Friday, June 10, 2016

The Life of a Copycat

What makes a copycat in the world of music? In hip-hop, most of us think of a copycat as a swagger-jacker who steals another artist's style, changing little but the name they go by. The latest copycat in hip-hop we've seen is Desiigner, a new rapper from Brooklyn, New York.

Desiigner first made waves for his inclusion on the song “Pt. 2” on Kanye West's 2016 album, The Life of Pablo. It is still not definitively known if his part on the song was sampled or just re-recorded for the album, but that's another discussion for another blog post. Nevertheless, “Pt. 2” led to discovery by the masses of Desiigner's debut single, “Panda”, which was first released about two months prior to Kanye's album. The song got re-released, blew up as a result of being on Pablo, and the rest is history. The song went #1 for two weeks and is still in the top 5 as I write this. 

Desiigner’s similarities to Future, a rapper from Atlanta, Georgia, can't be denied. Even if you don't hear it in “Panda”, there's a pretty good chance you'll hear the similarities in “Pluto”, Desiigner's follow-up song. The main thing most people will notice is the cadence. Apparent in “Panda” as well as his other songs, it sounds like Desiigner’s from...Atlanta. Coincidence? Probably not.

This is honestly a difficult problem to address, as no-one seems able to stop copycat syndrome from occurring in hip-hop. It does say something interesting when the copycat does better than the original. Like a lot better. Now, Future does have a top 40 hit right now with the song “Low Life”; however, the cause for the song's success can mostly be attributed to the inclusion of The Weeknd and not the lead artist himself. All of that aside, Future still doesn't have a top 10 hit, and he's been popular in the mainstream since 2012. Desiigner got a #1 hit in just a few months.

Personally, I believe the copying is somewhat intentional. Rappers have their own influences just like artists in rock or pop. But copycats give a bad look to the game. The originals work hard to get to where they're at. When the copycat does better than the original, that’s when this becomes a real issue.

That's what makes this story a story in the first place. Desiigner is huge. He’s living the life most teenage rappers would only dream of. Got signed to one of the hottest rap labels (G.O.O.D. Music) out right now. Has a debut single go #1 (for two weeks), and it inches closer to platinum status with every passing week. Has that same single break streaming records left and right. All before he turns 20. The only problem is, he didn’t come up with that style on his own.

Authenticity and rap music is a difficult relationship. Did Jay-Z really sell drugs in '88? How can Rick Ross rap about slinging white when he was a correctional officer? Kanye West doesn't write all of his music and he should be slain for it, according to some fans and critics. If the music isn’t really yours, the rap community doesn’t accept it. At least that's how it works in the game.

And yes it’s true; this is a different issue entirely because Kanye, Ross, or Jay don't really try to sound like their counterparts. But the point still stands that the music has to be yours, and yours only. Your own ideas, your own creations, your own thoughts. While it may sometimes be justifiable, no-one wants a genre full of copycats or liars.

The next question is what should Desiigner do next? He's dangerously on the path toward becoming another one hit wonder. His other songs, “Pluto” and “Zombie Walk” are hardly known outside of people who frequent hip-hop blogs and forums. The best thing for him to do would be to release his album (currently titled, The Life of Desiigner), hope that it goes #1, and do a disappearing act from rap music. He can't stand on his own, and the Kanye cosign is honestly just pure luck. 

All of this comes from a guy who plays “Panda” regularly and actually enjoys what Desiigner is doing, even if it's not exactly morally acceptable by some people's standards. But a good song doesn't make intellectual theft justifiable; even I know that. I'm surprised there hasn’t been more of a response from Future about this situation in the past couple of months. But maybe he thinks the same way myself and the rest of us probably all do. Desiigner won't be around for long. Give him as little attention as possible, and let nature take its course. We'll be jamming out to something entirely different this time next year. I'm sure of it.

Desiigner - Panda

Future - F*ck Up Some Commas

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