Drake has responded to criticism over his controversial 'blackface' photoshoot
Canadian rapper and songwriter Drake has addressed criticism of a photoshoot which surfaced on social media, in which he appears in blackface. Drake has clarified that the photoshoot was part of a past project aimed at highlighting the frustration experienced by black actors in the entertainment industry, and did not stem from a clothing line promotion as originally reported.
The picture was first shared by fellow-rapper Pusha T on Twitter, who decried it as indicative of Drake's insensitivity to racial issues. Pusha T also shared a link to photographer David Leyes' website, tweeting: "This is a REAL picture... these are his truths, see for yourself." Pusha T was sharing the image as part of a campaign to promote The Story of Adidon - a diss track targeting Drake in response to Drake's Duppy Freestyle, which was released on May 26. The two rappers have been engaged in a feud since 2012.
In a post shared on social media, Drake replied: "This was not from a clothing brand shoot or my music career. This picture is from 2007, a time in my life where I was an actor and I was working on a project that was about young black actors struggling to get roles, being stereotyped and type cast. The photos represent how African Americans were once wrongfully portrayed in entertainment."
He added, "Me and my best friend at the time Mazin Elsadig, who is also an actor from Sudan, 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 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 has not changed much."
Blackface was a form of entertainment which was prominent in the 19th century in America and in Europe, in which white performers would paint their faces with dark paint or make-up to create a crude caricature of a person of colour. These performances typically included minstrel shows, where the entertainers would play "plantation songs" and engage in slapstick which enforced negative stereotypes.
Blackface became more and more controversial throughout the 20th century and was more or less abandoned as mainstream culture in the west in the wake of the civil rights movement. However, there are some who defend its practice as a once-beloved tradition.