Why Do Brown Guys Love Drake?
courtesy of @indianteddybear
Ah, Brown men, we’re a lot to take in. A lost breed, really. We fit in nowhere and everywhere. This is something Jazz musician Vijay Iyer notes in his essay, Our Complicity With Excess, remarking, “South Asian Americans were so new, people didn’t really know who or what we were. We hadn’t yet emerged en masse into mainstream culture.” Iyer goes on to state, “We were primarily a mystery; our experience was framed by difference; we were mostly unconsidered, our existence largely unacknowledged."
Narratives like Iyer’s are more of an experiential observation rather than a sob story. Having grown up in a multiracial New Jersey city, my identity was strung between Dominican kids exclaiming “que lo que” upon seeing me to my Black friends jokingly referring to me as “lightskin.” We, as South Asians, occupy a unique niche in American society.
Identity isn’t singular, and it isn’t stagnant, and perhaps Drake is the best example of this. As Brittany Luse states on The Nod’s episode Drake of the Diaspora, “Drake is a visible multiracial celebrity…[but] he is excited about Black culture...he is ‘team Black’.” Drake’s embrace of his dual Black American and Canadian identity and appreciation for the diaspora, mirrors that of many young South Asians. Between enclaves in Queens, Toronto, London, and Trinidad, our identities are fluid yet authentic— they are undoubtedly South Asian at its core. Yet, it’s this fluidity that allows us to easily assimilate and participate in (Black) culture no matter where we are. From MIA to Super Cat, we’ve established a niche for ourselves in music globally, and perhaps this is why we align with Drake. His incorporation of diasporic genres like dancehall and Grime with colloquialisms and regional patois reminds us of us. We’re good at mimicry, but it’ll never be just right. As Anupa Mistry of The Fader once stated, “in the absence of aspiration that reflected our own hybrid South Asian identities, we gravitated toward Black culture and role models.”
This lends to Drake’s greatest strength; projection. Drake’s engagement with music globally makes him an excellent ambassador. From Reggaeton to Afrobeats, he’s shown his appreciation for cultures that exist outside the (American) mainstream. It’s part of why everyone f***s with Drake— because Drake f***s with everybody. This past October, Bad Bunny released Mia featuring a Drake verse completely sung in Spanish. I brought it up in conversation to a Colombian friend of mine asking what he thought of Drake’s new found venture. He told me that he’d done this before, on Romeo Santos’ Odio back in 2014. His point was proven. Drake wasn’t a charlatan, he’s a seasoned appreciator.
When we draw parallels between the Brown experience and Drake’s artistry, and what makes him such an excellent international mascot, it sheds light on why many South Asian youth are naturally drawn to him. He represents us, all the way from hookah lounge Instagram pictures to thinly veiled nice guy misogyny. Our shared inexplicable corniness and longing for authenticity are one and the same. Hell, it’s why so many of us had our @’s as “champagne paki” for the longest.