Drake feat. Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Eminem - “Forever (Early Mix)”
Here’s a list of things that I surprisingly kinda sorta forgot about the Drake song “Forever.”
This was Drake’s coming out party, and damn, did dude arrive on the scene in a big way. Sure, he was already a firmly entrenched as a B-list member of Wayne’s Young Money entourage,1 but this track propelled him into the upper echelon of rap. Just check out those features! Aubrey got verses three of the biggest artists in the entire fucking history of rap (and three of the greatest feature rappers too!), and he still has the best verse on the track. I distinctly remember hearing this song for the first time and freaking out over the “Labels want my name beside an X like Malcolm” line. I mean, damn son. That’s fucking gold.
The track was created for the soundtrack to LeBron James’s ego-stroking documentary More Than A Game, which told the story of how a young high school basketball team achieved glory through persistence, teamwork, and having one of the top ten basketball players of all time at power forward.2
Because of fact #2, the video for this song opens with LeBron playing online poker on a Beats by Dr. Dre™ laptop. I’m gonna repeat that: THE VIDEO FOR THIS SONG OPENS WITH LEBRON PLAYING ONLINE POKER ON A BEATS BY DRE™ LAPTOP. Why don’t all videos start that way?
I really like the tinkly little piano part that crops up every now and then in background of the track, like at the end of Weezy’s verse.
I have a version of this song that’s different from the final version in the most minor way possible.
If you’ve already finished listening to the track above and didn’t notice anything different from the one you’ve likely heard a dozen or so times, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. In almost every aspect, the version of the song that I’ve posted is identical to the one you’ve heard on the radio, except for the beginning of Kanye’s verse. This almost-but-not-quite-final draft of the song omits the two couplets that introduce Kanye’s verse in the really-for-real-final version.
And it’s not an error. If you listen to that section and compare it to the final mix of the track, it’s clear that the .mp3 above isn’t corrupted or broken in some way. The track doesn’t cut out, the beat doesn’t change, nothing is different except that this penultimate take excludes those two lines.
The broad explanation for this is that the artists were still making subtle edits of this track when this version was leaked, and the only tangible change they made is to insert (or re-insert) those few lines. As for a precise artistic reason to make that revision, I’m just as in the dark as you are. My best guess is that they though that that vocal lull stuck out, or seemed empty relative to the rest of the song. But, of course, that’s just pure speculation.
Whatever their reason for that slight tweak, this track is still an interesting look behind the curtains of pop music. As listeners, we tend to think of songs and albums as wholes. After all, that’s they way they’re presented to us. But artists have a completely different view of their work. That song that you think of as a definitive whole is really just the last of many drafts, revisions, and different takes. From our perspective, “Forever” fell out of Drizzy’s head full formed, like Athena, but from theirs it’s something they’ve slowly crafted from bits and pieces.
1. The Young Money tiers of power / influence / success in 2009
An old ham sandwich in the YMCMB breakroom fridge with Currensy’s name written on the bag in Sharpie
2. If you want to illustrate just how much goodwill LeBron torched in The Decision, just check out the reviews of More Than A Game. The thesis of virtually every critique of it is “Well, this story is cookie-cutter and the presentation is rote, but man, how can you not love that LeBron!” It got a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes just because people liked him so much. If this movie was released and reviewed this weekend, it probably wouldn’t top 40%.
This leaked early version of the Lil-Wayne-lead rap troupe’s 2010 radio hit1 doesn’t differ a great deal from the version that eventually dominated the airwaves, but it’s still worth a spin as it offers an interesting look at how artists polish songs. In this version the chorus remains the same, as do most of the verses.2 The only differences3 can be found in Lil Wayne’s verse that opens the track.
First, Wayne changes his original simile “I keep her running back and forth like a soccer team” into the hashtag line4 “I keep her running back forth. #SoccerTeam.” The reason he chose to make that small alteration is unclear. It doesn’t dramatically change the line, or the line’s meaning. As I said, it seems like he’s crossing the I’s, dotting the T’s, and eliminating the Like A’s.
Secondly, Wayne ends his verse with “Young Money thieves / Steal your heart with ease” as opposed to the final version which concludes “Young Money thieves / Steal your love and leave.” This alteration is a little more substantial that the previous one. The second verse clearly marks Wayne and the group as more emotionally detached from the romantic enterprises they’re engaged in. You’ll fall in love with them, but they won’t care. This is a description that Weezy actively cultivates, so it makes sense that he would trade out the original line for one more clearly in line with his persona.
Now, it’s definitely tempting to use the fact that Wayne is the only one to alter his verse as evidence for his claim to be the best rapper alive. Weezy’s always set himself apart by being the hardest working man in the business, so of course he would be the one tweaking and perfecting his verse right up until its official release.
The problem with this is that it too easy and too simplistic. There are countless variables at play in the recording of an album, particularly one that features so many artists that typically act independently of each other. Sure, Wayne may have been the only one who cared enough to keep working at his verse, but it’s equally likely that he was the only one who had the time or access to edit his part.
In any case, this alternate version isn’t one that can be really dubbed inferior or superior to the final take. It won’t replace the original on your iTunes, or become your super secret party mix weapon. Ultimately, it’s simply an interesting look at an artist’s process and nothing more.
1. Drake is on that #dadswag in that video. #robeswag #morningpaperswag
2. Sadly, Gudda Gudda’s verse is already there. I should really start making remixes of rap songs that don’t change the track at all except for removing Gudda Gudda’s verse. Seriously, dude is easily the worst rapper in the game (and yes, I am including John Cena and MC Skat Kat in that hierarchy). I mean, “And I got her, nigga: grocery bag” is absolutely baffling. No one knows what the hell he means. NO ONE. This is the explanation on RapGenius:
3. Aside from the fact that in the track’s final roll call, Lil Wayne says “Lloyd” instead of letting him sing his own name.