Drake Is Number One: Is America Embracing Global Pop? - Rolling Stone
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Drake Is Number One: Is America Embracing Global Pop?

“One Dance,” influenced by U.K. funky and Nigerian Afrobeats, is America’s favorite song


Drake's "One Dance" is the Number One song in the country.

Cole Burston/Toronto Star/Getty

Drake’s “One Dance” hit Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 this week, and it’s being hailed as his first chart-topper as a lead artist. He’s been in the top spot before, but only as support for Rihanna on “Whats My Name” in 2010 and on “Work” earlier this year. It’s quite hard, however, to see this week’s triumph as a Number One for an individual since “One Dance” gets a fair amount of assistance from a range of voices and sounds that reach across the ocean to London and further south to Lagos.

The Fader‘s Anupa Mistry has drawn attention to the way that Drake’s source material should be cited, and “One Dance” is a one-song argument for a reference guide to regional sounds.

For starters, Azaelia Banks’ recent Twitter tirade regarding the superiority of American hip-hop is a little ironic, given the U.K.-related roots of the Number One song in the country. There is an undeniable link to the “U.K. funky” sound. With a brief heyday in the mid- to late-2000s, U.K. funky is electronic dance music that draws from Afrobeat, house and soca. It also reaches back to the smooth bounce of millennial rhythms like the percussive shuffle of U.K. garage and the glitchy funk of what was dubbed “broken beat.” And perhaps most importantly for Jamaican-music aficionado Drake, in 2009 London’s Heatwave DJ crew made it obvious just how good funky could sound alongside dancehall.

U.K. funky appears in “One Dance” via a sample of producers Crazy Cousins’ “Do You Mind,” and the song sounds like it’s a straight remix of the late 2000s club hit. Drake’s nod to U.K. funky acknowledges the complementary rhythm of dancehall — the sampled beat and vocal sample of “Do You Mind” been slowed down a touch, making the track dancehall’s speed — a perfect compliment to the dancehall-inflected “Work,” the March Number One for Rihanna he helped out with.

The Wizkid feature is an example of the increasing international popularity of the Nigerian Afrobeats movement, the high-energy collision of Afropop, EDM and hip-hop emerging from Lagos. Artists such as P-Square, Davido and D’banj have been making inroads in America through infectious tracks like “Personally” and co-signs from folks like Future and Kanye West. Wizkid is a star at home, but he’s now the first artist from Nigeria to top the Hot 100. This may give him bragging rights, but his appearance on “One Dance” is, unfortunately, very low and tinny in the mix. The positioning of Wizkid floating underneath the beat, however, underlines the way the sounds of vintage Afrobeat influenced U.K. funky in the first place.

Toronto’s so-called (and sometimes idealized) multiculturalism is something that Drake does indeed wear on his sleeve, but “One Dance” requires traveling further afield. The contributions of Wizkid, U.K. R&B vocalist Kyla and U.K. funky mean the sounds that Americans crave are coming from increasingly global roots and routes.

In This Article: Drake


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