On a personal level, it seems like Aubrey Drake Graham is not an academics guy. On "Crew Love", his 2011 hit single with fellow Torontonian The Weeknd, Drake rapped with slick confidence, "Seeing my family have it all took the place of that desire for diplomas on the wall." At the same time, on "Make Me Proud," Drake describes a love interest who "Sounds so smart, like [she] graduated college." (Clearly, Drake could benefit from some creative writing lessons.)
Little did Drake know—almost six years after the release of the album that contained both aforementioned tracks—he would be the subject of a PHD study by Amara Pope, a 22-year-old student from the University of Western Ontario.
Pope (who completely blew through her media studies undergrad and masters degree by skipping summer breaks to go to school instead) told VICE Monday that her research on Drake is one of three case studies that are planned for her thesis project, which is looking at artists reflect their cultural, religious, and ethnic identities through music videos. (Pope said the other two artists are likely going to be Rihanna and Jay-Z)
Pope has based her thesis around three of Drake's music videos: "HYFR," "Started From the Bottom," and "Worst Behaviour," which she says put different aspects of Drake's identity as an international artist on display.
For example, in "HYFR", Drake shows off his Jewish heritage by basing the video at a Bar Mitzvah, and in Worst Behaviour, the Drizz shows off his Memphis roots and brings his American dad in as a focus of the video. Pope says that, through his videos, Drake has constructed a public identity of being a biracial, Jewish rapper, unrestrained by borders or background.
"He's such a versatile artist, he can really fit into any slot you peg him to," Pope said. "In 'Started From the Bottom,' he shouts of Shoppers [Drug Mart] and has the Toronto skyline on display. At the same time, he's built himself as the biggest artist in America. Almost nobody has done that."
When asked why Pope isn't focusing on the post-2013 part of Drake's career (the time in which he began calling Toronto "the 6" religiously and made the city a core part of his identity), Pope told VICE that she wants to "focus on the part of his career that catapulted him to success." Pope says that his early videos speak more to the establishment of his identity, and less to the brand that he's cultivated since.
As somebody who has also had a major media run-in with Drake, I asked Pope if she had met him yet (she hasn't), and if she plans to do anything in case she gets the chance to talk to him.
"I would love if he sees it and we get some sort of interaction," she said. "That would be amazing…I don't know how I'd react."
Drake, if you're reading this, it's not too late: Pope told me her favourite song is "One Dance" because of its roots in soca and dancehall. Make sure it's playing inside that Uber helicopter you send to her crib.
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Lead image by author.