Say what you want about Drizzy’s last two projects ‘More Life’ and ‘Views’, one thing that’s undeniable is that his ear for talent extends further than his Native North American continent. Infusing dancehall is nothing new to Hip Hop, especially when it comes to artists from Canada. The massive chart success of Drake’s afrobeat inspired ‘One Dance’ was the smash single that should have opened the floodgates for an Afrobeat and other international sounds to invade the North American musical space.
Instead we’ve been blessed with an array of Afrobeat inspired singles from American artists that have been met with a generally lukewarm, at best, reception here in the states. Alicia Keys’ ‘In Common’ came and went without making the usual splash that we’ve come to expect with an Alicia single. Justine Skye’s collaboration with frequent Drake collaborator and Nigerian super producer Wiz Kid, “U Don’t Know” was an amazing record that hasn’t taken off nearly as emphatically in America as it probably should have. However, it looks as if Omarion could be the one to buck the trend of American artist’s Afrobeat inspired singles becoming duds here at home. His, still freshly released, West African Drum heavy single “Distance” is picking up steam in multiple radio markets. It remains to be seen.
As of now, however the fact still holds that while we love Drake, Americans are still pretty halting in their receptiveness to Afrobeat and other foreign sounds that the 6ix god seems to be valiantly trying to entrench into the North American musical landscape
On his latest project ‘More Life’ Drake took on the persona of a London Cockney, as he featured four British artists on his latest project. Not only was Peckham native Giggs featured on not one, but two tracks, he a manage to steal the show with his choppy and unhinged delivery on ‘KMT’. Drake also let Tottenham native Skepta have his own shine with an interlude, in which the North Londoner took full advantage of giving us two minutes of undeniable lyrical vigor.
On what will undoubtedly go down as one of the biggest, if not the biggest album of 2017, it was artists from Britain who were the standouts. Drizzy even replaced his usual Rihanna duet with another sultry crooner by the name of Jorja Smith who hails from Walsall, England on the track ‘Get It Together.’
This being said, fans on this side of the Atlantic still to be rather maladroit on how they feel about music from that side of the pond even as our most cherished star champions it. A couple weeks before More Life came out, London rapper Stormzy released, what I think will go down as the best album of 2017 from a musical standpoint with his acclaimed debut ‘Gang Signs and Prayers’ which hit number one on UK Charts, but for whatever reason is largely slumbered upon here in the states.
Drake has managed to validate us doing the most absurd things such as drunk dialing or exes to talk crazy about their new boyfriend, and wifing up women knowing they have daddy issues and all sorts of others. But when it comes to warming up to sounds from other continents, it continues to be an uphill battle.
The ironic thing is, in countries where English is a distant second language, our music is not only appreciated but honorably imitated. When I went to a nightclub in Paris a few weeks ago, I was surprised that I knew 90% of the music being played. That’s because most of the night DJs would shuffle through Drake, Kid Ink, Fetty Wap and Omarion for the bulk of each set. I can recall about 30 minutes where the music I heard was in the French language along with some Caribbean rhythms and Afrobeat mixed in.
The same could be same, but on a larger scale in Amsterdam, when I attended what is probably that city’s premier nightclub, Jimmy Woo. I don’t recall hearing any Dutch artists being played (granted I was pretty smacked) even though the country is home to some appealing artists that could burn up playlist anywhere. Artists such as Frenna, Ronnie Flexx and Rotterdam Airlines have vibes that should be able to light up the dance floor anywhere.
It’s unfortunate that the same cosmopolitan appreciation for global sounds. It’s a bit telling of our ethnocentrism as we’ve been spoiled by living the headquarters of cool. America more or less curates what’s cool when it comes to mainstream culture in this global world. But the catch to that is we continue to overlook a lot of great things that the world has to offer by only keeping our ears focused on this bubble. Drake is onto something with More Life as he looks to continue what he started on ‘Views’ in using his platform to showcase the beauty of Caribbean, European and Afro sounds that play a major role in the music scene in his native Toronto, but less so here in the states.
Eventually, Americans will have no choice but to catch on. We’re living in a global world. The same way the regional divides have all but disappeared in Hip Hop, borders, language barriers and 6 hour time differences will soon no longer matter when good music is being made. North American based blogs such as Fader and TFSLifestyle.com have long jumped on the boat with the latter offering their International Wednesday segment, which has showcased artists from Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand and more on every hump day over the past year.
It’s only a matter of time before North Americans come to realize that the world has so much more to offer musically other than what we see outside our front door.