2016 will go down as one of the most interesting years for the music world and on a broader scale for pop culture. We're only about halfway into the year and we've seen the 2016 U.S. election turn into a reality show, Kanye
are still beefing (it's more like chicken or any other more tender meat but let's keep it moving folks), and Beyonce's Lemonade
has replaced tea as the beverage to sip on for when things get too real. Overall, it's been a really memorable year. However, the most interesting aspect to me this year has been the direct emulation (and dare I say appropriation) of signature sounds. Copycats, clones, and sometimes just being inspired by another artist or artistic movement is nothing new, but 2016 has shown us that sometimes the boundaries of inspiration can become blurry. To delve deeper into this topic, let's take a look at two of the year's biggest songs, I'm talking about Desiigner's
"Panda" and Drake's
current dancehall inspired wave.
Now, there's no denying that Desiigner's Panda is a true smash hit. I know I sound like a cliched hipster when I say this, but I've known about Panda since the first week of January 2016, and when I first heard the song I initially thought that it was a Future
song. Once I was told that it wasn't Future on the song, but that it was a Brooklyn MC by the name of Desiigner, the question of authenticity entered my mind. Just to verify that Im not crazy, when Kanye's The Life of Pablo
dropped in February, there was an abundant amount of people (Atlanta personality (DJ Holiday included) that immediately confused Desiigner with Future. This isn't the first time we've seen one rapper jack another rapper's flow (and sometimes overall style). We've seen this before with Shyne
, Kanye and more jacking Big Sean's
"hashtag rap" style, and pretty much the entirety of the hip-hop industry jacking Migos'
"Versace" triplet based flow.
So, with jacking being a common practice throughout hip-hop's 40 plus years of existence, where does Desiigner sit within all of this? The current era of hip-hop is an intriguing era in which MCs seemingly have more freedom than ever to do what they want. In terms of the top dogs, its interesting to see a myriad of influences for artists that have come to fruition during this internet generation. J Cole followed in the footsteps of rapper/producers and made his own lane, Kendrick Lamar followed in the footsteps of technical "lyrical miracle" rappers and made it his own, and then vets such as Kanye are still able to make interesting music that people dissect and discuss. With such an abundance of individuality within the top of the game, its worth noting that most aspiring rappers such as Desiigner start their careers through Soundcloud. This may be a stretch to say, but a significant amount of Soundcloud rappers are emulating contemporary styles to gain traction. Since Designer started out as a Soundcloud rapper its no surprise that he, just like many other aspiring rappers, used Future's flow. Its also not surprising the "Panda" producer Menace is directly inspired by Atlanta producers Metro Boomin
, 808 Mafia
and Mike Will
Ultimately, Desiigner's "Panda" is a blatant yet brilliant swag jack. This isn't meant to be a diss towards Desiigner because hes a talented performer and has the potential (and now the resources) to become a truly incredible artist. Don't believe that "Panda" is a Future swag jack? Before you read on, check out Jermaine Dupri
putting together Futures "Commas" and Desiigners "Panda":
Well, now that we know Desiigner swag jacked Future, its time to analyze Drake as he picks Dancehall as his latest wave to ride. With Drake, it's not as easy to say that hes jacking since his latest batch of hits is inspired by an entire genre instead of one specific artist. Hip-hop as a genre is born directly from Caribbean music since DJ Kool Herc
invited the genre and was born in Kingston, Jamaica. With this direct lineage to the Caribbean, it only makes sense that the influence would still be alive, even four decades later. However, up until this point, weve mostly seen songs from Caribbean artists sampled within hip-hop tunes. We've seen this happen everywhere in hip-hop from Jay Z's "Lucifer" to Kanye's latest PR nightmare "Famous". There's no dismissing the direct link between the islands and the stateside genre known as hip-hop. However, Drake is the biggest rapper (and overall one of the biggest artists) in 2016 and it's no secret that hes been getting inspired by dancehall music.
On 2010's "Find Your Love" we first publicly discovered Drake's infatuation with Caribbean culture. Since then, Drake has gone on to have Popcaan
unofficially narrate his 2015 "mixtape" If You're Reading This It's Too Late
and we've always heard Drake take multiple (failed) attempts at Jamaican patois. However, in 2016 weve seen the Toronto native feature on Rihanna's
chart-topper "Work" and gain a chart-topper of his own with "One Dance". Throughout Drake's usage of dancehall vibes, we haven't really seen any of his influences receive any attention. Mr Vegas
(a pivotal dancehall artist that has furthered its popularity) recently called out Drake
and asked, "Does the real Drake really love dancehall or is he just fake and because dancehall is right now the hottest genre, he use 40 or 50 percent dancehall on his album because he realizes that this is the hot thing right now?" Valid question indeed, Mr Vegas. This isn't the first time Drake has blatantly used a style to further his popularity. Most recently on his current top 20 hit "Controlla", Drake removed Popcaan in favor of having a Beanie Man
sample at the very end. While the sample is surely a nod to one of dancehalls greats, it's not the same kind of recognition that comes with having a featured artist. Only music nerds such as myself are actually interested in the samples Drake uses. The general public, for the most part would pay more attention to a featured artist on a top 20 song than the obscure sample it uses for its outro that probably doesnt receive much play on the radio. All of this leads me to ask, is Drake attempting to promote the culture or himself?