By Ashwini Mantrala
Every Oct. 24, hearts gather around the world to give respect to none other than Aubrey Graham, our prince hailing from Toronto, Memphis, The Bay Area, Houston, Atlanta, Miami, London, Jamaica, Nigeria and wherever else he wants to claim at the moment. The man’s birthday will undoubtedly be a national holiday in all these areas in the coming future, and he has already celebrated in a Drakey way with a Re-Bar Mitzvah (get it because he’s 31 and that’s 13 inverted). However, Drake has been relatively silent since the “More Life” run. And, as many like to point out, his streak on the Billboard 100 chart since “Best I Ever Had” in 2008 has come to an end. While the wasteman haters see this as a sign of decline, we at KCOU see it the way Drake does: A calculated move to prepare him for the next phase of his career. In each previous phase, Drake has hopped on and redefined a regionally situated wave of some kind. The previous one saw him tackle Dancehall and Afropop music, bringing both into the mainstream. Up next, I’m convinced Drake will take on the music of South Asia in full force. It may seem to be mere speculation, but the cultural climate in America, as well as Drake’s own subtle hints, gives me the utmost confidence in this claim.
The Cultural Climate: Brown People are Poppin’ Out Here
Drake picked the right time to jump on this new wave. It’s safe to say that South Asians are poppin’ out here in the West right now, especially considering media representation. The success of Aziz Ansari’s Netflix Show “Master of None” can attest to this. Kumail Nanjiani, along with his role on “Silicon Valley,” recently co-wrote and starred in the critically acclaimed film “The Big Sick.” Riz Ahmed is also winning Emmys while also making hip-hop music as a part of Swet Shop Boys. Hassan Minaj is doing his thing on “The Daily Show,” as well. These examples appear to be part of a renaissance of brown excellence, but Mindy Kaling, Dev Patel and Priyanka Chopra have been grinding for a while now. South Asians are beginning to control their cultural narrative, and it’s the perfect opportunity for Drake to fuck it all up.
Even in everyday life, no diverse friend group is truly complete without someone of South Asian descent. Drake’s OVO label and affiliates embody this notion completely. Toronto is well documented as the true melting pot of the west, with Somalis and Jamaicans sharing culture with Arabs and South Asians, specifically Punjabis. Brampton, one of the 6’s largest suburbs, clocks in at 38.4% Indian/Pakistani (200,000+ Desis). And they all love Champagne Papi, the ethnically ambigious-as-a-Fast-and-Furious-star god of the city. Punjabis even opened shows for Drake at Ryerson Univeristy. With all that said, The Western world is definitely ready for this new Drake
Process / Hints
The blueprint for Drake’s globalist music agenda has been laid right in front of us from the jump. Dude’s been dropping culture vulture easter eggs and teasers like he’s in a bizarro Avengers movie for years (side note, petition for “Ice Age 6: Young Money Edition” starts here). Let’s drop back to “Nothing Was The Same,” specifically the oh-so-unnecessary outro to “From Time.” Here, we find…
“Been Baka aka Not Nice from time, G
Been a East Side ting
Scarborough ting from time, G
Been have up di ting dem from time, G
So I don’t know what’s wrong with these
Little wasteman out here eh?Y’all need to know yourself.”
Triple whammy. Not only is this the first appearance of Baka Not Nice, aka Drake’s proxy claim for gangster legitimacy (see: Two Birds, One Stone), this also introduces “Know Yourself “into every 2015 hypebeast’s lexicon. More importantly, though, Baka’s outro sets the scene for Shabba Ranks Drizzy, arguably the largest and most egregious of Drake’s bipolar-ass cultural identity. I can trace specific elements back to this 2013 moment: Drake’s Popcaan patois-ing all over the mixtape “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” the “riddim”-biting “Cha Cha” from DRAM and the transformation of “Views” into a transatlantic gumbo of accents and slang. The “6 God’s” current obsessions with Atlanta (Waka’s “Round of Applause,” Versace remix), Nigeria (“Ojuelegba” remix), and the U.K. (TRUSS MI, there’s an adoration/possible sexual interest for Skepta) can all be mapped with similar markers.
