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Drake’s Cultural Identity Under Scrutiny Once More

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During their infamous rap beef, Kendrick Lamar levied several serious accusations against Drake, particularly in his track “Not Like Us,” where he reiterated criticisms regarding Drake’s cultural authenticity and alleged insincere relationships with fellow artists.

For years, Drake has been under scrutiny, facing allegations of cozying up to rap artists and adopting their sound and style for his own benefit before moving on to the next project. Rappers such as Earl Sweatshirt, Rick Ross, and Pusha T have spoken out about this perceived pattern, leading to claims of Drake being a “culture vulture” circulating for nearly a decade.

The allegations, spanning back almost ten years, revolve around Drake’s use of phony accents, musical resemblances, and covers, collaborations with up-and-coming artists, and unproven claims of plagiarism.

In 2015, controversy erupted when Drake released “Hotline Bling” on his Beats 1 Radio Show “OVO Sound,” initially labeling it as a “Cha Cha remix,” a reference to DRAM’s earlier hit. However, as accusations of song theft surfaced, Drake distanced himself from the association with “Cha Cha.” DRAM publicly expressed feeling “jacked” for his record but eventually stated he was “good” with the situation.

Drake defended himself in a 2015 interview with The Fader, attributing the similarities between “Hotline Bling” and “Cha Cha” to shared elements of Jamaican music, such as the “riddim.” However, Gabe Niles, the producer of “Cha Cha,” refuted Drake’s claim, stating that the song does not sample Timmy Thomas’ track.

Such controversies have dogged Drake’s career, with Lamar’s criticisms being the latest addition to a history of allegations regarding Drake’s potentially exploitative industry practices. However, defenders of Drake argue that the issue is not one of exploiting Black cultures and artists but rather one of race.

Discussions surrounding Lamar’s lyrics quickly evolved into debates about race in the hip-hop industry, with Drake’s biracial identity and Canadian nationality often cited as factors affecting his reception in the industry.

Amara Pope explored Drake’s cultural and racial identities in her 2016 Ph.D. dissertation, “Musical Artists Capitalizing on Hybrid Identities,” noting that Drake’s position in the industry is influenced by both his race and nationality.

Drake, though silent on the matter to NBC News, has addressed his feelings of not being “Black enough” for the industry and his sense of exclusion due to his mixed-race background in previous interviews.

A.D. Carson, a hip-hop professor at the University of Virginia, views criticisms of Drake as valid and should not be disregarded as merely tragic. Drake’s evolution from melodic hip-hop rooted in vulnerability to adopting various personas that sometimes feel inauthentic has led to accusations of “cultural tourism” within the music industry.

Critics argue that Drake’s exploration of sounds from underground subcultures and support of lesser-known artists can border on exploitation, as implied by Lamar in his track “Euphoria.” Even Rick Ross has joined in, hurling insults about Drake’s race in a diss track.

In the racially charged landscape of hip-hop, conversations about Drake’s biracial identity should not overshadow valid criticisms of his alleged exploitative music practices, according to Carson.

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