Dip into the strangely hypnotic film genre that documents the Publishers Clearing House delivering jumbo checks to people, and you begin to notice a pattern.
As a viewer, you feel happy for the winner. You feel gratitude for the Clearing House. And you start wondering what that jumbo check could do for you. In it, the Toronto superstar distributes his million-dollar production budget to people around Miami—by telling all the shoppers in a Sabor Tropical Supermarket that everything on the shelves are free, by presenting a scholarship check to an unsuspecting student, by giving gift cards to women at a shelter, and more.
The double-takes are the best parts. One of the kids notices the rapper sitting next to her, and shrieks. Drake smiles and hands the family a wad of cash. Star-struck thrill melts into a more tender emotion.
The family members cover their eyes, and they hug. What is this video: goodhearted charity, pop promotional spectacle, or both? Both, making it part of a long history. Every tweet and YouTube comment I've come across so far has been positive. It is good—both in the moral sense and the aesthetic sense. Director Karena Evans strikingly juxtaposes colorful and worn-down homes with the sleekness of high-end department stores and post-modern campus architecture.
The monologue offers a taste of Miami personality, but it also hints at a message about money, race, and dignity. From there, the video casts its sanctifying gaze on a wide range of folks, mostly of color, including both men and women, children and the elderly.
Evans pays special attention to emotion: the shock and the weeping as Drake plays Santa, yes, but also the joys of dance, sing-alongs, and shopping. Celebrity do-goodery is an American tradition; resenting stars who use public service for public relations is also a tradition. Fundamentally, spectacles of giving have some element of selfish advertising motive, and they often end up making the viewer feel okay about an unfair status quo. Just who I am. Drake a noted Torah scholar! Though not thought of as much of an activist, Drake has over the years made headlines for individual mitzvahs, like when he bought a recording studio for an underserved school in Philadelphia.
And his music often presents him as a generous benefactor for his family, friends, and Toronto community. In the video, that line about people wishing bad things on Drake reads as an ironic punchline while he pushes shopping carts of wrapped toys to kids. Note that Drake gifts people not only essentials—groceries and school funds—but also expensive clothes and private concerts.
Olive Oil and Vino A post shared by champagnepapi champagnepapi on Feb 17, at pm PST. Of course, there are different ways to fight for a lasting impact: philanthropy, rather than charity. Such efforts, though, necessarily invite tough scrutiny over waste and priorities. The most fascinating example of public-service spectacle in the hip-hop world recently has come from Chance the Rapper, who has both taken political action and donated money to try and help the Chicago public school system.
Drake, as far as we see in this video, is more interested in specific, personal, and perhaps temporary interventions. He does cut checks to schools and shelters, but most of the excitement is around wads of cash, cars, and one-time shopping bonanzas.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters theatlantic. Skip to content. Sign in My Account Subscribe. The Atlantic Crossword. The Print Edition. Latest Issue Past Issues. Spencer Kornhaber is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers pop culture and music. Connect Twitter.