Rap

Marc Lamont Hill’s “Hate” for Drake: A Respectful Response

Marc Lamont Hill

Although I have the greatest respect for Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, Columbia University professor, published scholar, and Fox News contributor, I have to respond to his most recent article, “I Hate Drake. There. I Said It” (http://www.theloop21.com/society/i-hate-drake-there-i-said-it). I am such a fan of Dr. Hill. I have read his academic publications, follow his writings on his website (www.marclamonthill.com), have permanently linked his website on my blog, and I follow him on Facebook and Twitter. I posit that Dr. Hill is one the brightest minds and great public intellectuals of our time. Having said all of this, I am quite unsettled and unnerved by his comment that he “hates” Drake. The purpose of this article is to express my problems with Dr. Hill’s promulgation of his “hate” for Drake, and to respond to his problems with some of the current artists on the hip-hop scene.

First of all, the word “hate” is a powerful word to direct at a person. Dr. Hill is a scholar and social justice activist who fights against past and postmodern “hate” and discrimination in his work inside and outside of the academy. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “We who seek justice will have to do justice to others.” While I certainly support and embrace Gandhi’s statement, Dr. Hill’s recent comments about Drake do not reflect that he supports and embraces this statement in its totality. He has to understand that his investment in elucidating and illuminating the value of hip-hop is significantly undermined when he uses such language to attack one of the leading hip-hop artists, Drake. Marc makes me wonder if he has a problem with the reality that Drake is half Canadian and the fact that he is one of the most prominent faces on the current hip-hop scene. Although Dr. Hill argues that this is not the case, the fact that he does not give his reader a strong understanding as to why he “hates” Drake makes me really curious (at best). Now, Drake’s music alone cannot cause Marc to legitimately hate Drake. I would love for him to offer his readers a more thorough explanation for why he hates Drake.

Dr. Hill tries to make the argument that Drake’s lyrics lack substance. I would like to encourage him to engage in a deeper exploration of the powerful messages communicated by Drake’s “Over” and “Successful.” When you listen to these two songs, Dr. Hill, you cannot honestly say that Drake is just a “pop song writer.”  Dr. Hill, even some of the greatest rappers attempted to sing parts of their verses; therefore, Drake should not be penalized because he can sing. If Drake does have a proclivity to resort to the superficial instead of the substantial in his work (as Dr. Hill asserts), then it is more of a reflection of how artists are conforming to the cultural logic of late capitalism and not simply something Drake should be held solely responsible for.

Dr. Hill seems to want rappers to be in the mold of Nas. He will not consider a rapper a true MC if he does not reflect the rap tradition of rappers like Nas. I find this to be highly problematic. For hip-hop to be true hip-hop, it does not have to fit Marc’s limited definition of it. It does not have to simply be highly reflective of rappers like Nas. One of the dimensions of hip-hop that people have grown to love is its ability to accommodate new artists and their particular expressions within hip-hop. Hip-hop, at its best, is about tolerance. Drake’s style of hip-hop, which I do not see as departing from traditional hip-hop in any subversive or meaningful way, respects the tradition of hip-hop. Drake is a serious hip-hop lyricist and MC—no matter what Dr. Hill says (no disrespect).

Marc said that Drake has a fake Southern-style voice, one that is tailored for corporate interests. Well, Marc, I was born and reared in the South and I certainly do not hear any southern accent in Drake’s sound. I simply need Dr. Hill to be more thorough in his examination of Drake, and to give stronger reasons for his “hate” for Drake. Even when I have disagreed with Marc in the past on issues, I have always understood his arguments and rationales. On this issue, however, Marc has left me (and us) with much to be desired.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison