Michael Eric Dyson criticizes the dismissal of Drake’s black identity in his rap battle with Kendrick Lamar

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In a recent interview, cultural critic and author Michael Eric Dyson expressed his frustration over how Drake’s Black identity was overlooked during his rap feud with Kendrick Lamar. The lyrical battle between these two rap titans has captivated audiences, but Dyson believes that the focus should shift from questioning Drake’s racial background to evaluating their respective lyrical abilities.

The feud: A proxy war on societal issues

Dyson’s think piece, published in The Philadelphia Citizen, characterizes the Kendrick vs. Drake feud as more than just a lyrical clash. He sees it as a proxy war that reflects broader societal tensions. While both artists engage in verbal combat, their words carry weight beyond the music industry. Dyson argues that dismissing Drake’s Black identity undermines the complexity of his cultural contributions.

Drake’s dual identity

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Drake, born Aubrey Graham, is a Toronto superstar who has been a dominant force in hip-hop for over 15 years. Despite his Jewish heritage, he is also Black. Dyson contends that labeling Drake as inauthentically Black is misguided. 

He criticizes the reactionary nativism that reduces Blackness to narrow boundaries and questions why Drake’s racial identity is challenged when other artists, like British actor Idris Elba, are celebrated regardless of their nationality.

"The astonishing and deflating speed with which Drake was tarred and feathered as inauthentically Black says less about him and more about the reactionary nativism of cults of pure identity that police the boundaries of Blackness like a rogue and racist cop," Dyson wrote in his commentary.

"In a single spurious stroke of Kendrick’s claustrophobic Blackness, Drake went from a brilliant embodiment of rap's genius to a cultural carpetbagger who must prove that he deserves to be called Black when a white supremacist culture sees him as little else."

Expanding the horizon of hip-hop

Dyson emphasizes that Drake’s impact on hip-hop extends far beyond geography or nationality. His artistic contributions have expanded the genre’s horizons. Rather than fixating on his racial identity, Dyson encourages a fairer evaluation of Drake’s lyrical genius. By doing so, we can appreciate the rhetorical diversity and splendor that Drake brings to the table.

Kendrick Lamar vs. Drake: The battle continues

While Dyson advocates for a more nuanced perspective, the Kendrick vs. Drake feud rages on. Kendrick Lamar’s diss tracks have targeted Drake’s alleged vices, street smarts, behind-the-scenes tactics, and even his interactions with teenage girls. The battle remains intense, but perhaps it’s time to appreciate both artists’ contributions without reducing them to simplistic labels.

In the ever-evolving landscape of hip-hop, let’s celebrate the richness of artistic expression. Drake’s Black identity deserves recognition alongside his undeniable talent. As fans, we can engage in spirited debates without diminishing the cultural significance of either artist. After all, hip-hop thrives on diversity, complexity, and the power of words.