Let me preface this by saying I’m a fan of Drake. I used to watch him on Degrassi, and remember the first episode when he rapped on stage as wheelchair Jimmy, thinking to myself “he’s not half bad. He might actually have a future with rapping.” Now, I’m not labeling myself a psychic just yet, but it’s definitely been cool seeing him come up from a gumpy television actor to music’s golden boy.
His rise to stratospheric success in the music industry is a result of many things—his talent, the right ears finding him etc., but the biggest catalyst for his winning record is that he’s smart. Drake is cunning as fuck when it comes to maneuvering in the music industry, and his wits have only sharpened as he’s worked his way to veteran status.
Despite this, there have definitely been some questionable moves made by Drizzy.
One of the biggest and most notable ones came when he dropped a peculiar-sounding record entitled “Hotline Bling.” It rode a similar sample that VA star D.R.A.M. and Gabe Niles crafted their runaway hit “Cha Cha” with, though gave no credit to either of them.
It was a sticky situation; one could argue that the story of OVO producer Nineteen85 hearing the original record by Timmy Thomas and immediately going to sample it is perfectly plausible, though it’s also very likely that Drake was familiar with “Cha Cha” and it’s virality, and realized how far he could take it. It could just be a coincidence, and if it was the first or only time it’s happened then okay, I’d chalk it up to that.
Unfortunately, it’s not.
The 6 god has built a solid history of “stealing” other artists’ ideas. From completely jacking Ramriddlz‘s tropical sex anthem “Sweeterman” to the whole Quentin Miller ghostwriting fiasco, this dash of fraudulence has been the sole storm cloud in an otherwise blue sky for Aubz. While there’s no denying that Drake is mega-talented and has written some great songs before, his best talent may be seeing the potential in a song or idea and expounding on it, molding it into an elite piece of music that can be obsessed over by the masses.
“One Dance” is the current No. 1 song in the country, and samples an older song from U.K. singer Kyla called “Do You Mind” from 2008. Though she’s listed as a feature, it’s not like she sat down in the studio with Drake and wrote it or was commissioned to do it—Drake heard it, Drake liked it, Drake used it. That’s not to say she didn’t benefit though, as I’m sure she was nicely compensated and got a solid boost to her career to boot.
While this was clearly one of the more fair trade-offs Drake has done musically, it leaves one to wonder why he wouldn’t do it take that route more often. He’s never even publicly uttered the name Ramriddlz, yet he used his original beat, song title and a handful of the same lines and cadences.
If you look at it through the lense of a regular person, it looks like he’s a raging culture vulture that people just turn a blind eye to. But if you look at it through the lense of someone in the industry, Drake is doing what his musical forefathers did before him. From Diddy to Dre, there’s a long history of bigger artists building on newer and fresher ideas that come from younger, smaller artists, and that’s not gonna change.
The music industry is a game, and an endless one at that. People want to be the first to really champion a wave, trend or idea to the masses, and that’s what this is in a nutshell. The morality of it can of course come into question, but at the same time, I just think of the old adage “don’t hate the player, hate the game.”
Consider this: the Wright brothers didn’t just make an airplane one day. They had to build upon the failed or not-as-good ideas of theirs and their peers, and develop it into something entirely their own. Nowadays you’d never see a rickety wooden plane taking off anywhere, but you do see what it inspired, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anything about the Wright brothers in any airport or on any airplane.
Of course this is all relative, but realize the position Drake is in right now. He has the money, power and pull to do just about anything, and so I mainly think he sees these artists and ideas as building blocks to create the ultimate music.
I mean, is Drake not providing the soundtrack to this generation? Like him or not, he’s had so many anthems over the years that we’ll probably remember decades from now. From yearbook quotes to tattoos and Instagram captions, Drake has given us plenty of quality songs and quotables.
What’s most ironic about this whole thing is that it’s also very likely that somewhere down the line, Drake will be one of the artists being sampled or brought back into the mainstream light once again by a guy much like himself. Music is constantly recycling artists and ideas whether they’re months apart or generations apart, which is why I think Drake is just playing the game better than everyone else. People hate to love him, and others love to hate him, but there’s no doubt he’s in 1st place.