Why Drake Is Getting Roasted for His Dancehall Tunes
I’ll admit it, Work, Controlla, and One Dance were the soundtrack to an amazing summer last year. Hearing that trifecta of dancehall-inspired bangers made me feel invincible. It reminded me of summers at my family’s home in Grenada and the clubs I’d gone to over there.
But Drake’s involvement in Work, and him releasing Controlla and One Dance, felt inauthentic. It’s dangerously close to cultural appropriation, despite the fact that Toronto culture is largely influenced by West Indian culture. It’s a lot like someone who says, “I grew up with a lot of Latinx friends so I started writing Bachata.”
Now, he’s dropped another album with Caribbean influenced tracks like Blem and Madiba Riddim, and I’m increasingly confused by his sudden proximity to Caribbean genres. Suddenly, it’s his thing. Which is probably why social media roasts him for it on the daily:
Jamaican artist Popcaan was featured on Controlla when it dropped and his influence on the track is apparent, but he was left off the actual album. And he didn’t get a feature on More Life, as many Popcaan fans expected.
When artists rip aspects of Caribbean artists and genres, all it does is erase them. We see that erasure when Work, a distinctly Caribbean influenced song that was written and produced by Jamaican-Canadian artists, gets called “tropical house”. Then we have artists like Major Lazer and Justin Bieber who often receive credit for bringing dancehall to the mainstream, years after Sean Paul actually did. Can you imagine ignoring the contributions of the genius behind Get Busy?
In an interview for The Guardian, Sean Paul even admits that he was fighting to remain relevant for a while. Meanwhile, pop artists are capitalizing off of and receiving credit for music he inspired. It’s so annoying. Dancehall and other Caribbean genres have provided the foundation for so many hit songs but end up largely ignored.
I wish the shift in Drake’s music meant he’d be boosting more artists from the Caribbean, showing that there are other Caribbean genres besides Dancehall, something. But More Life feels like a costume he’s putting on (again), a diluted version of the people who actually created this music.