We Just Wanna Be Successful: The Shrinking of the Black American Dream

Consider two songs from two generations. One, Drake’s  “Successful, ” was one of the most popular songs of 2009, making an international rap star out of the unsigned Canadian former child actor. The other, “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” was a signature hit for the songwriting producing duo of McFadden and Whitehead. Both employ narratives of aspiration and determination in the face of obstacles. But Drake’s song, produced in collaboration with singer Trey Songz is fraught with ambivalence and alienation, while McFadden and Whitehead’s anthem brims with optimism.

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