Music

Drake’s ‘War’ Is Being Compared To Skepta And British Drill Fans Aren’t Having It

On Drake’s new song “War,” the Canadian rapper adopts a yet another new flow and drops plenty of British slang, prompting American hip-hop fans to declare grime rapper Skepta the latest victim of Drake’s perceived “culture vulture” tendencies. There’s just one problem: “War” is actually presented in the style of UK drill, not grime, and UK fans are standing up to defend their homegrown star — and ridicule Americans for once again missing cultural differences that are obvious to natives but a mystery to folks who can barely identify most of the states in their own country.

Drake has always dipped into subcultures for inspiration, but the UK scene has a specific resonance with his Canadian roots. Both American hip-hop and British grime descend from Jamaican dancehall, and all three countries (the US, Britain, and Canada) have sizable Jamaican expatriate populations. Hip-hop, though, built on Black American musical traditions like jazz, funk, R&B, and soul, while grime developed from electronic music styles like garage and jungle. They’re similar but unique. UK drill built on grime’s foundation with more violent, gang-oriented lyrics and slower cadences, adding melody where grime generally uses punchier, faster flows.

That Drake is pretty well-versed in the differences should come as no surprise. He was one of the proponents of grime Stateside during its late decade resurgence (along with ASAP Rocky), collaborating with Skepta and spending plenty of time in the UK and even buying the rights to British crime drama Top Boy, which stars grime rappers like Kano, Dave, and Ashley Walters (aka Asher D) and has a killer soundtrack full of grime and drill stars. Canada is something of a bridge between the cultures thanks to its Jamaican immigrant population, making Drake uniquely positioned to be a cultural importer for the UK’s unique rap styles.

However, it’ll probably take a bit more exposure to get Americans to recognize the differences on a mainstream level — especially since grime is only just beginning to receive mainstream recognition in the UK, while drill is still considered something of an outlaw genre, policed similarly to the way trap rappers are in the US — but with way less radio play. Drake’s probably used to the criticisms by now; he just keeps plugging away, introducing “new” styles to American audiences — hopefully, his efforts will open the door so that names like Digga D, K Trap, and Headie One can flourish on both sides of the pond.

Check out “War” here.

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