Drake Continues to Explore New Genres on his Seventh Mixtape “Dark Lane Demo Tapes.” A full-length studio album is on its way, this summer. | Photo Courtesy of Republic Records.

Drake, the Genre-Hopping Superstar, Does It Again

Drake drops surprise project, “Dark Lane Demo Tapes”
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Drake drops surprise project, “Dark Lane Demo Tapes”

Nearly two years following the release of his last commercial project, “Scorpion,” Drake is back with more music than ever. Surprising fans April 30, Drake hopped on Instagram to announce his upcoming sixth studio album, set to be released this summer. He also announced a new mixtape, “Dark Lane Demo Tapes,” that dropped hours after.

Ashton Pomrehn is a Humboldt State University alumnus from the psychology department. His thoughts on Drake have dramatically changed over the course of Drake’s decade and a half long career.

“I love Drake,” Pomrehn said. “I tried to hate on Drake early in his career but he’s put so much good music out that I’m excited for anything he puts out.”

Kathleen Madrid is an environmental resources engineering major at HSU. She’s not the biggest Drake fan but she is heavily invested in the hip-hop genre and enjoys watching it evolve.

“I will say that I think he has been really influential,” Madrid said. “Drake really brought a different topic of discussion to hip-hop. Males are not traditionally encouraged to express their feelings and I think Drake gave young men that voice.”

Despite his undeniable contribution to the industry, Drake has received heavy criticism in the past over cultural appropriation of different regions’ music, beginning with his 2016 single “One Dance.” Despite featuring one the genre’s prominent artists, WizKid, Drake’s 10-minutes with afrobeats were seen by fans of the genre as a Hollywood actor taking the Broadway stage. The song was also a blend of Jamaican dancehall music – a style that Drake sprinkled throughout “Views” and his “More Life” playlist, without ever featuring an artist from the genre. Drake continued to catch flack for appropriation of UK Grime on “More Life,” however, the project features several guests from across the pond.

“There is a fine line between appropriation and appreciation. Paying homage or showing love may be necessary, but I think it’s more important to educate yourself before you participate in another culture’s genre.”

Kathleen Madrid

Drake set the tone for a possible new release in late Dec. 2019, with the track, “War,” taking the sound of the United Kingdom’s take on drill music and running with it. Similarly, on the song “Demons,” Drake hops on a New York drill beat, this time providing guest spots for the artists that popularized the genre. However, the missing presence of the recently-deceased leader of the movement, Pop Smoke, is heavily felt on the track.

Madrid acknowledges that Drake is in a tough position, but it’s ultimately his own decisions that repeatedly put him there.

“Cultural appropriation is a muddy concept,” Madrid said. “There is a fine line between appropriation and appreciation. Paying homage or showing love may be necessary, but I think it’s more important to educate yourself before you participate in another culture’s genre.”

In this new release, Drake pays his respects to some of the most prominent cities in modern hip-hop on “Dark Lane Demo Tapes,” with tracks like “From Florida With Love” and “Chicago Freestyle.” The later track was originally paired with the song “When To Say When” and released on Leap Day earlier this year as a music video. “When To Say When” samples one of Jay-Z’s most-famous tracks, “Song Cry,” and some of the footage from the video was shot outside the Marcy Projects where Jay-Z grew up.

Despite mixtapes almost always receiving significantly less care and budget than studio albums, when it comes to top-tier artists like Drake, fans still expect top-tier material. With features from Future, Young Thug and Chris Brown on the track list, fans will be let down to find out Young Thug only receives half a placement on the chorus of “D4L.” Chris Brown only provides a handful of background vocals on “Not You Too” and of Future’s two verses on the project, his better performance is significantly shorter. Despite consistently creating a dominant presence on songs where he is featured as the guest, including “Life Is Good,” “No Guidance” and “Going Bad,” Drake has proven unwilling to provide artists with a fraction of space on his own records.

With an entire album on the horizon, a number one record with “Toosie Slide” and a classic track with “Losses,” Drake fans have nothing to complain about – drill fans, however, are a whole other story.

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