Is Drake "For the Culture" or a Culture Vulture?

A look at the rapper's alleged exploitation of other cultures.
Marcus D. Powell
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A look at the rapper's alleged exploitation of other cultures.

Although the cultural appropriation discussion is usually reserved for non-people of color, Drake is slowly but surely becoming a focal point of the conversation.


From adopting a Caribbean accent and releasing a string of dancehall tunes to riding the U.K. grime wave, the rapper has seemingly become the archetype of a public figure making a use of another's culture for personal gain. Thus, begging the question, is Drake actually trying to push "the culture" forward by using his monstrously large platform to bring exposure to other sounds, or is he merely exploiting and profiting at the expense of other cultures (à la Kylie Jenner)?

In recent years, Drake's music and public persona has become increasingly Caribbean-lite. Three of the most successful singles from his most recent studio album VIEWS - "Too Good," "Controlla," and "One Dance" (with the latter track becoming the biggest hit of his career) - each possess a reggae/dancehall flare as he collaborated with Popcaan, Wizkid, and Kyla. His new "playlist" More Life is no stranger to this either, considering the first line we hear him utter on its opening track is patois-tinged: "More chune for your head tops, so watch how you speak on my name, y'know?" - a sound byte from his acceptance speech at the AMAs. In essence, he's a "bod mon" now.


Sure, Drake has toyed with Caribbean sounds and imagery before (such as his "Find Your Love" music video filmed in Kingston, Jamaica which starred dancehall artist Mavado as the rapper's rival) but never to the extent of him contriving an entire Jamaican identity. Even the public has caught on to this.

An often cited response to any "culture vulture" allegations is the extremely tired "culture is shared" excuse. Drake's adoption of cultures and dialects may seem harmless and could actually be a sincere homage to the artists and sounds that inspires him, but - whether or not he is at fault - it is disheartening that Drake is unfairly being given credit for styles and music that he has no hand in creating. "One Dance," for example, is arguably the most successful dancehall record of all time. While artists who make reggae and dancehall music for a living are often disregarded, Drake is allowed to cherry pick his most desirable traits of the culture and project an image and sound to his huge platform that goes overlooked on true Caribbean artists everyday. 


Whether or not Drake's new persona is genuine, it is certainly safe to say that the rapper is bringing widespread exposure to the genre and revitalizing the careers of Wizkid and Popcaan among others. It's great that the rapper has led in the resurgence of Caribbean music but we'll see whether or not his interest in the culture was a true admiration or just another phase. Just thinking about it, wasn't he riding the Houston wave in the beginning of his career?

What are your thoughts?