Yes, Drake Makes Pop Music. He Also Makes Hip-Hop… And That’s OK | Features | Clash Magazine Music News, Reviews & Interviews

Is Drake hip-hop? That’s the question which social media is busy tearing itself apart over. The Canadian artist is one of the biggest on the planet, someone with more gold discs that he has walls to put them on. Yet his credibility has always been called into question by the haters, right from his earliest projects – a willingness to be open, to utilise softer, melodic flows… an acceptance of ‘pop’.

The latest artist to take a pop at Drake isn’t some anonymous internet troll, however – it’s Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def. Arguably the definitive conscious rapper, a pivotal influence on Kendrick Lamar, his catalogue is almost without peer, helping to rapidly expand the definition of rap music while remaining true to hip-hop culture.

Sitting down with fashion platform The Cutting Room Floor, Yasiin Bey was asked if Drake was hip-hop… and immediately seemed to grasp the swarm that was approaching.

“Why you doing this to me?” he said hesitantly. “Drake is pop to me, in the sense like, if I was in Target in Houston and I heard a Drake song… it feels like a lot of his music is compatible with shopping. Or shopping with an edge in certain instances… It’s likeable.”

“What happens when this thing collapses?” he added. “What happens when the columns start buckling? Are we not in some early stage of that, at this present hour? Are we seeing the collapse of the empire? Buying and selling, where’s the message that I can use? What’s in it for your audience apart from banging the pom-poms?”

The response has triggered an avalanche of hot takes online. The debate places two artists against one another, two people who represent vastly different facets of music. Drake is the quintessential 21st century brand manager, someone who has grasped social media and the streaming era as a canvas to be worked on. Yasiin Bey’s work as Mos Def utilises music as a platform for protest.

Yasiin Bey’s comments are certainly not charitable. Ironically, he actually took Drake out on tour over a decade ago, and previously incorporated ‘Hotline Bling’ into a live show – “it’s likeable” perhaps understates things a little.

His second comments – “are we seeing the collapse of the empire?” – may be aimed at Drake, but it feels more reticent of a cultural figure who is tired of late stage capitalism, and can clearly seen the support structures underneath failing. American could well put Donald Trump back into the White House at the next election – the country, and the Neo-liberal capitalist systems it perpetuates, are not in a good place.

But perhaps that’s overthinking it. Ultimately, Drake can be both pop, and hip-hop. He can make hip-hop that sits in a pop sphere, and utilise his skills as a rapper to dominate pop music. Yasiin Bey can’t discount the facets of hip-hop Drake represents – even ‘Rappers Delight’ was a pop song, and the culture has always had an in-built role to entertain.

Equally, Drake’s latest album – ‘For All The Dogs’ – is a return to pure rap, a reminder that when he wants to, the Toronto figure can out-rap most of his peers.

The row has spread to all corners of the internet. Art-rap figure Open Mike Eagle tweeted: “drake makes pop rap. a quarter of his catalog is pop songs he made on purpose. I do not understand how this is a controversial statement.”

UK producer Trevor Jackson pointed to the enormous growth of hip-hop in the 21st century, and its current ubiquity as the international language of choice for young people. “99.9% of mainstream commercial Rap music IS Pop Music, not a diss, a fact and certainly not worth arguing about.”

Drake makes hip-hop. He also makes pop music. Why can’t he do both? As Jay Z once put it: “No one wins when the family argues”.

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