Toronto

Do Drake lyrics explain silence on Muzik nightclub shootings?

If police look for assistance on solving a crime, Drake will not help, he says on the chorus of the song off his latest album. But are those lyrics to be believed?

No Tellin', a song off his recent album, suggests avoiding cooperation with cops

Canadian singer, Aubrey Drake Graham who is better known by the name Drake, performs in July. (Joel Ryan/Associated Press)

Police chief Mark Saunders is appealing for witnesses to come forward in a pair of shooting deaths at Drake's OVO festival after party. But if police are waiting for the rapper to assist in the investigation, lyrics on his last album suggest he's not willing to.

In fact, Drake preaches the opposite — if police look for assistance on solving a crime, he will not help, he raps on the chorus of the 2015 song No Tellin'.

"I'm not going to start picking on individuals," said Saunders of Drake when he was asked about the rapper on Tuesday.

Drake has not addressed the shooting deaths of of 26-year-old Ariela Navarro-Fenoy of Toronto and 23-year-old Duvel Hibbert of Brampton at his official OVO after party last Tuesday morning. Police say Navarro-Fenoy was an innocent bystander.

His silence prompted Crime Stoppers to appeal to the rapper to reach out to them last week. The anti-crime group says they have not heard back from him. 

Drake, whose real name is Aubrey Graham, has not responded to CBC requests for comment since the shootings.

'Never help 'em'

His last album, If You're Reading This, It's Too Late, reached platinum status on Tuesday. On it, Drake suggests he does not work with police as a rule.

On No Tellin', Drake raps: "Yeah, police comin' 'round lookin' for some help on a case they gotta solve, we never help 'em." The line is repeated as a chorus multiple times.

Saunders says police are looking for two suspects, but need more evidence from the thousands of people who were at the club that night who may have seen something.

"I don't want to get dragged into that. What I want is people to talk," said Saunders again when he was asked about Drake.

Saunders compared the witnesses who came forward in these shootings to witnesses who came forward in another shooting last Sunday outside a Marriott hotel. He said there was a noticeable difference.

The nightclub was the scene of the official after party for the OVO Festival, a yearly concert curated by the rapper. But it is unclear if Drake was in the nightclub at any point.

Lyrics only a 'partial reflection'

Drake has spoken against violence in Toronto, both in song and statement, in the past. In 2013, he mentioned by name the victims of the mass shooting at a summer barbecue on Danzig Street. In the aftermath of the Danzig shootings, he rapped: "told you no guns and you didn't listen."

But rap lyrics are only a partial reflection of what the rapper actually represents, said Rinaldo Walcott, an associate professor and chair of the department of Sociology and Equity Studies at University of Toronto.

"If you take Drake's lyrics, they are operating on two levels," said Walcott. "Rap music claims to represent certain kinds of realities, but it's also art. And most art, even when it claims to be based in reality, is fictional."

Walcott points out that if lyrics in songs were treated as absolute truth, police would arrest all sorts of musicians who sing about crime. "But no one has arrested Hank Williams Jr.," said Walcott, referencing a country music star who has a song about killing a man.

Walcott said it was more likely young black men — a community historically over-policed in Toronto — would be wary about dealing with police. "What you have are people that already quite heavily policed refusing to participate in something that will bring more policing," he said.

He pointed out that police rarely come forward when a member of the force is accused of a crime, which he said could be part of the problem in the Muzik shootings.

"The 'No snitching' culture runs both ways," he said. "We don't get the good cops telling us what the bad cops are doing."

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