A Thought: Drake’s Globetrotting is Advanced, You’re a Hater

Drake on SNL's 'Black Jeopardy' sketch in 2016

When I’m passionate about a topic, I usually spend weeks on the research. I piece together interview clips, long-forgotten news updates, lyrics, and other shit that’s been taken for granted, and create an image of a subject from an angle you’ve never considered. Any of my ‘Understanding Kanye West Rants‘ pieces or this analysis of Future’s songwriting are just several examples of this.

However, sometimes, I need to rant at you. I need you to simply acknowledge what I am pointing out. And instead of writing like I’m mounting an argument to win a court case, sometimes, I just want to open up a discussion. I want you to clap back. This is what the ‘A Thought’ series will be about.

When Drake appeared on YG’s ‘Who Do You Love?’ in 2014, YG revealed in a Breakfast Club interview that Drake had eyed him as a rising star and made trips to visit him in LA since 2010. Years before the heavy Caribbean influences on Views and More Life, Drake was taking trips to Jamaica to forge a strong relationship with Popcaan and his Unruly gang. He was also shouting out the Gs from the ends on If You’re Reading This and making music with Skepta prior to blessing him and Giggs with several features on More Life.

In a world so interconnected, I fail to understand why the affiliations Drake has made during his musical career receive the level of criticism that they do. Amongst a psychographic of people that claim to care about being inclusive, and claim to be open to engaging people of other cultural backgrounds, why are Drake’s attempts at doing so always shit on?

Is it because they seem disingenuous? Is it because people feel as though his profit off of this cultural exchange is disproportionate to what his collaborators are getting? Is it because people don’t want to see an artist at the top of the music industry innovate off the backs of other people’s sounds?

I really want to know. To scream “cultural appropriation” as someone who isn’t of an Afro-Caribbean identity when you hear ‘Controlla’ or when you see Drake tweet in patois is funny. It’s especially funny when you notice that Afro-Caribbeans of Canada and the United States have shown no strong signs of frustration with the direction of Drake’s music.

It’s funny to see people upset at Drake’s borrowing of verbiage from subcultures in hip-hop when the gatekeepers of said subculture actually approve. Like the claim that Drake is a scumbag H-Town wannabe when he’s had Bun B’s blessing since his So Far Gone days. Or the claim he’s jacking the Grime wave when someone like Skepta, who is rightfully chasing entrance into the American mainstream, has nothing but love for him.

I think what upsets a lot of people about Drake’s globetrotting is a few things: 1. Your rigid expectations of a popular artist once they’re popular. 2. Your limited understanding of cultural exchange and identity. 3. As a young adult in the 21st century, it pisses you off to see someone who has just as much access to other cultures do so much more with it than you. You can speak in convincing patois! You have family in Houston! Why does this fucker get to make millions off of knowing how to pick up other people’s swag and I don’t?

Am I right? Am I a dickrider? Are you upset that I called your understanding of cultural exchange and identity “limited”? I’m sorry. If you want to get back at me, leave a comment. I promise I’ll respond and let you rant at me.


    • Good question, apparent Russian troll.

      Experientially, being a Black first-gen American with distinct memory of my self-identity before I was aware of my racial identity is a trip. Rather than jump head-first into one field though, I’ve somehow managed to get an arm/leg into the fields of education, online media, and music. Whereas higher ed is too stiff and slow for my creative pace and the world at large, the low barriers to entry in today’s Wild West of online publishing and digital music make it hard to gain institutional credibility outside of the “entertainment” box.

      This conundrum has made me even more fascinated by different culture’s values when it comes to public figures–who do people celebrate? Who do they vilify? Which figures do the public trust? Which fields can public figures realistically move between, and is their credibility transferrable? Ex: Can a musical artist make the transition into politics the same way high-profile on-screen stars (e.g. Reagan, Gerald Ford, Schwarzenegger) have?

      Other than that, I have a surprisingly non-discriminate palate (will eat and drink just about anything), I’m passively trilingual, and my knees and feet are aligned such that my knees are aligned with my hips only when my feet rotate out. When my feet are straightened out, my knees are then inverted. Makes it easy to use the insteps when playing football, but puts weird stress on the insides of my ankles and knees. I have plenty of other quirks, but I don’t want to overwhelm you since we just met!

  1. These are quite convincing as evidence to Drake doing his due diligence across genres. The three reasons you listed for why people are upset about Drake’s moves into other genres may be partly undergirded by how these pieces of evidence do not surface on command when talk of Drake’s cross-genre activity starts up. Or would critics continue to shoot from their trenches even with this backdrop presented to them? What is the end goal for giving Drake credit?

