How Well Did Drake Channel Sinatra?

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By Paul Cantor

Drake’s ’50s-style noir clip debuted Friday, just one day after the premiere of his Wayne-assisted clip for “Miss Me.”

In a behind-the-scene interview, Driz told MTV News that he drew some inspiration from Bleek Gilliam, the tortured trumpeter originally portrayed by Denzel Washington in Spike Lee’s 1990 joint “Mo’ Better Blues.” The bulk of his inspiration, though, was ‘Ole Blue Eyes.

“I get to channel my inner Sinatra,” he said. “In the acting world, you gotta have reference points. I like to get into characters.”

Reaction to the promo has been heavy on praise, with many applauding his look and digging the aesthetic.

“I think Drake being inspired by Frank Sinatra makes for striking visuals,” says Vibe magazine’s senior editor, Clover Hope.

YRB Magazine Associate Editor Steven Horowitz thinks the portrayal has more to do with elegance and sophistication than it does cool. “Channeling Frank Sinatra works for [Drake] because he’s not only contemporary suave, but he holds himself with an air of class,” Horowitz says. “[And] there are a lot of Sinatra elements to Drake that speak to his versatility as an artist.”

There’s also a subversive element at play. “Drake’s had one hell of a year. Hell, one hell of a couple of years,” says Benjamin Meadows-Ingram, XXL’s senior editor. “If he wasn’t feeling a bit ‘I did it my way’ right now, I don’t know when he would.”

When it comes to the Chairman of the Board, hip-hop fans often equate the Sinatra swag with another reigning MC: Jay-Z. Jay’s “Empire State of Mind” is a nod to the Big Apple not unlike Frank’s “New York, New York,” and the Brooklyn rapper even says so in the song’s lyrics, “I’m the new Sinatra.” Timmhotep Aku, lead editor at AOL’s TheBVX.com says, “Jay would definitely be a more appropriate Sinatra stand-in.”

But Trent “TC” Clark, managing editor at SmokingSection.net, takes his analysis a step further.

“There’s different levels of Sinatra,” Clark says. “Jay symbolizes the Sinatra that was on the tribute tour; not doing much dancing or moving for that matter. Drake could easily embody the younger version.”

Meadows-Ingram, too, doesn’t see Jay-Z holding exclusive ownership of the Frank Sinatra mantle. [Jay-Z's not] the only one who looks at Sinatra and the Rat Pack for inspiration,” he says. “Ever since Jay ditched the throwback for the button up, those at the top of the rap game have been pushing for an old-money feel. And now that Drake has arrived, he’s helping to further push the idea that he’s young, he’s moneyed, he’s suave and he’s here to stay.

The promo clip serves to hype Drake’s debut performance at the VMAs on September 12. In portraying Frank, he’s only upped the ante for his already much buzzed-about appearance. “If he’s planning on stretching this Sinatra motif, then he should go all in — big band backing, reconfigured ’30s versions of his tracks, etc.,” Horowitz says. “It’s not an easy feat to marry big band and rap, so he’d have to keep it authentic down to every last detail.”

Count Hope as someone else who’d love the idea of Drake mixing it up for the VMAs. “I hope he really steps up his stage game and brings the energy or something spontaneous or unpredictable to show us why he deserves to be here,” she says. “That’s what the VMAs are all about.”

Did Drake do Frank Sinatra right? Are you hyped to see him perform?