Pusha T’s bars from his song “Infrared,” blasting longtime rival Drake for not writing his own rhymes, resurfaced a rap beef that has been festering for quite some time. Drake responded with his own diss track, “Duppy Freestyle,” then it was back to Push, who some are now referring to as “Pusha Tea” — because he definitely spilled all of it in a second diss, “The Story of Adidon.” Among the more flagrant jabs, Push came for Drake’s friend who has MS, mentioned how Drake’s father left he and his mother when the rapper was only five years old, called out the rumor that Drake has a child with now-retired French porn star Sophie Brussaux, and, in a move that some would say won the beef without anyone having to hear the song, dug up a photo of Drake dressed in blackface for the track’s cover image.
While many Drake stans and music lovers thought Pusha T had found an artist to create the photo, the rapper made it clear on Twitter that the photo was, in fact, real.
To help sprinkle a little water on Drake’s burns, some fans rushed to Drizzy’s aid — explaining that the photo was from a photo shoot the rapper did for a Canadian urban wear brand, Too Black Guys. Lupe Fiasco later explained (in a now-deleted tweet) that the photo Pusha used was cropped so that only the happy Drake minstrel showed and not the black and white photo of a sad Drake minstrel, in sort of a juxtaposition of what blackface performers looked like to audiences and what they felt like in real life.
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As it turns out, the photo in question is about 10 years old. The shirt was indeed a part of Too Black Guy’s “Jim Crow Couture Summer 08” collection that featured up-and-coming hip-hoppers. The brand clearly isn’t afraid to court controversy — one shirt reads: “Some of my best friends are Jewish” (with variations replacing “Jewish” with “black,” “white,” and “oriental”), while another lists the dates and locations of race riots.
Still, it turns out that the photos were not a part of the Too Black Guys Jim Crow Couture shoot at all, even though Drake’s shirt was indeed a part of the collection. Founder Adrian Aitcheson has denied those rumors in a now-deleted Instagram post where he said,
“The photo in question was not from a Too Black Guys photoshoot, however it did feature clothing from Too Black Guys’ JIM CROW COUTURE/HOUSE OF CROW collection which was released in 2008.”
That’s not to say that Too Dope Guys wanted to back away from Drake’s decision to take the blackface photos in the first place. Aitcheson added:
“The collection featured several graphics that highlighted the painful and dangerous period of the Jim Crow Era. Too Black Guys has a history of representing the black experience in an unapologetic way,” he said. “Although this was not an image from any of our photoshoots, we feel that Drake, who is a long- time friend of the brand, was brilliantly illustrating the hypocrisy of the Jim Crow Era. The subtleties of Drake, a young black man, mimicking how white men used to mimic and dehumanize black people may be lost in a rap battle but we should not be distracted from the issues that are still affecting our communities.”
Drake, too, defended his decision to pose in blackface in a recent post on his Instagram story where he explained,
“I know everyone is enjoying the circus but I want to clarify this image in question. This was not from a clothing brand shoot or my music career. This picture is from 2007, a time in my life where I was an actor and I was working on a project that was about young black actors struggling to get roles, being stereotyped and type cast. The photos represented how African Americans were once wrongfully portrayed in entertainment. Me and my best friend at the time, Mazin Elsadig, who is also an actor from Sudan, were attempting to use our voice to bring awareness to the issues we dealt with all the time as black actors at auditions. This was to highlight and raise our frustrations with not always getting a fair chance in the industry and to make a point that the struggle for black actors has not changed much.”
This all checks out. Aitcheson’s acceptance of Drake’s using his brand for the photos is a no-brainer. The designer isn’t new to the urban wear game, and is well-connected in the music world — Mary J. Blige wore one of the brand’s jerseys in her “Real Love” video, and “conscious” artists like Mos Def and Diz Gibran have also modeled for the brand.
The fact is, as far as wearable social commentary goes, Too Black Guys is actually pretty live.
Since we now know the truth, it’s up to hip-hop fans to decide if they side with Drake or Push. While this might be a distraction from other world events and might divide hip-hop fans, at least we rediscovered some fashion we didn’t realize carried such weight in the hip-hop world.