This week, a controversial New York Times piece ran with the title Rappers Are Singers Now. Thank Drake, stating that Drake by himself set a trend for rappers singing that has felt ripples through out the decade.
Does this mean Drake should be given the credit for rappers singing?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.
Written by Jon Caramanica, who previously has written for XXL and Vibe, it’s stunning how someone with his background and prominence in music criticism created such a massive, massive misfire.
It’s a fundamentally flawed rewriting of history that’s just wildly detached from the progression of hip-hop as a culture or rap as a genre. Claiming everyone from Future to Young Thug cribbed their melodic flows from Drake, as if he’s someone the Canadian oak trunk at the center of the Atlanta music family tree, is nothing short of a ridiculous attempt at erasure of an entire region’s massive contributions to music.
Was Drake influential this decade? Absolutely, that’s not what’s being questioned here. This also isn’t just an indictment of that article’s title, which may have been out of Caramanica’s hands. This is about Drake being given credit as something he was at absolute most an influenced curator for. There’s entire regions whose sounds did not have Drake as a shaping factor. To suggest otherwise, despite some sonic similarities, is the equivalent of some hack cultural studies professor claiming “Bob Dylan was actually the first rapper.”
That doesn’t even scratch the surface of the impact from longstanding classics that emerged from Bone Thugs N Harmony, Nate Dogg, CeeLo, Trae the Truth, Soulja Boy, Phonte/Little Brother etc. The staggering level of Drake-washing in that article from a major publication is just absolutely ghastly, especially at a time when online access to tracing these steps into the genre’s past is easier to do than ever.
While Drake was arguably the decade’s most prominent face in hip-hop in terms of chart presence, cultural presence and overall prominence – don’t confuse ubiquity for innovation.