Drake is trolling internet users for their reaction to seeing him wearing nail polish. In May, he debuted a yellow and blue manicure, and last week, he showed off a two-toned set of pink nails.
When the photos of him with pink polish hit The Shade Room, people were quick to express their disappointment and lack of support over Drake’s latest aesthetic, some going as far as suggesting it may be an indication that he’s gay.
Drake responded to critics in the comments section of this photo that he shared on his profile, responding to a comment from rapper Lil Yachty.
Drake said Lil Yachty was the one who inspired him to paint his nails in the first place so he’d stop biting them.
“GET OUT MY COMMENTS YOU TOLD ME TO PAINT MY NAILS SO I STOP BITING THEM AND NOW THE WORLD IS BEING HOMOPHOBIC FOR THE 1st TIME SINCE RICH FLEX…which wasn’t that long ago now that I think about it…wait is the world homophobic? Smh,” the comment read.
Drake is referring to his song, “Rich Flex”, featuring 21 Savage. Upon its first release, a series of memes were created making fun of Drake and suggesting he was being flirty with his delivery and lyrics, particularly the line in which he asked, “21, can you do something for me?” in the song.
Lil Yachty responded in jest, saying:
“@champagnepapi woo-sah brother, your not supposed to have these episodes in public, it’s fine. They just don’t get u bro #UDIFFERENTAF ‼️”
Despite the two men having a playful back-and-forth, Drake’s nail polish has inspired a much larger conversation about homophobia and masculinity, particularly in the context of what that looks like in rap.
But Drake is certainly not the first rapper to wear nail polish. There are a host of other rappers that have donned polish and even went as far as to create gender-inclusive nail polish lines, including Lil Yachty and Tyler the Creator. But rarely has a rapper wearing nail polish become the news and conversation that this has. That’s connected to his level of fame, his place in mainstream music and his skin tone.
Earlier this year, a music manager named Wack 100 took to social media to ask today’s rappers how wearing nail polish became a trend. He listed off the names of musicians like Trippie Redd, NBA Youngboy, and Lil Uzi Vert, asking them to enlighten him on their reasoning.
“I gotta ask the youngsters. Cause I know a lot of youngsters —Trippie Redd, NBA YoungBoy, Lil Uzi Vert…I know these men, these men are not feminine, these men are not gay, they’re very masculine, they’re very stand-up individuals,” he said in an Instagram video he shared.
Trippie Redd did enlighten him by responding in the comment section, saying:
“It’s a way of expressing ur feelings. Being true to your self and self care.”
The idea of nail polish being a form of self care is closely tied to the idea that Drake is in his “soft girl era”, which many users also suggested.
“He taking this Soft girl era too seriously 💅😂,” one Instagram user commented.
Regardless of the reason any rappers paint their nails or launch their own polish lines, the real question is about how, if at all, this impacts the understanding of homophobia, misogyny and toxic masculinity in rap as a genre, and whether Drake will suffer losses as a result of being some sort of nail polish pariah. And the answer to that question is no.
I’ve written before about Lil Nas X trolling homophobes with his birthday shoot, and how easily people rejected him and his music based on his queerness. When he came out with this tweet in 2019, it truly changed the trajectory of his career, and as he predicted, a lot of people stopped listening to his music.
Even beyond rap, being an out member of the LGBTQ+ community as a musician can and often does impact your bottom line. Look at someone like Sam Smith, who, after coming out as non-binary, says things became very difficult for them professionally. Despite reporting better communication with their family and friends after coming out as non-binary, experiencing more ease and honesty in their love life, and most importantly, experiencing the feeling of ‘coming home’, they say it was their job that became hard.
“I think the only negatives in the struggle have been in my public life and my job, and the amount of hate and sh-ttiness that came my way was just exhausting,” they told pride.com. “It was really hard. This isn’t me sitting at home Googling my name...It was in the f-cking news.”
Drake’s experience of being trolled on the blogs hasn’t been even remotely close to the experiences of Lil Nas X or Sam Smith. Why? Because people know that fundamentally, he is not gay. They know he’s just doing something for the sake of doing it – and so troll him they might, make insinuations that he’s gay, they also might. But he is still on a tour that is taking him across nearly 30 North American cities to packed arenas from now until October and he is touring with 21 Savage, the same artist people trolled him over last year. Do you think for one second that if Lil Nas X and his reported partner, or Sam Smith and their reported partner were going on a tour together, that the same bigots in these comment sections would purchase tickets?
In terms of how his skin tone comes into all of this – light skin men are often perceived as more sensitive and more feminine, particularly within the genre of rap – but also outside of it. It’s one of the reasons people have constantly misgendered Drake throughout this entire debacle, like in the comment about him being in his “soft girl era”.
There’s been a long-standing belief that light skin rappers aren’t as “hard” as darker skinned rappers, and perhaps that’s part of the reason that in the cases of the other rappers I previously mentioned that we’ve seen wear nail polish, there wasn’t backlash on this level. Those rappers were able to do it in a way where they could still hold onto their masculinity, or at least not have it be questioned in the same way we’re seeing with Drake. So scattered among the comments were mentions of him being light skin, including this one, suggesting the “light skinned coalition” needed an intervention of some sort.
It’s so unfortunate that people like Lil Nas X and Sam Smith have suffered such tremendous losses in the consumption of their artistry over their honesty proclamation of identity. And though Drake isn’t experiencing losses in the same way, he is putting a target on his back by choosing to partake in a trend that incites such bigotry, on top of pre-existing biases about light skin men being less masculine (at least in the conventional sense) than their counterparts. The question is – why?
There are a ton of possible reasons. It could be to draw more attention to his ongoing tour. It could be because he just wants to wear nail polish. It could be to show support for people who are ostracized over their personal choices. In fact, the reason Lil Yachty launched his own nail polish line was to support a kid named Trevor Wilkinson, who was suspended from school in Texas for wearing nail polish.
“If someone wants to express themself in any type of way, as long as it’s not harming anyone or bringing anyone down, they should be allowed to do so. You shouldn’t be punished or tormented for being you,” he told TMZ in 2020. “I want it to be more focused on for men to use it, and to be more comfortable in their own skin. Because bro, it’s 2020, you know what I’m saying, like it’s about to be 2021—come on, what are barriers? We still have barriers?”
Whatever Drake's reasoning – he’s reigniting an important conversation about how we understand masculinity in the music industry, and in rap, specifically. And in the process, he’s getting people to examine their discomfort with men presenting a different image than what they’re used to and what they’re comfortable with. And disruption can often be the catalyst to monumental change.
Attached - Drake performing in Detroit last night.