drake’s increasing commercial dominance and aggressiveness). Once the need for change has been fulfilled, the new standard-bearers are not meant to be celebrated by the public.
The Warriors were rarely in any serious barbershop discussion about the NBA until the Baron Davis-led squad beat the top-seeded Mavericks in that crazy 2007 postseason. So when the affable Steph Curry and partner-in-crime Klay Thompson stepped into their own years later, people were all for it.
The lovable duo won a championship in 2015. And everyone’s favorite shooter won the MVP. But then they started winning even more. So much so, it upset people. Like, to the point of a diss track, an official music video, and a couple of unofficial videos.
This one is my favorite:
What makes the Kevin Durant story more complicated is that he was supposed to spearhead the shit-shaking movement of the Oklahoma City Thunder. A relocated team in a small market that could finally break-up the Western Conference oligarchy of the Spurs and Lakers. But he ruined that storyline in the absolute worst way: by becoming the face of the newly-settled villains of the league, the Warriors.
People also wanted a Black Jewish Canadian guy to sentimentally sing and rap his way to hip-hop stardom. Until that Black Jewish Canadian guy’s singing and rapping began to really dominate hip-hop. Let Drake tell it himself.
Used to have secret handshakes to confirm my friendships, nowadays they just shakin’ my hand to hide the tension.
-‘Weston Road Flows’, Views (2016)
They never told me when you get the crown, it’s gon’ take some getting used to…they don’t love you like they used to, man
-‘Used To’, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (2015)
Certain rappers would call me to say, “What up, though?” I used to brag about it to my friends. And now I’m feeling like all of these niggas cutthroat.
-‘Club Paradise’ (2011)
At least in Durant’s case he gets to share the scrutiny with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Though he’s still very much the focal point of this story, Durant’s supporting cast members can’t be as invisible as people like Chubbs and Oliver El-Khatib in Drake’s world.
Another difference between the situations of Drake and KD is that more of Drake’s hate comes from competitors. Both stars receive plenty of hate from consumers of hip-hop and the NBA. But as far as heat from the competition, the NBA is definitely more buddy-buddy than the hip-hop industry.
However, in Kevin Durant’s world, what replaces Diddy smacking you for “stealing” a beat is Stephen A. Smith calling you the biggest coward in your sport’s history. The voices of critics in sports tend to be louder than the voices of music critics in public conversation. So even though DeAndre Jordan isn’t giving KD too much shit for his move, every interview and post-game summary will provide the kind of pressure Drake claims to feel from his peers.
Unique differences aside, these two figures have plenty in common. Most obvious is there are large groups of people attempting to write Drake and KD into the stories they want to witness. As rising stars, people wrote them in as saviors, as the future. And they became the future, but not in the way people wanted.
Think of Kevin Durant’s public image as moving from Take Care to Nothing Was The Same. From, “Having a hard time adjusting to fame,” (‘Marvin’s Room’) to, “The part I love most is they need me more than they hate me,” (‘5AM in Toronto). The rest is unwritten, but Drake and KD are no longer the good guys in the eyes of the people. But what Kevin Durant is currently learning, and Drake already understands, is that the people need this.