Reliable Drake producer Nineteen85 and Jordan Ullman of OVO duo Majid Jordan team up on the instrumental, based around a funk guitar riff that is friendly yet fearsome. When you listen to ‘For Free’, you are on the jet ski with Khaled. You can feel the peaceful waves, but the heat of the engine as well.
This same powerful, friendly fierceness can be heard rumbling through Drake’s vocals. The Canadian megastar croons his bars out so sweetly over the tropical beat that love and confidence can be felt from every one of them, even when they don’t necessarily pulsate with it on paper, opening with bouncily flowing:
In fact, the words themselves have already been said, by Too $hort on his mid-noughties hit “Blow The Whistle”. Cause for concern? As is the answer to most criticisms about him in the wake of the whole Meek Mill/Ghostwriting scandal, the answer to this potential criticism of Drake is simply that Drake says it so well, even if he might not have written it. Plus, it’s an admitted nod to “Blow the Whistle” and interpolation, it gets the co-sign from Too $hort on genius. There will be no twitter beef over this one, sadly. .
As we ski deeper into ‘For Free’ and Drake’s verse he quickly gets down to business. With “You got attitude on na na / And your pussy on agua / And your stomach on flat flat / And your ass on what’s that”. Then before we know it, we’re into the euphoric hook. The cheeky question/answer structure and Drake’s swaggering delivery gives it an infectious tone that has and will surely light up drunken beaches for years to come.
The content of what he’s saying is fascinating from a social point of view however. The central line “or is this sex so good I should have to fuck for free?” betrays a gleeful subscription to the values of sex and money. In other words: Drake is saying to us YEHAAAA – NOT ONLY AM I SO GOOD AT SEX, I’M GOOD ENOUGH TO GET THE NEXT BEST FROM IT – MONEY. (Except he isn’t a cowboy (well not in the traditional sense)).
Now normally I’d be tempted to deflect from this. Normally I’d find some wonderful post-colonialist, feminist, quasi-narcisstic post-modern post-Lutheran martian thesis on the rest of the song that shows that Drake and DJ Khaled are indeed not just selling us sex wrapped with money on a ridiculously well produced stick with ‘For Free’. But there’s no deflecting here. The entire song -from its repetitive beat, to Drake’s following second verse describing different settings for that thing with sumptuous wordplay- is fully focused on the idea of sex, and sex that is extremely valuable through a material lens. For Free, in my view, marks a watershed, where the taboos of luxury lifestyle have come out to play in the most high-octane manner, and fully subsume the once more repressed pop world.
And at the end of the day, you’re on a beach, or a jet ski (or pretending to be on one in a peeling midlands room with pasta for dinner – arguably much classier) – it’s not to be taken that seriously. Money and sex are things everyone enjoys in the right context, despite faith, culture or WHATEVER… Right?
Then there’s DJ Khaled, the primary artist, who interestingly enough has hardly been mentioned in this article so far. As we cover more on the show however – this by no means indicates that he isn’t very present on ‘For Free’. It’s obvious that while he didn’t produce it in the musical meaning of the term, DJ Khaled acts like a film executive producer on ‘For Free’ and in fact his entire, album ‘Major Key’. He stitches together the right artists and tracks to produce a technicolour theme park of a hip hop album, unrivalled this year for its club bangers. The Music Mogul lets this godlike contribution be known on our single in question, adorning the beginning and end of the track with some of his most in-your-face ad-libs yet. For some reason, just as it feels fine to mouth along a sweetly ignorant anthem about sex and money in any place and at any time with Drake, DJ Khaled sitting in the corner and shouting “Another One!” as you visualise these sexual encounters doesn’t feel at all awkward either.
In fact, it’s somehow liberating.
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