As an avid listener of Jian Ghomeshi's Q I was excited to hear his interview with Toronto's Hip Hop impresario Drake. Drake’s interview showed an intelligent and articulate performer, who truly seemed down to earth. However, as engaging and enjoyable as the Drake interview was, I was struck by some hypocrisy.
Q has on various occasions examined the offensive language in hip hop and pop culture (recently in Q in the Summer's interview they questioned the offensive nature of Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines). Yet, hometown hero Drake seems to have escaped any analysis of his own misogynistic language and his controversial use of the N-Word. In fact the only time the word "ho" was mentioned resulted in what Drake seemed to think was a funny moment: "Oh, you didn't tell me we could use the word Ho". He seemed to pride himself on not being seen as a "gangsta" but, for example, when I hear his use of the N-Word on tracks like Tuscan Leather (or just about any other song) it comes across as a crutch and prompts me to see him as a wannabe gangster. The articulate Drake that was interviewed seems to conflate with the Drake we hear on his records. It leads me to ponder which Drake is the authentic Drake. Of course, people will leap to Drake’s defense stating that his misogynistic rants are merely the lyrical meanderings of a “naive young man”, but despite that he uses the insulting vernacular regularly. What he uses with even more regularity is the vernacular "nigga". And, yes, I understand that as a white man I am not suppose to enter into this debate. But suffice to say I agree with More or Les in saying that word does nothing to elevate black culture. Of course, this is still a heated debate in hip hop culture but one that I would have liked to have seen Jian question. With that said, I can only assume that Drake's status as friend of Kanye & Jay Z allowed him to slip through this interview without a word about the framing of women and black culture in his music.
I am a legitimate fan of Hip Hop (particularly Canadian Hip Hop) but have never understood (other than production) what makes Drake a critical darling. To me his sounds often seem saturated in wet production (auto-tuned) and seem terribly unoriginal. I think this might explain why he (seemingly to his amazement) lost the 2011 Juno for best Rap album to the far-superior TSOL by Shad. However, the unfortunate reality is that the industry seems to leave literate rap artists (like the aforementioned Shad and fellow 2011 nominee Eternia), who do not placate to misogynistic and offensive motifs in the margins. My hope is that over the next few months we will hear Shad, More or Les or even Eternia on Q. Perhaps then we can discuss the marginalization of women in the industry and why it is that we allow stars like Drake to follow the same insulting conventions as their American "counterparts"...and find fame doing so.
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