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24 August 2023

Drake’s poetry collection isn’t literature

The Canadian rapper’s boastful new book is merely a marketing tool for his music.

By Isabella Oliver

Reading the marketing material for Drake’s first poetry collection on his official shop, you would be forgiven for mistaking the book for a pair of limited-edition trainers. Titles Ruin Everything is photographed, like the “Views hoodie” and the “Hotline bling pool float”, suspended in mid-air against a white background. The dimensions of the collection are 5.75 x 8.25 inches – but no information about its contents is listed. A Drake paint marker inspires a more detailed description. Like a sought-after pair of shoes, the collection sold out instantly upon its publication at the end of June. 

The 36-year-old Canadian rapper has five Grammys and is one of the most listened-to artists on Spotify, but clearly music wasn’t keeping Drake busy enough. His poetry collection reads as his own take on Rupi Kaur’s best-selling 2014 book Milk and Honey, the pioneering text of “Instapoetry”. This genre is characterised by short lines, often in aesthetically pleasing fonts, rendering these poems highly compatible with sharing on Instagram. While Milk and Honey was a commercial hit, with 3 million copies sold globally to date, it has been critically derided as shallow and trite.

Drake’s collection is similarly social media-friendly. Each of his poems consists of a line or two at the centre of the page in a typewriter-like font. They often contain casual misogyny and braggadocio: “My talents include a pen. Your talents include a bed…/We’re both skilled nonetheless”. Some hardly make sense: “If jumping to conclusions was an Olympic sport/You wouldn’t have just won my heart, you would have won gold”.

This kind of glib wordplay fills the collection. In Titles Ruin Everything, Drake shows no interest in metre or form – surprising for a rapper whose craft relies on rhythmic sensibility. But the poems have more in common with his Instagram captions than his songs. A post from 22 July reads, “She asked me for 50k and when I said no she started balling…I said are you having a financial cry sis?”, a line that would fit well in the collection.

The book carried the first announcement of the release of Drake’s upcoming album, For All the Dogs, via a QR code on its dedication page: those who managed to buy the sold-out collection were the first in the know about the album. Drake has always committed to his promotional campaigns – the rollout of his previous album Her Loss included a fake Vogue cover, which prompted a high-profile court case. His stature as a world-famous musician comes with the understanding that he is also a businessman. So it is hardly surprising that Drake has written and published a book simply to promote an album.

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Titles Ruin Everything tells us far more about the state of modern publishing than about Drake’s inner life. While Instapoetry renders the form accessible to a far wider audience, it reduces poetry to yet another product. Titles Ruin Everything isn’t literature; it’s advertising.

[See also: The rise of pity marketing]

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