Rap Reincarnation: “City Is Mine” versus “City Is Mine”

As a genre, hip-hop’s narrative abilities lend themselves well to bridging the gaps between generations. This series explores the then/now of rap songs with the same themes.

Then: “City Is Mine” by Jay-Z
Now: “City Is Mine” by Drake

On the third single from his third album (In My Lifetime Vol. 1) Jay Z made it known that he intended to fill the void that was left in the wake of Biggie Smalls’ murder, by proclaiming himself the new King of New York in “City is Mine.”

Drake’s 2006 mixtape Comeback Season saw him make a similar claim. In his own track “City Is Mine,” Drake posits himself as Toronto’s own rap king, addressing haters, critics and any head that held doubts.

What happens next for both artists is well documented: Jay Z became one of the biggest artists New York had ever produced and for a time was the premier trendsetter in rap. Similarly, Drake is currently a pop-culture phenomenon, and credited with revitalizing Toronto’s hip-hop scene.

Before the fame and success, there was a common belief between these two musicians. That they were the only ones capable of shouldering the responsibility of what it means to truly represent your city as its hip-hop king.

On “Pound Cake,” the 2013 collaboration between the two, Jay Z warns Drake that this level of success comes at a cost. People will view your personal progress as forgetting your roots; jilted lovers will always find an outlet to air your dirty laundry, and some of your closest friends will become your worst enemies. However, everything can be managed so long as you maintain focus and always remember the responsibility that comes with the position.

“City Is Mine” sees both Jay Z and Drake at their most daring, a proclamation from both that their cities and the rap game as a whole was theirs for the taking, and no one could stop them.

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