Started from the bottom now we sad: a second-by-second breakdown of Drake’s new short film
Yesterday, mayor of Toronto Aubrey “Drake” Graham released a 15-minute short-film thing called Jungle that we now know was a cryptic promo for his new surprise album. Mostly, though, the video (which you can watch right here) is like a glossy ad for Drake’s persona, as he struggles with the wages of superstardom and tries to stay true to his roots in Toronto (aka “The Six,” aka “The Bottom”).
In order to help us all understand what, exactly, is going on in Jungle—if anything’s going on other than Drake stomping around looking sad—here’s a second-by-second breakdown:
0:00:08: “How was your night, pop?” asks Drake’s driver. Drake, or “pop,” is a sort of patriarchal figure, a primal father of commercial hip-hop.
0:00:13: Our hero struggles to respond, practically choking as the words escape his mouth: “It was arrrrrrr…it was alright.” You get the sense that his night wasn’t alright. Not at all.
0:00:23: The car drives on ceremoniously, like a reflective chrome casket carrying Drake’s artistically compromised soul into the next life.
0:00:45: Drake begins describing his apparent melancholy. “The whole energy out here is just changing, you know?” As a successful rap mogul, merchandiser and courtside Raptors sycophant, yes, I do know.
0:00:43–0:01:30: Drake is venting about his problems. Is this Drake’s Birdman? He’s “drinkin’ more, smokin’ more.” Why is it that every time Drake mentions—or even suggests—that he smokes weed he sounds like a hunched uncle raising his eyebrows mischievously and asking if anyone at the Red Rider concert wants to “do a doobie”?
0:01:55: There it is. The title: JUNGLE. A staple of rock metaphor: the jungle, that tangle of trees and brush and growth signifying…I don’t know, like an emotional tangle I guess?
0:02:00–0:03:06: Here’s some archival footage of Toronto, the city that Drake built and now owns. Why is it not surprising that Drake’s the kind of guy who rolls around with his friends video taping stuff, as if they all know it’s going to valuable some day? Frustratingly, they weren’t wrong, I guess.
0:03:08: Now there’s film of a burning police cruiser, presumably from the disastrous Toronto G20 summit in 2010. Part of me wants to believe that Aubrey is loosing some long-repressed anarchist sentiment, but it’s probably just some canned “Fuck Tha Police” hip-hop cliché stuff. Then again, this is Drake. And he’s immediately shown using a cellphone after we see the cruiser in flames. He was probably calling the cops.
0:03:28: It’s little Drake! Glasses, afro and all. And he’s rapping! It’s almost as if he started…somewhere.
0:03:40: Welcome back to the jungle, baby! It’s nighttime and Drake can’t sleep. When you can’t sleep, the nights and days bleed into each other and time seems to go on forever. Nearly four minutes into Drake’s 15-minute promo-opus, I’m starting to get a sense of what that feels like.
0:03:54: Wait, what? His drapes open automatically? Like he pushes a button and they just reveal the world to him? Reminds me of this tweet I’ve been laughing at for five days:
I bet Neil Young has a washer/dryer right in his apartment. and yet he continues to complain
— #conтenт rεηεgαdε (@Bro_Pair) February 8, 2015
0:04:20: He’s walking on the street! Just like us!
0:04:54: Now he’s getting a coffee. Somewhere. Queen Street East maybe? I’m not very good at this spot-your-city stuff. Anyway, he’s trying to convey some sense not only of his hangdog sadness, but of being a good ol’ local lad. The reality is probably more like the shoot for the video itself, where Drake is playing at being sad while surrounded by cameras and lighting techs.
0:05:05: Okay, yeah I’m pretty sure it’s Queen Street East. Near Logan. The tattoo supply shop totally gives it away. Isn’t it weird how I’d recognize a tattoo supply shop, of all places? Reader: did you know that I, myself, have tattoos? This is something that makes me very cool. As cool as Drake? That remains to be seen. Maybe I’ll show up near the end of Jungle and defeat Drake in an underground freestyle rap battle and steal his fame and money and women and cars and basketball players and melancholy.
0:05:10: Ugh, now he’s boxing? This is like a tapestry of every sad-man movie cliché. Next thing you know he’ll be at a bar slamming whiskey and belting “ANOTHER!” or staring longingly at a sleeping woman laying in his bed. It’ll probably end with him driving a car into the darkness, like the end of David Lynch movie or the beginning of a Bruce Springsteen song.
0:05:45: Look, here are some kids goofing around, smoking weed, waving at Drake. This is essentially the fantasy of all hip-hop music, and maybe celebrity in general: that you can be both super wealthy and still street-level legit—that your celebrity can elevate your humble origins instead of compromising them. It’s a nice story, sure. But it seems so, I dunno, American? Is this a thing we’re supposed to buy into as Canadians? Isn’t our dream to just to be comfortably, but not too comfortably, middle class?
0:06:10: The first sampling of new Drake music. Something about “Runnin’ through the Six.” A flatted beat plays out as Drake commingles with some other gentlemen: drinking, smoking, exchanging ceremonial handshakes and whatnot. He seems happy! Surely the floor will drop out from under him. But when? WHEN?!?!
0:07:25: Drake is in a car complaining that it has “no USB, auxiliary, nothing.” And with that, the floor drops out.
0:07:45: Wait, no. He’s happy again.
0:08:30: Whoever directed this really directed it. The reflections, the ambient light, the rich nighttime cinematography: it’s like someone was assigned to make a Michael Mann movie for a film school homework assignment. They get a B+.
0:09:10: Drake is in some sort of red, craggly-walled room. Maybe it’s meant to be a metaphor for hell. Maybe it’s actually hell. I mean, Drake does roll with some pretty cool guys. Maybe he rolls with the coolest guy: Satan.
0:10:31: Never mind, it’s just some sort of spooky bar staffed by sad-looking women frozen behind bar tops and pressed behind walls. Imagine being so rich that you could just have a whole space for you stalk through, all forlorn-like? It’s basically our generation’s Scrooge McDuckian swimming pool of gold.
0:11:36: There are beds here, too. Is it some sort of brothel? Drake seems like the kind of guy who would pay a high-priced sex worker just to talk.
0:12:29: Now he’s walking through an actual and also probably figurative haze. Oh my God I am so insanely bored of this.
0:12:36: With just over two minutes remaining, I have yet to appear in Jungle and defeat Drake in a rap battle. In fact, so far, as it stands, I’m not even in the video at all. Not even once. Weird.
0:12:44: A figure emerges from the haze…and—hey it’s me!
0:12:45: No wait it’s just Drake.
0:12:55: But wait. Maybe I am Drake. Like, maybe Drake’s sadness is my sadness, is all of our sadness. Maybe Drake’s loneliness and confusion and world-weariness, as improbable and entitled as it may seem, is actually just an expression of that basic human conundrum: of never being satisfied, never being able to attain that phantasm of happiness, never being able to connect with another person. Maybe we’re all of us Drake.
0:13:05: Turns out Drake was just asleep in a car. Just like us! He gets in the driver’s seat and drives himself home. I think this is the first time in the video Drake isn’t being chauffeured around. In his nightmare of loneliness and isolation and red rooms full of sad, conventionally attractive women, Drake has learned humility. He drives the car into the darkness, piloting headlong into the dim.
0:13:54: Boom. Title card. JUNGLE. Credits. New music. “The things I can’t change are the reasons you love me,” Drizzy croons.