Canadian rapper, Drake, is in hot fire. Last night, U.S. rapper, Pusha T released a diss track directed at the half-black rapper called Adidon. The content of the rap song has generated significant buzz but it’s the track’s cover art that has taken the beef from the rap gates to the town hall of the “woke” ie. the social activists.
The artwork: a controversial photo of Drake. He is in blackface and wearing a shirt that reads, “Jim Crow”. Although the photo is not new, the recent wave of social activism and “wokeness” has brought new attention and flame to the issue.
For today’s ‘gotcha’ woke crowd, it appears the rapper was caught in a compromising position, which reveals who he truly is to everyone. And Pusha agrees.
Please stop referring to this picture as “artwork”…I’m not an internet baby, I don’t edit images…this is a REAL picture…these are his truths, see for yourself https://t.co/gd6vRS3HM8 pic.twitter.com/2el58HEZ8F
— King Push (@PUSHA_T) May 30, 2018
According to FactMag, the artwork is real. It was taken from a real photo shoot Drake did with photographer David Leyes for a 2008 promotion of the clothing line, Jim Crow Couture, a Canadian fashion label of the brand Too Black Guys.
Leyes appears to have confirmed its validity as well.
And the photographer. Y’all move pic.twitter.com/au67DtZfUA
— F.L.O.W. (@flow349) May 30, 2018
Although Too Black Guys was established in 1990 with a “Fight the Power” attitude and on a deliberate mission to use sarcasm to draw attention to social issues, fans and foes say Drake has erred the Black community. Some are going to as far as to say that the rapper should be “cancelled” for putting on the blackface. To be cancelled in the Black community means to lose one’s position, power, status, and inevitably financial support from the community, one Drake inevitably heavily relies on.
I’m questioning y’all if y’all don’t “Cancel” him. pic.twitter.com/nCRhLLOBSh
— F.L.O.W. (@flow349) May 30, 2018
The History of Black Face
To understand the large public outrage surrounding Drake in blackface, it is important to know the history of the act.
According to a brief on the subject outline on BET, Blackface grew out of Minstrel shows starting in the 1830s. The act involved white actors darkening their face with shoe polish or greasepaint, painting exaggerated red lips with makeup, and acting out stereo typically dumb, foolish, or dangerous Black characters – that is the “happy darky on the plantation” or the “dandified coon”. The larger purpose of these shows were to entertain white slave owners, who were humored by acts mocking slaves and free Blacks during the 19th century.
Among minstrel show ‘pioneers’ was Thomas “Daddy” Rice, a white actor who blackened his face and danced a jig for his character Jim Crow in 1830.
From the small stage, blackface made its way from the stage to the big screen where some performers like Bert Williams, Al Jolson, and Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, who created “Amos N’ Andy” made it widely popular. These two white men also performed in “dialect” or ‘African American English’.
The height of minstrelsy took place between 1830 and 1890. When black artists were even finally allowed to perform publicly in the late 19th century, they had to wear blackface no matter their hue and reenact stereotypes of their time, although some did find ways to subvert this.
Blackface only went out of vogue during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s when Blacks fought for equal rights in the U.S. But it had already caught on around the world, featuring prominently in many Asian and European countries.
Wearing blackface is almost sacrilege. It is met with great criticism because it hearkens to a painful past of slavery, segregation – Jim Crow, and discrimination for Black people. It reinforces stereotypes about Black people that are not true.
White college students in the U.S. are especially warned not to wear it on occasions like Halloween, a past time for many.
THROWBACK TO WHEN MY VICE PRINCIPAL GOT FIRED FOR WEARING A BLACKFACE HALLOWEEN COSTUME 😂😂 pic.twitter.com/2o3cVPqvBt
— Synergy Kerza💦 (@SynKerza) January 16, 2018
Given this history, some say Drake is at fault, despite the motivations and intentions of the brand.
In a day and age where things never disappear from the internet and people are growing ever more conscious and aware of history and social issues, what can he say? Does he have an out or not?