    • It’s still hard for a lot of people to accept because the prevailing image of Drake to critics is a corny Canadian guy. I feel like people are still trying to wrap their heads around the fact that he can rap, make the type of pop-friendly singles he makes, and still hasn’t been replaced by a more conventional rapper.

      Acknowledging the innovation in Drake’s approach to culture, let alone music, will hopefully encourage more direct and responsible cultural exchange. I think this is one of hip-hop’s next big steps both as an industry and a culture.

      • Zander, I very much appreciate your view and candor on this matter of culture. Really, an excellent article. Refreshing to read there are more cognizant millenials out there not consumed by politicized ownership of culture through virtue of ethnicity and nationality. One human race, One love.

        • Thank you for the feedback, Jc. Though I do think identity politics are relevant in discussions about pop culture, we as consumers need to be cautious about making it a go-to tool for cultural criticism. Above all, I’m glad you enjoyed the piece and contributed to the conversation.

  2. I’ll admit, I am not the least bit knowledgeable about Drake and his intersectional moves. What struck me as odd about this article, though, was how most of his permissions to wield certain genres came from the major artists of genres such as H town or Grime. Do these major artists get to speak wholesale for the genres they’re associated with? I’ll start with this one question since I’m still getting a feel for whatever might be happening with this case.

    • Thanks for the question!

      It is a great counterargument to people who think originators of the subcultures he’s borrowing from should be offended. To see that the most influential figures of those subcultures actually encourage the practice is huge. No, Bun-B doesn’t speak for everyone in Houston’s hip-hop scene, and Popcaan and Beenie Man don’t represent every Jamaican’s feelings toward Drake. But their bullshit meter when it comes to the use of their styles/sounds/cultures is the most trusted.

      I also think the simple fact Drake spends years in and around other subcultures before heavily drawing from them shows a level of research and appreciation most don’t credit him with. He lived in Houston at the beginning of his Young Money days and got many of his first big breaks there, including the release of the Grammy-nominated project ‘So Far Gone’, along with some of his earliest live show successes at Houston venues.

      Toronto is full of Jamaicans, and he’s had Jamaican affiliates for years before befriending Popcaan. Even then, he made cameos in Popcaan videos and spent significant time in Jamaica before ‘IYRTITL’ (2015).

      To your question about Grime, UK hip-hop fans used to be strongly critical of his approach to collaborating with Skepta, England’s brightest hip-hop/Grime export. He brought Skepta out to perform with him at the 2015 Wireless festival and started borrowing slang from the UK ends (hoods) in his music around this time. Since then, he’s pleased most of these critics with his heavy featuring of UK rapper Giggs along with Skepta on his latest project ‘More Life’.

    • Intersectionality is a false philosophy built on the premise of victimhood and neoliberal collectivization. This article is brilliant in completely avoiding that reductive verbiage by not succumbing to the vastly overreaching political correctness of our victimized youth claiming cultural appropriation is the new form of racism. There is no such thing as cultural appropriation, there is no such thing as intersectionality, your feelings do not dictate reality or provide insight on human intention outside of your own individual perspective of your own intentions. Drake is brilliant, and the wiser of us millenials know and embrace it. The rest of these simple minded virtue signalers only want their participation trophies. Boohoo. Sit down and shut your intersectionally victimized trap.

      • Thank you for the comment, Jc.

        I agree that the reach of PC culture has hindered our ability to appreciate the nuance of pop culture phenomena. I also think there is a need to consider identity politics in our conversations about pop culture.

        Without the concept of intersectionality, a lot of hip-hop culture becomes hard to understand. How do you explain Drake, a multiracial, multicultural Canadian, without discussing how his time in Memphis and Houston contrast with his upbringing in Toronto? How do you talk about gender-neutral shifts in hip-hop fashion without considering the extra pressure Black men have to be masculine?

        More often than not, cultural influencers have more than one perspective on their work, meaning multiple sets of intentions and feelings as well. They might even contradict. Ex: For as much as Young Thug pushes the boundaries of gender expression, he’s still a straight Black man from the streets of Atlanta who talks about guns and bitches.

        While Drake is the frustrated lover boy just trying to understand women and his place in life through music, he’s also an expert capitalist who loves flipping music for money. While it’s clear he has a genuine interest in expanding hip-hop with global sounds, he’s also in such a position of power that most people he borrows cultural product from are at an inherent disadvantage when working with him.

        It isn’t fair to pick one aspect of Drake’s identity to entirely discredit his work, but it is fair to question how it all adds up. Hip-hop culture in particular is sensitive to theft and manipulation both externally and internally. We haven’t yet found a clear line between use and misuse when it comes to cultural appropriation policing, but I would not consider all of it to be virtue signaling, to use your term.


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