UPDATE: We’ve updated the article to add a statement from the founder of the Too Black Guys clothing line that Drake is wearing in the photos.
The feud between Pusha T and Drake escalated last night (May 29), when Pusha dropped the track “The Story of Adidon” as a response to Drake’s “Duppy Freestyle.” While the lyrics, which alternately accused Drake of fathering an illegitimate child and zeroing in on his producer’s multiple sclerosis, caused a stir, the headline was the cover art — an unearthed photo of Drake in blackface.
Understandably, this has caused a frenzy on Twitter, with many in disbelief about the photo. Some have called for an outright “canceling” of the rapper, while others believe it’s been taken out of context from a photo series that deals with racism and Jim Crow in an artistic way.
Please stop referring to this picture as “artwork”…I’m not an internet baby, I don’t edit images…this is a REAL picture…these are his truths, see for yourself https://t.co/gd6vRS3HM8 pic.twitter.com/2el58HEZ8F
— King Push (@PUSHA_T) May 30, 2018
The dust has yet to settle on this blackface instance, with no response from Drake at press time — but here is everything we know about the photo so far.
The photo’s origin
It seems to have stemmed from a clothing line called Too Black Guys, dating from the summer of 2008. The theme was “Jim Crow Couture.” The image also appears to be part of a series; rapper Lupe Fiasco has suggested that along with another photo that isn’t being circulated as much, it “presents a powerful duality of representation and race and its expectations on art.” Similar photos can also be viewed at the October’s Very Own Blogspot account.
The origin of Drake’s “Blackface” stuff is from a Toronto line called “Too Black Guys” and looks to be from 2008 https://t.co/FFXa63PsLv
— Justin Davis #PatekTeeth (@OGJOHNNY5) May 30, 2018
David Leyes, who took the photo, is said to have cited it as “Drake’s idea” that he merely “captured.” There are also screenshots depicting Leyes saying he was “proud … to be part of a strong statement made by a black man about the f—ed up culture we’re living in.”
Photographer David Leyes says the blackface photo shoot was Drake’s idea. (via @whiteyforprez) pic.twitter.com/ljllNzOweI
— Complex Music (@ComplexMusic) May 30, 2018
And the photographer. Y’all move pic.twitter.com/au67DtZfUA
— F.L.O.W. (@flow349) May 30, 2018
The brand’s intentions
According to Too Black Guys’ website, the aim was to “graphically represent the black experience in an unapologetic way.”
The brand responds
Too Black Guys founder Adrian Aitcheson released a statement on Wednesday night (May 30) explaining that Drake is wearing the brand in the pictures but that the photo shoot wasn’t part of a Too Black Guys photo shoot. The statement, tweeted by The New York Times‘ Joe Coscarelli, reads in full:
“The photo in question was not from a Too Black Guys photoshoot however it did feature clothing from Too Black Guys’ JIM CROW COUTURE/HOUSE OF CROW collection which was released in 2008. The collection featured several graphics that highlighted the painful and dangerous period of the Jim Crow Era.
“Too Black Guys has a history of representing the black experience in an unapologetic way. Although this was not an image from any of our photoshoots, we feel that Drake, who is a long-time friend of the brand, was brilliantly illustrating the hypocrisy of the Jim Crow Era.
“The subtleties of Drake, a young black man, mimicking how white men used to mimic and dehumanize black people may be lost in a rap battle but we should not be distracted from the issues that are still affecting our communities.”
Finally, on Wednesday, Drake entered the fray. The Canadian hip-hop star posted an Instagram Story in which he brushed off the controversy and gave his side of the tale. The photos were taken in 2007, we were told, for a meaningful project. “The photos represented how African Americans were once wrongfully portrayed in entertainment,” he explained.
According to Drizzy, he and fellow Degrassi actor Mazin Elsadig were “attempting to use our voice to bring awareness to the issues we dealt with all the time as black actors at auditions. This was not to highlight and raise our frustrations with not always getting a fair chance in the industry and to make a point that the struggle for black actors had not changed much.”