Western University student getting a PhD in Drake

Amara Pope, 22, is a long-time fan of Toronto rapper Drake, so it was a perfect for to analyze his music for her master's thesis. Her paper has been published in an academic journal, and now she's working on her PhD, which also focuses on Drake.

Long-time fan Amara Pope analyzed the singer's culture, identity and politics

Amara Pope found Drake " had a very unique position in the music industry, being biracial, being from both Canada and the United States,” (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Amara Pope is a long-time Drake fan, so it was only natural for the Kitchener, Ont. woman to turn to one of her favourite artists for her master's thesis and her PhD.

Pope, who did her master's at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., focused on Drake because she was interested in his ability to connect with and represent many different communities. She attributes much of his success to his broad appeal.

"I found he had a very unique position in the music industry, being biracial, being from both Canada and the United States," said Pope in an interview with CBC K-W's The Morning Edition host Craig Norris.  "And drawing on narratives from being from a lower class, rising to a high class society."

Drake's father, Dennis Graham is black and is from Memphis, Tennessee. His mother Sandi is white and Jewish, and is from Toronto. She famously raised Drake by herself in the city's Forest Hill neighbourhood after divorcing Drake's father. 

Amara Pope says Drake is able to foster his personal stories through his music videos and lyrics which allowed him to connect to a large audience and achieve success. (TK Matunda/CBC)

Connecting with different communities

Pope said Drake tells his personal stories through his music, videos and lyrics, which allow him to connect to a large audience.

"In watching the music videos I saw that he was making that attempt to connect to these different communities," said Pope.  "But then upon researching I found that all of these positions that he's promoting in these different music videos are actually drawn from his real life experiences."

The three music videos she analyzed included:

  • HYFR features Drake's Jewish roots, by showing the rapper both at a young age at a bar mitzvah, and as an adult. 
  • Worst Behavior has Drake dropping the letter 'u' in the word, which aligns him up with his American identity, according to Pope. The video was filmed in Memphis where Drake's father's family is from, and his father is also in the video.
  • Started From The Bottom features Toronto, a favourite Drake topic, including scenes inside Shoppers Drug Mart.

"I still love his music, but as an academic I'm just very much in awe in the ways in which he was able to brand himself through these different forms of identity politics and really generate so much marketing and attention to his image," said Pope. 

Pope is currently enrolled in the PhD program at Western University where she is focusing on three musicians, including Drake, and how they use their music to extend their personal brands, and how those efforts can affect social behaviours. 

As an academic Amara Pope says she was very much in awe in the ways in which Drake was able to brand himself. (Provided photos)

Her master's thesis is called  "Musical Artists Capitalizing on Hybrid Identities: A Case Study of Drake the "Authentic" "Black" "Canadian" "Rapper" was published in the academic journal Stream: Inspiring Critical Thought, a journal from Simon Fraser University in BC, in December 2016.