It’s no surprise that some artists can be inspired or influenced by someone else’s work. If people weren’t inspired by someone else, creation would cease to exist at this point. Sometimes however, artists can take it too far and become an abuser of people’s culture. In the 21st century, the official label is to call someone a culture vulture. Those who have been given the label are kind of like the bird the term takes its name from. They don’t really work hard or try to come up with ideas of their own. Instead they look for people who are doing the work and may not have as much recognition to try and make it theirs without contributing anything to the culture. Subsequently, moving on to another culture once the popularity of the one they’ve been riding dies down.
U.K. grime artist, Wiley accused the king of the beige boys, Drake, of being a culture vulture. Usually, Drake does not respond to these allegations but while promoting his “Assassination Vacation” tour in the U.K. in early Apr. 2019, Drake stopped by “1Xtra Rap Show,” hosted by Tiffany Calvar on BBC Radio to clear his name. A clearly disheartened Drake says, “I hate that people think that, like, me being into music from these kids who are trying to make it and trying to build a name for themselves, it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s some culture vulture.’ What does that even mean?” Drake said of the label. “I don’t understand what that means. Would you rather me not acknowledge anything or support? That’s some real confused hater shit. It is what it is. I see it a lot. I’ll never understand how supporting someone’s song or going a step further and giving someone a song, linking up, I’ll never understand how that’s not viewed as something admirable.” It’s apparent that he doesn’t like the label but to be honest, it’s easy to see how people could deduce that Drake is indeed a culture vulture.
Starting from “So Far Gone” which was released in 2009, it was clear that Drake was drawing heavily from a bunch of different artists who had an impact on him. As time progressed and he grew in popularity Drake seems to have changed his style with each project he dropped. His 2015 mixtape “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” seemed to be the beginning of him adapting a different region on every project. This particular collection reflects the style of Toronto and was the beginning of him calling himself the “6 God.” After that, he released 2016’s “Views” which continued the theme of Toronto influence, especially the Caribbean feel the city has. 2017, spawned the mixtape “More Life” that contained a heavy U.K. grime rap influence. Drake littered this project with features from prominent grime artists like Giggs and Skepta. Finally in 2018, Drake dropped is double-disc album “Scorpion” which was a blend between the U.S. dominated trap rap, on Side A and Louisiana inspired R&B Side B.
Drake has also hopped on a number of cuts with up and coming artists who seem to peak once they get a verse from the beige king. Most notably, BlocBoy JB -inventor of the shoot dance- has not had a hit since the 2018 single “Look Alive” that featured Drake. Most recently, Drake joined Bad Bunny on the latin hit “MIA” which included Drake singing in Spanish. It just never seems like Drake can win. It has to be because of his outrageous adaptation of a different accent on every new project.
Anyways, to call Drake a complete culture vulture would be only a bit of a stretch and here’s why. Culture Vulture’s are seen as the lowest of lows, especially in the hip-hop community. They get no respect and are generally swiftly removed from any sort of prominence before they get too deeply entrenched. Though he totes the line, Drake seems to garner support no matter what happens. The people who believe he is a vulture do have strong case though. Drake completely ripping off DRAM’s “Cha Cha” samples to make “Hotline Bling” -his biggest commercial hit to date- was entirely fucked up. Hopping on Migos “Versace” remix when they were up and coming showed that Drake is chasing what he believes to be hot, hoping to get ahead of the curve. Drake seems to always hit a specific region of music, take the style and make it into a worldwide success. Whether he knows it or not, releasing music before some of the people who actually created and are pioneers of these trends, affectively cuts them off from a potentially bigger pay day. After Drake touches a track it’s hard follow it up and make it any types of successful. Whereas, without such a big name permeating the space the chances of being successful are greater, though still incredibly difficult.
It’s a fine line with Drake. Where sometimes a cosign might be a great thing to help people garner that initial success, the aftermath of a Drake collab can leave people with only a fraction of the fame or monetary benefits they may actually deserve. Drake could trouble shoot all of this by signing the best musicians from each of those cultures that he loves and ensuring their success. But then again, some of Drake’s OVO signee’s haven’t seen much success after a single with him. To call Drake a down right culture vulture would be inaccurate because he does spread the love to those who make the music. But, to say Drake has nothing to do with jumping on a single and leaving his collaborators high and dry would be inaccurate as well. Drake clearly plays the middle ground on this subject so more time and more projects will have to pass to determine where he truly lies.