By now, you’ve likely seen Drake’s second-latest gift to the masses—a surprise 14-minute short film called Jungle released the morning before an even bigger surprise—last night’s mixtape/album If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late. The short film gave us a lot to digest: flashbacks to Drake’s Acura days, images of Toronto’s riotous G20 debacle in 2010, dream sequences, and enough archival footage of lil’ Drake to keep GIF-makers around the world in good spirits for the next year.
But perhaps no one thing drew as much attention as the patois-flecked West Indian accent Drake first uses around the 0:39 mark and is an integral part of other scenes in the video. Reaction to the accent was swift and confused. BuzzFeed mused that Drake “adopted a new accent,” MTV News wondered “why this was the place that he decided to bring it out?” and, a simple Twitter search of “Drake accent” yields a bunch of similarly perplexed fans.
Is it me or does drake have an accent of some sort?👀— Trillary Clinton (@nardizee) February 13, 2015
But to Torontonians, there’s nothing “new” about the accent. It’s the kind of chatter heard at the edges of suburban Toronto’s Scarborough Town Centre; it’s the way people talk in barbershops and on basketball courts all over the city. The accent is heavily indebted to the city’s West Indian population, and sounds like a tricky mixture of patois, Toronto street slang, a frequently faux stern attitude.
The accent is not exactly new to Drake, either. You may remember Drake’s pal Baka, a.k.a Not Nice, speaking in the same heavy accent at the end of Nothing Was the Same’s “From Time.” Drake has explicitly nodded at the city with the accent before, most recently on the Grammy-nominated “Tuesday” (“Fill the room up with some…tings”) and at the end of OVO/Reps Up member (and Scarborough resident) P. Reign’s “DnF” video. Those nods hit home in the city the same way his shout outs to specific streets in suburban Scarborough and downtown Toronto do, because, like “6 God” and “6 Man," they're unapologetically Toronto. It’s so unapologetically Torontonian, it was the star of the viral “Shit Toronto People Say” video released in 2013—a video we know Drake is a fan of.
Despite Drake’s clear connections to the accent, the response from Torontonians was mixed. “The random Scarborough accent bugs me. We know you don’t talk like that,” a friend of mine wrote on Facebook. “This video is super cool and I want to marry him…but like Drake, you’re from Forest Hill, stop,” read another comment on a friend’s Facebook wall. But assuming Drake is trying to pull one over on us by debuting a new accent at this stage in the game is a specious argument.
We know that one of the reasons Drake has achieved such massive success is his ability to move in circles as disparate as Toronto’s King of the Dot freestyle battle rap scene, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and Houston’s strip club scene with the same fervor and ease. He’s the rapper most likely to be your grandma’s favorite rapper even though she hasn’t listened to a single one of his songs, while also being the guy who can send even the most fickle of social media users into a frenzy when he drops a surprise release on the Thursday before NBA All-Star weekend. In 2015, code-switching is a simple part of the game (ask Kanye West). In a short film dedicated to the moments and moods that have shaped his career, shot in the city he calls home and reps relentlessly, it’s only right that Drake speaks in the parlance of the land.
Don’t fault the guy for knowing himself.
Jordan Sowunmi is a writer living in Toronto. Follow him @jordanisjoso