South Asia is no exception. While it’s easy to point to the laughable “Habibi’s ting” as his first move into the Muslim diaspora, it’s really been plotted long before that. Jai Paul, the brown Frank Ocean, had his “BTSTU” jacked by Aubrey for the lackluster “Dreams Money Can Buy” (“I want women to cry and pour their heart out for me?!” Who says this shit?!). Drake ingests more hookah than the Nawab of Oudh (the word hookah itself deriving from Hindustani). And of course, the problematic smoking gun, “Slumdog Millionaire, Bollywood flow.”
Slumdog isn’t a Bollywood movie.
Fuck you, bruv.
While dropping these hints, Drake has mos def been testing the waters indirectly. This is currently the only explanation for why NAV has been allowed to have a music career. Within the year, music publications have released tirade after tirade about NAV’s blandness, his uninspired delivery and the problematic nature of his existence. But this seems to be the way for the Toronto scene to test out a South Asian artist without too much risk to their more prominent acts. It is a diversion that gives an artist like Drake more time to make his move. Up until now, NAV has done a number of features, a solo mixtape and a project with Metro Boomin. So although he has not been well-received nor is his sound influenced by South Asian music in any way, NAV has penetrated the music scene sufficiently enough to allow someone like Drake to fully exploit the South Asian wave. He is literally a plant, and the music industry has already taken the bait.
However, with the mass success of the Indo/Pak dynamic duo Swet Shop Boys, one can almost hear Wheelchair Jimmy’s biting chops warming up (possibly whilst preparing a nice mutton biryani). Riz and Heems have made it cool again for brown kids everywhere to rep their moms’ old Asha Bhosle albums, with the six and the surrounding area almost certainly coming with it. Here comes Drake on the “Aaja” remix, talking about a fair skinned laadki who broke into his heart like a paani puri, name checking MS Dhoni and Imran Khan to his heart’s content
In his pursuit, Drake has many other logistics to consider before making his move, namely how to execute this transition efficiently. One aspect of this is the language and slang. In the past when Drake moved into the dancehall lane, he released the short film “Jungle.” In it, Drake can be heard speaking in Jamaican Patois while uttering phrases like “Link up Daddy,” and “You dun know.” In his subsequent lyrics, he adopts words like “ting,” “gyal,” “blem,” and “wasteman.” For his South Indian phase, Drake has probably amassed a large list of terms he can bastardize. He doesn’t need to go too far; it could be as simple as calling his homies “yaar” instead of “woes.” It is still questionable whether he can respectfully imitate the accent or not.
The look is also an important element of any transition. While Drake’s clothing style changes have always been subtle, nothing is necessarily stopping him from accenting his look with traditional South Asian-influenced pieces. First up is to immediately incorporate lungis, or kilts for brown folks, into the wardrobe. A little paan stuffed in his upper lip to appeal to the common folk, and a healthy adoption of sandals (though he best not wear ’em in his mom’s crib or someone bout to get smacked up). Drake has also been growing his hair out and may also opt to further enlarge his beard or abandon that for a moustache or clean shaven look. The possibilities here are practically endless.
So now that we know this switch up is inevitable, do not be surprised if the following happens:
- NAV “disappears”
- Drake posts an Instagram video/pic with Riz Ahmed, Hassan Minhaj and Aziz
- Drake gets on a Swet Shop Boys track or does a remix
- He collaborates with Zayn Malik
- Drake vacations to Tamil Nadu
- He takes up cricket and/or attends cricket matches like it’s just what you do.
- He develops a classic desi head nod
From there, Drake can just drop his first official single, move into his album cycle, and let the music tell the rest of the story. And he may fuck up and incorporate Middle Eastern cultural elements in this as well. All y’all have been warned about this, so when it happens, save your outrage for a more worthy cause.
Edited by Elena Cruz and Owen Brock