Tirhakah Love (@GoonTherapy)
Maliah ain’t the only person Drake fell in love with while in Houston. He borrowed the entire rap kulcha–from H-town slang to purp, to choppin and screwin. Taken alone, this isn’t really news. Aubrey loves to shout out Houston and other major, largely southern, cities he’s borrowed from. As a Houstonian, it’s a little weird. I love that Drake loves my city because, duh, it’s dope. But I can’t help but think he jacked our formula for trillness and only pays us back through silly appreciation weeks that fans can’t really enjoy. It feels like Drake sent the entire city the text that Macklemore sent Kendrick Lamar after he won those Grammy’s last year; “I know I stole your shit and I feel really bad for it. I hope this text helps.”
Now the borrowing has become a business model for the artist’s self-referential label, October’s Very Own (OVO). In response to Drake’s shrewd practice, Toronto rapper and former OVO artist, Mo-G threw haymakers on Instagram yesterday. “Are y’all tellin me that Drake is the Milli Vanilli of rap in this motherf*cker” is a line for the history books ladies and gentlemen. Mo-G rips Drizzy for employing ghostwriters, jackin’ style from young labelmates, and committing the most heinous crime of the kulcha — faking the funk. Mo-G aligning with the Drake ghostwriting truthers is risky; a certain studio screamer in Philly could attest to it.
But Mo-G has a bit more credibility because of his former standing in OVO. Coupling this latest accusation of style-swiping with a recent statement by the Weeknd admitting to handing over 20 songs over to Drake just to get on means this is more of a pattern than a blip in the business model.
Drake has come under heavy scrutiny not only for liberally scrounging style but also for not giving proper credit where its due. Two years ago MediaTakeOut reported that a mystery ghostwriter from Toronto was suing for millions because the rap star did not pay her properly for contributions to his chart-topping hits. Around that time, Drizzy was sued again (this time for 300k) for shamelessly stealing jazz musician, “Jimmy Smith’s” lyrics on Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2, and then lying about getting permission. In 2015, the artist was again accused of heavily sampling D.R.A.M’s “Cha Cha” without a word to the artist. D.R.A.M. didn’t press charges but nonetheless the beat-burglar struck a chord. The day the song dropped, D.R.A.M. tweeted:
Yeah, I feel I got jacked for my record…But I’m GOOD.
— B I G B A B Y (@ONLY1DRAM) October 20, 2015
Hip-hop has a long history of creative sampling and interpolating sounds from all over the world. In some respect, Drake is just continuing a longstanding practice within the genre. The music industry has responded to the legality of creative borrowing by ensuring that creatives receive royalties for their contributions. But as the Internet explodes with new soundscapes popping up by the hour, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to create “original” content. OVO, it seems, mines their talent for the creative potential that their rap superstar incorporates into his own music. And this matters for signing future talent. R&B upstart, Bryson Tiller,told HotNewHipHop last year that he decided not to sign with OVO because it’s Drake’s brand first–meaning that artists under the label are working primarily to advance Drake’s career first. When we listen to Drake we’re invariably listening to a lot of other people as well. What happens when quiet trailblazers behind today’s popular music are fed up with not receiving the acclaim they feel is deserved?
Mo-G isn’t Meek Mill. Mo-G is an artist who signed with OVO, ensconsed in the allure of working with the Light Skin Keith Sweat and ended up working with half-black Frank Farian instead. But what Mo-G proved is that Meek Mill’s claim against Drake shouldn’t be taken lightly just because Meek was systematically destroyed after making it. Drake’s ‘honest’ music is the result of a braintrust at OVO that is adept in churning out hits. Those hits are layered with other’s work. And if his star shines so bright that Drake doesn’t feel the need to pay dues to the artist he borrows from, well that’s no longer borrowing, that’s stealing. Authenticity has been what has literally made Drake’s music. That his integrity is in question by a former protege is momentous in the trajectory of Drake’s career. When will the ‘sensitivity’ break at the seems; when will we get a glimpse of the real Drake?