Multi-platinum selling artist Drake is undoubtedly a shrewd businessman. He has mastered the art of finding young artists and helping them explode, in turn creating a long-lasting relationship with tomorrow’s biggest stars. But is there a negative aspect to this? Let’s look into this a little further.
Some of the world’s biggest rappers owe their careers to Drake. In 2011, Drake posted unknown artist A$ap Rocky’s “Purple Swag” video on his blog, significantly raising his exposure. “That pretty mothafucka” is extremely grateful, saying that he owes Drake “forever” for this. This is far from the only time that Drake has done a move of this kind. It is clearly a calculated strategy.
Although Migos’ “Versace” had already blown up, Drake jumped on the remix and created even more hype around the 3 young ATLiens. Grime artist Skepta has been popular for around a decade, some might even say that he’s a legend, but this popularity didn’t really spill out to the other side of the Atlantic. By posting a link to Skepta’s hit single “Shutdown” on his Instagram page, Drake opened up Skepta and grime music to a much larger audience. His love for the Tottenham native didn’t stop here – he went as far as getting Skepta’s crew (BBK) tatted on him. Skepta payed back the favor by getting a tattoo of the famous OVO owl. It was also a clear sign that the two formed a great relationship when Drake brought him out to perform “Shutdown” at last year’s Wireless Festival. Bromance.
Drake also boosted Future’s rise to becoming one of hip hop’s biggest artists when he jumped on a remix of “Tony Montana”. It’s clear to see that this cemented a long-term relationship that benefited both artists equally. The two released a collaborative mix-tape last year which was generally well received. Drake’s flow was heavily influenced by Future – some might even say he was jacking his swag.
Drake sort of has a reputation for jumping on trends while they’re hot.
If you haven’t heard of “Cha Cha” by now, chances are you’re living under a rock. It’s like someone telling me they haven’t watched Home Alone. Then I automatically know their childhood sucked. But back to the point. The viral hit “Cha Cha” by newcomer D.R.A.M was released in March – but it took around 9 months for it to blow up thanks to a co-sign by none other than Queen Bey. All it took was her dancing to the song and posting a video of that on Instagram, quoting : “This song makes me happy!”. Drake was seen dancing to the tune just 10 days later at Club Shay in Chi-Town. Just 2 months after Cha Cha went viral, Drake released “Hotline Bling”, which would become number 3 on the Billboard top 100, charting for 52 weeks (52!).
The two songs were so similar that Apple’s Beats 1 called it “Cha Cha remix” on the day it was released. And this was during OVO Sound Radio, which you probably know is Drake’s label. I would imagine that somebody working for OVO provided “Hotline Bling” to Beats 1, while still being called “Cha Cha” remix. Why the change of name to “Hotline Bling”? I’m not gonna get into the financial numbers, but money talks. You know where I’m going with this. Drake’s version of “Cha Cha” nearly reached number 1 on the Top 100 billboard.
At first, D.R.A.M seemed to take it pretty well. On the 30th of September 2015, he said: ““For it to not even have been a year? It’s very flattering. Know what I’m saying. He’s the first powerhouse to be heavily influenced by the VA wave that was influenced by myself and Gabe [Niles]. And like, it’s pretty much just a stamp that what we’re going is something real here. Ya know, we’re going to continue on. I dont think he is going to be the only that will be heavily influenced by our wave and sound. I just think he was the first. And ya know, over here we’re embracing it.”
I mean, when you’re new to the game, a Drake co-sign can be nothing but beneficial. I know what you’re thinking; it’s Hip-Hop, and everyone draws inspiration from other artists. I’m with you on that. What seems really disrespectful to me though is that Drake never even credited D.R.A.M for the song. To package the track as a single of his own when he originally released it as “Cha Cha remix” is just playing the game in a really sneaky, traitorous way. Less than month later, D.R.A.M tweeted, “Yeah, I feel I got jacked for my record…But I’m GOOD.”
In his Fader interview from this past September, Drake even admitted to being “inspired” by hot tracks and making them his own. He said: “It’s just, literally, I’ve recognized the potential and greatness in this piece, and I want to take my stab at it too,” “I’ll hear people’s stuff…and I’ll just give my interpretation of how I would have done it.” Straight jacking or inspiration? It’s hard to tell. Though both tracks use a different sample, there’s no denying that they sound very similar and the timing of Hotline Bling’s release is suspect too. On top of everything, the fact that it was released on OVO sound radio with the title “Cha Cha remix” is a major red flag that this was more jacking than inspiration. But I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
But that’s not all. Even the “Hotline Bling” video was called out for swag jacking by Sauce Walka, member of the Houston duo the Sauce Twinz. He claimed that Drake was copying the “drip” style with his dance moves in the video.
All things considered, did Drake really do anything when it comes to this track? He remixed D.R.A.M’s track (well, his producer did), and though this can’t be verified, there’s a good chance that it was ghostwritten for him. Of course, it takes more than that to create a single with as much success. Drake has proven time again that his formula works, but you still have to question his work ethic.
You also have the issue of “Too Good”, a track off Views From The 6. Keayana Cole sent Drake’s father a snippet of one of her tracks, and next thing you know, Drake uses it on one of the most popular tracks of his new album without even given any credit to her.
Views from the 6 or Thievin in the 6? Should I keep going? Yeah? Ok.
What about the time Drake stole 4 Tay’s lyrics on YG’s “Who Do You Love”?
4 Tay tweeted: “New Song w/ @YG Feat @Drake In This Song Drake Copys My Lyrics & Lines From My PlayazClub Song & Pays No Homage! ??? “
According to 4 Tay’s manager, their team and Drake’s label agreed to settle this issue out of court, with OVO paying 4 Tay 100,000$ for straight jacking his lyrics. Winning.
While Drake undeniably helps newer artists come up in the scene, as well as already established artists, in the case of Skepta, his work ethic is still highly questionable. Today it seems like his formula is just finding any trend to jump on, often without even crediting the original artist. Glory hog.