Last weekend, Drake shared an image of a Vogue cover featuring him and 21 Savage ahead of their new album, Her Loss, released today. Except, the magazine wasn’t an official issue of Vogue. Instead, the duo had their street team distribute the faux magazines — recycled Vogue issues with “HER LOSS” scrawled on the pages and models photoshopped with 21 Savage’s knife tattooed on their faces — around New York City. We’d all been duped.
On the surface, the stunt seemed like a sly reference to Drake’s “Jimmy Cooks” bar, “don’t tell me that you model if you ain’t been in Vogue.” But the duo’s antics continued throughout the week: they released a fake preview of a Tiny Desk performance, a spoof of GQ’s “What’s In My Bag” segment with 21 Savage, and clips of a mock Howard Stern interview, complete with an overdub of Stern’s voice. Drake and 21 Savage managed to have one of the most viral “press runs” of the year, except it didn’t happen. Together, the clips make a general statement on how little artists of their commercial caliber need the press. Both artists have been around the proverbial album rollout board so many times that they decided to poke fun at the game itself.
Neither Drake nor 21 Savage has done many interviews. Drake’s last was a two-hour discussion with Rap Radar in 2020. 21 Savage had a conversation with Math Hoffa’s My Expert Opinion this summer; his next to the last interview was a 2019 ABC conversation about his ICE arrest. But even without interviews, they’re not necessarily withdrawn. 21 is active on the clubhouse platform, while Drake’s endeavors constantly find their way on rap blogs and Instagram. The two have a combined 137.9 million followers on the platform, whom they can reach without a media outlet’s intervention and re-setting the dynamics of collaboration.
Their antics didn’t start with the fake Vogue cover, however. The duo announced Her Loss by interrupting the “Jimmy Cooks” video in the middle of Drake’s verse, then holding a conversation for the duration of the video. The provocative clip poked at the notion of rap stardom, as the two stars dived into the fishbowl to prove a point: Fans watch rap videos for outsized exploits, but “Jimmy Cooks” showed two rap stars nestled in mundanity. Drake has rented out Nike headquarters in Oregon for the star-studded “Laugh Now Cry Later” video; one of the few surprising things he could do in a video is hold a silent conversation. Fans were so enamored for a glimpse of them that they’d watch them doing nothing. And if viewers wanted to hear 21’s verse that bad, they’d stream the song, which is only a plus.
Drake knows exactly what strings to pull to go viral, and he’s been doing so throughout the 2010s. He did a test run of the Her Loss press run during Lil Yachty’s “Oprah’s Bank Account” video, where he had a mock interview with Yachty, dressed as “Oprah,” poking fun at his pre-beard years. His album covers have also long been ripe for viral remixing; most recently, his emoji-tile Certified Lover Boy album had businesses and sports teams worldwide putting their spin on the cover in an effort to seem chic. Similarly, 21 capitalized on his viral “issa knife” clip by titling his 2017 album, Issa. When fans joked about 21 Savage being born in the UK after his 2018 arrest, he admitted that he found humor in some posts. Both men know that the internet will laugh regardless, so they might as well be in on the joke.
Drake admits his favorite porn genre throughout the Her Loss clips, while 21 acknowledges his U.K. lineage. When “Howard Stern,” asks the two if they could be married, 21 leans in on the bit, noting, “I wanna hear [Drake’s] answer.” The clips still would have worked if they were handled in an over-the-top fashion or spoofed the names of outlets, but the subtlety and earnestness of their parody give them an extra pinch of commentary.
When Drake posted the Vogue cover, most people assumed it was real because it came from his page — a statement on the Instagram account as the most trustworthy source for artist news. Rap blogs and fan pages posted about the upcoming issue. Some also shared their Tiny Desk clip as if it was an actual performance after having been previously trolled by the artists. The rap media world is a free-for-all; being first matters more than being suitable for many outlets. The parodies exemplify how quick people are to believe something just because it’s posted.
The Howard Stern clips are as outrageous as one would expect a Stern interview to be, but he wasn’t even involved. 21’s bag of GQ tricks was expertly random; the dreidel in his bag elicited discussion on his intent in light of recent Kanye and Kyrie controversies. The most prominent artists know they’re the most valuable part of the artist-media relationship because they can reach fans without the outlet. So instead of GQ getting the views on people wanting to see what’s in 21’s bag, he showed that he could do it himself.
The first step in successfully pulling off the ruse was that they were big enough for it to be believable. Drake and 21 could get any of the placements they spoofed, which makes their subversion clever, but it will be annoying if up-and-coming artists start stealing brands’ series’ to attach themselves to outlets that don’t want to work with them. In 2018 Battle rapper and artist Daylyt posted a fake Funkmaster Flex freestyle on his YouTube channel and titled the video, “this is why they didn’t upload it,” stirring contrived controversy around the clip. The video has three million views, proving that the ploy worked better than simply posting a freestyle would have. There are already Genius-verified parodies featuring artists making their own videos made to appear as part of the popular interview series. Is the Drake-21 press run a glimpse of a future with fake XXL Freshman covers, spliced-together interviews with “Elliott Wilson,” and other forms of fake press? It’s worth pondering when parody starts to shift into desperate theft.
To this point, Drake and 21 haven’t done any actual interviews for Her Loss. Two weeks ago, Charlamagne thanked Lil Baby for coming to the Breakfast Club and told him, “I know it’s gonna be a point where you’re not doing any more interviews,” and Lil Baby affirmed, “yep, it’s getting closer and closer.” Like Drake, the higher Baby vaults up the commercial stratosphere, the more followers he gains on social media, and the less need he’ll have for media outlets to help him reach supporters. That’s good for the artist who hates interviews, but it’s not a great sign for the state of the editorial. An artist’s media reticence is their choice, but some journalists may be left with a sour taste after this “press run’s” implication that an outlet’s brand is worth their acknowledgment, but actual journalists aren’t. But as Drake and 21 Savage have shown this week, that’s their problem to work out.