Drake Put Toronto on the Map. A university put him in the curriculum

It’s the start of the winter term at Toronto’s Ryerson University, and most students are preparing for another semester of courses such as mechanical engineering, economics and English literature. But 30 budding scholars will study a perhaps less traditional topic: the emergence of hip-hop superstar Drake.

Song analysis, the state of the Canadian music industry, and important discussions about race, class, marketing and globalization are just some of the topics that will be discussed in the course starting in Wednesday and is called “Deciphering Drake and the Week”.

Dalton Higgins, the instructor who teaches the course, told me that while Drake is a cultural giant born and raised in Toronto, Black artists in general are unfortunately absent from the industry. Canadian music industry, a topic his course will explore. (Weekend is another black pop artist, born in Toronto.)

“Now is the opportune moment for Canadian rap and R&B and pop icons to be recognized, and canonized academically,” said Higgins, who is also a journalist and Drake biographer. know.

In Toronto’s global celebrity population, a few names come to mind, like Keanu Reeves, Margaret Atwood and Dan Levy. Then there’s Drake, a local hero and a celebrity like Cher or Madonna, who has become so synonymous with Toronto that his presence is imprinted throughout the city.

It is perhaps fitting that Drake joins the ranks of other music stars whose cultural significance has been analyzed at universities; Madonna, the material girl, was part of the courses at Harvard and UCLA, among others. The Drake Course, which is part of the professional music program, has a long waiting list.

Councilor Michael Thompson, representing Toronto’s nightlife economy, told me that dropping Drake’s name in an attempt to generate capital for the city was a surefire way to inspire some applause. hands, care and excitement.

Aubrey Drake Graham was born in Toronto, the son of a white Jewish mother and a Black father with family roots in Memphis. His parents divorced when he was a toddler. He was raised by his mother in Toronto’s affluent Forest Hill neighborhood and said he was often the only black student at school.

A keen performer, he soon found his way into acting, and in 8th grade he landed an agent that helped land him a role in “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” a reboot of a popular Canadian television series. His musical breakthrough came when New Orleans rapper Lil Wayne invited Drake to tour in 2008.

Full disclosure: I’m a Drake fan, love his music and love his artful swagger. As a first-generation Canadian, I recognize some parts of his defiance against the world, but I’m mostly drawn to his flair for catchy music.

Drake students simply drive into downtown Toronto to take an artist course.

Along the Gardiner Highway – the elevated highway on which Drake filmed parts of the “What’s Next” music video, which was released in March – is a building emblazoned with the brand’s golden owl symbol. his clothing brand. It’s the OVO Sports Center, a basketball training venue home to the Toronto Raptors, which Drake represents as the team’s global ambassador. (OVO is an acronym for October’s Very Own, after the month of his birth.)

Drake-seekers heading downtown can then stop at Ripley’s Aquarium and watch seahorses and goblin jellyfish while taking a dip at Drake’s famous spot flirt Rihanna in an impromptu romance. The nearby CN Tower is also a fixture in his music videos and on the cover of “View,” His 2016 album, infused with dancehall, Afrobeat, and dusty beats.

Following the exit from Gardiner, scholars are certain that Drake will eventually land on Yonge Street and pass the site of a failed Drake-affiliated restaurant, Pick 6ix, which serves sushi and sandwiches meat. Sometimes stylized as “6ix”, Six is ​​the nickname he popularized for Toronto, referring to the area codes 416 and 647 of the city and its six counties, which were amalgamated into a single city in 1998.

Students who circled the notorious potholes in Toronto that Drake passed would arrive at Dundas Square, Toronto’s equivalent of Times Square. There, the positive light from billboards that regularly advertise Drake will light their way into Ryerson University, which now has the rapper on the school’s curriculum.

Like many there, Mr. Higgins referred to Ryerson as X University. The institution is going through a renaming process following protests over the man it was named for, Egerton Ryerson, who was a former public figure. important in manufacturing Canada’s Residential School System.

It’s Drake’s mark in Toronto that a 2020 Sketches of “Saturday Night Live”, starring Issa Rae, introduces a news reporter trying to find an elusive Drake in the city.

“You know where I am, I put Six on the map,” Drake raps on the track “Talk Up,” one of numerous references to Toronto in his music. Mr. Higgins said that although Toronto has embraced the glittering Drake brand, the city cannot belittle his star as a homegrown talent.

“For example, Toronto didn’t make Drake,” Higgins told me, adding that the same holds true for Weeknd and some of the city’s other successful hip-hop acts. According to him, they started their careers in the United States, signing with US record labels and with the support of the US music industry and fans. Only then did their popularity and stardom finally spill over to Toronto.


Vjosa Isai joined The New York Times as a Canadian news assistant in June. Follow her on Twitter at @lavjosa.


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https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/22/world/canada/drake-course-toronto-ryerson-university.html Drake Put Toronto on the Map. A university put him in the curriculum

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