Drake "Draking" in the video for 'Hotline Bling'
Spring is in full swing and as things heat up for the Summer sizzle, Drake’s latest project, the More Life playlist, includes sounds, influences and collaborators from throughout the diaspora, including several artists from the UK.
He of course really Drake's it up by using London and British slang terms in his own lyrics and the interludes. It seems someone has been really kicking it across the pond! UK artists from multiple genres including Skepta, Giggs (No Long Talk, KMT), Sampha (4422) Jorja Smith(below) (Get it Together) and other diasporan artists such as South African DJ Black Coffee (Get it Together) are prominently featured.
Far from his first foray into mixing flavors, Drake often seasons his flows with flavor from multiple genres, including Bay Area hip-hop and ATL Trap. Increasingly, he doesn’t confine his riddems to stateside, as he pulls in latin jazz, dancehall, afrobeat, U.K. grime and South African House on More Life. Breakout hits on his collabs with Rihanna (Take Care, Work, What's My Name, Too Good) and Billboard charting hit singles Hotline Bling and OneDance show this to be a winning formula, record breaking, even.
Simply by virtue of being born outside the U.S. and around such an eclectic mix of afro-descendent people, Champagne Papi’s musical tastes are likely heavily influenced by this upbringing. More importantly, his roots mean he is less confined to rigid expectations of a specific genre. Throw in his chamillion-esque accent - Canadian inflection barely masked, sometimes vaguely Caribbean, Latin - and one begs the question: is Drake British? Spanish? Jamaican? Does it matter? The answer is, of course, all of the above. I call him “Diaspora Drake”; because he puts on for everyone.
"Diaspora Drake" is my term for the phenomenon of this young Toronto rapper being credited for “introducing” new and eclectic rhythms to mainstream Hip-Hop, African-American and Pop audiences. Anyone familiar with Black music broadly can point to numerous examples of mixing, sampling and borrowing from across the waters to create unique sounds and achieve cross over success. Celia Cruz, Bob Marley, Billy Ocean, Sean Paul, Fela Kuti, Mr. Vegas, Patra (and every New York emcee that throws in a line of patois here and there) and the list goes on. This is nothing new.
In fact, instead of innovating a new sound, Drake is tapping into an ongoing zeitgeist of Black culture and identity becoming more complex and multinational. Millennial tastemakers in the U.S. are often 1st generation immigrants from African and Caribbean countries (hello ShadeRoom), Black travel has made passport stamps the status symbol Du Jour and the digital age of streaming, social media and youtube have all but eliminated the barriers to interaction between the continents for some time now. These factors together mean that, while the culture becomes less U.S. centric, ironically, it is the influence Drake is able to yield within the U.S. that is shedding light on the phenomenon. To witness the vanguard of this movement, see the sold out shows in Houston and D.C. of artists such as Wizkid and Davido circa 2011, while not registering a name check on U.S. Billboard charts. To have their success now be attributed to Drake is baffling. Sure, Drake has certainly helped to popularize afrobeat and dancehall influenced ‘riddims’ in the mainstream. However, it is their popularity within Black immigrant and diaspora cultures that most likely clued him in that there was a sizable demographic of listening ears waiting to welcome the chunes.
This middle passage mashup is far from smooth sailing. Derision toward the UK artists in particular on More Life led to a pretty nasty edition of #diasporawars online. These dustups are a result of the friction of us not having the access to actively interact with one another beyond the beats. However, if the reviews of More Life are any indication, the feel good sounds and danceable rhythms will bring everyone together on the dancefloor this summer. Wuk up y’all!