Drake vs. Joe Budden: What is a ‘Real Artist’?

Eddie Ejjbair
3 min readOct 30, 2023

Following on from Budden’s viral critique of Drake’s album, the JBP, discussing the state of the music industry, made observations similar to the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, who, in 1992, outlined the unspoken rules of the art industry.

According to Bourdieu, the art industry is divided by two opposing principles; the principle of autonomy (or ‘art for art’s sake’) and the principle of heteronomy (i.e. commercial success). This opposition repeats itself in the dispute between Drake and Joe Budden. Drake, representing heteronomy, accuses Joe of justifying his failure by claiming to stay true to his art; while Joe, representing autonomy, accuses Drake of ‘selling out’, of not being a ‘real’ artist.

As Bourdieu explains (and as the JBP demonstrates), the domain on which these principles engage each other is definitional. The two sides argue over what constitutes an artist, and what is ‘real’ art:

The strictest and most restricted definition of the [artist], which we accept these days as going without saying, is the product of a long series of exclusions and excommunications trying to deny existence as artists worthy of the name to all sorts of producers who could live as artists in the name of a larger and looser definition of the profession.

One of the central stakes in artistic rivalries is the monopoly of artistic legitimacy, that is, among other things, the monopoly of the power to say with authority who is authorized to call himself artist or even to say who is a artist and who has the authority to say who is a artist; or, if you prefer, the monopoly of the power of consecration of producers and products […] As a consequence, if the literary field (etc.) is universally the site of a struggle over the definition of artist, then there is no universal definition of the artist, and analysis never encounters anything but definitions corresponding to a state of the struggle for the imposition of the legitimate definition of the artist

Our idea of the artist is derived from a ‘series of exclusions’ — similar to the one Budden proposes in the clip below:

Joe then goes on to say that artists prioritising their brand deals, don’t deserve the title of artist; that if they’re in the business of selling Happy Meals then a better title might be Happy Mealers.

Bourdieu’s description of the art industry may seem simplistic, but what he identified was not a common occurrence, but the very logic of the art industry, which means he could predict, with some certainty, that the same exact struggles would occur thirty years later, just as they did a hundred years prior.

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Eddie Ejjbair

‘Gradually it’s become clear to me what every great philosophy has been: a personal confession of its author and a kind of involuntary and unconscious memoir’