It’s no secret that Reggae music has influenced different types of sounds worldwide. The genre has spun into subgenres such as Dancehall, Reggaeton, and more. To the Caribbean community, these genres play a major role in its beloved culture, and through this, have been influencing more diverse artists, especially as of late. As a result, quite a few eyebrows have been raised as to whether or not these newly influenced artists are culture enthusiasts or culture vultures. One of the biggest names in this debate: Drake.
The “Views” rapper has been embracing the Caribbean culture most obviously since his 2010 single “Find your Love" from his debut album, "Thank Me Later." More recently, with songs like "Controlla", "One Dance" and "Too Good", featuring the Caribbean artist Rihanna, more and more people are beginning to call Drake out on his Jah-fake-an vibes.
The singing rapper has even gone as far as ‘speaking’ patois in and out of his music! (By "speaking", I do mean attempting to speak!) In fact, Drake has been embracing the cultures so much that a string of memes has been inspired and shared throughout twitter questioning his authenticity.
One question remains: has Drake adhered to the almost unspoken code of cultural influence and appreciation, or is he just downright appropriating Jamaican Culture?! Let’s break it down.
First, it is important to understand the difference between artistic influence and downright appropriation. Cultural appropriation is widely defined as the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of another culture. However, when it comes to the arts, the definition is not so black and white. It has been evidenced through the growth and development of new styles, genres and techniques of execution throughout history, that influence plays a large part in a final product of art. However, when asked, many of these artists, writers and composers will give influential credit where and when it's due. Downright appropriation would entail virtually the same elements minus the due credit. Now that that’s clear, let’s have a look at Drake’s history.
Hailing from Toronto, Canada, a city with a highly Caribbean population, Drake is definitely no stranger to Caribbean music and lifestyle. At the time of his release of “Find your Love” in 2010, he was also rumored to be involved with Rihanna, a Barbadian beauty who was also ruling the charts at the time. Now, at the peak of his career, Drake is topping charts with Caribbean influenced music. Am I the only one who notices that Drake's heavily Caribbean infused music seems to be produced when Rihanna is the apple of his eye? (#TeamAubRih)
Fortunately for Drake, this a time when Caribbean influenced music has almost become a trend in virtually every mainstream music genre. Songs like fellow Canadian Justin Bieber's 'Sorry’ are popular due to their island sound. Ex-labelmate Tyga has also come out with an eerily similar Controlla-like song, "1 on 1" which has the same slow wine vibe to it. The video was filmed in Jamaica, yet has no main roles being played by a Jamaican. In these cases, the artists have hopped onto the trend without giving any tribute or appreciation to Jamaica, or any other Caribbean island.
Drake has definitely fastened his seatbelt on the bandwagon and shows no signs of exiting any time soon. However, he does seem to at least have enough respect for the culture to incorporate its artists and expose authentic Caribbean music on a global scale. Only time will tell but maybe, just maybe, he isn't a culture vulture after all. For now, he’ll receive a slanted thumbs up in my book.