Beyoncé and Drake’s Potential Reclaiming of House Music

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Drake shocked the world with the release of his surprise album, Honestly, Nevermind, on June 17. Shocked is the exact way to describe the new release because the world didn’t exactly meet it with open arms. 

The music industry received Drake’s album with mixed reviews. The Daily Beast says the album “Is Proof He’s Way Past His Prime”  while Complex said he “Finally Stopped Trying to Do Something For Everyone.” Pitchfork gave the album a 6.6 out of 10, while Rolling Stone gave the album four stars out of five, saying “He Has the Power to Reconfigure Taste-And Elevate Hip-Hop.”

Personally, I wouldn’t go as far as to give it four stars, but I would agree that Drake is doing something interesting and peculiar when looking at the hip-hop genre. The following day, Beyoncé dropped her new single,  “BREAK MY SOUL,” reinforcing the strangeness that Drake’s album touches on. Many people would call what they’re doing the revival of house music through mainstream hip-hop. Instead, I’d call it a repossession of house music, at least in a mainstream pop-culture sense. If not repossession, then probably an awareness for where house music originated.

The Current Dance Music Scene

Drake and Beyoncé’s “house music revival” isn’t new in the present standpoint, nor in the past. That bed squeaking noise that Drake samples in “Currents,” Jersey Club producers have been using that for years. EDM DJ Cashmere Cat even sampled it for his break-out hit “Mirror Maru” in 2012. 

Mainstream artists like Dua Lipa have been revitalizing house music since 2020, just more from the disco or nu-disco sound, aligning her on the spectrum with DJs like Purple Disco Machine and Daft Punk. She even worked with Calvin Harris on the song “One Kiss” and “Potions,” a track on his upcoming nu-disco album Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 2.

House music has also seen a revival via TikTok. Abba’s “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” has gone viral with a dance routine to accommodate it. Meduza’s “Lose Control,” “Roses – Imbanek Remix” by SAINt JHN, Arem Ozguc’s “Astronaut In The Ocean”, and “Ride It” by Regard are among the many house songs that have gone viral in the past couple of years.

In current pop culture, rap and R&B artists have also been closely connected to the Dance and EDM scene. Kanye West and The Weeknd have collaborated with French DJ Gesaffelstein on numerous occasions. Gesaffelstein produced both the Yeezus and Donda albums for Kanye West. Then, he also produced several tracks on The Weeknd’s My Dear Melancholia.

With these relationships in mind, why all of the sudden are people freaking out over Drake and Beyoncé’s house music revival? Why is it significant, if people like Kanye West and The Weeknd collaborate with DJs all of the time? The answer lies in what subgenre Drake and Beyoncé hone in on and the history of house music itself.

What’s the Big Deal with House Music

House music originally depicts the intersectionality between cultures as well as genres. DJing began on the radio with Walter Winchell coining the term “disco jockey” and progressing to the mid-1970s when Hip-hop emerged in New York City among African Americans and Latinos. The elements that centered around 1970s hip-hop are graffiti, break dancing, and MCing, also known as rapping. In the same decade, scratching, a technique that commonly comes to mind when people talk about DJing, was created by DJ Grand Wizard Theodore, a black man.

Along with disc jockeys and the origins of hip-hop music, House music closely follows suit. Beginning in Chicago, House music picked up where disco left off in the early ’80s. Frankie Knuckles, also, known as “The Godfather of House Music,” was one of the genre’s first pioneers. When Knuckles moved to Chicago, he gained a residency at a nightclub called the Warehouse. There, he would bend his genres while DJing, reaching from disco, indie-label soul, post-punk, and European synth-disco. Thus, this mixing of genres would come to form its own—House Music—getting its name from the club Knuckles worked at—the Warehouse.

At the Warehouse, Knuckles gained a large following. The Warehouse originally was a members-only club for black gay men. But, his shows trickled into the majority. Today, house music coexists with its whiter, European connection to big-name DJs like David Guetta, Avicci, and Tiesto. But, it originated from black origins with Knuckles and New York City hip-hop.

House Music Beyond Drake and Beyonce

Drake and Beyoncé didn’t exactly reclaim house music. Their mainstream popularity allows for the genre to emerge into hip-hop and pop music. In fact, Twitter lashes out at those who are obsessed with house music due to its new popularity from Drake and Beyonce.

“Drake and beyoncé just hopped on the dance music wave don’t sleep on others like the apx, kaytranada, channel tres, azealea banks & uniiqu3 who been doing this shit for years,” wrote @sadcrib.

“Lol suddenly everyone knows what a good house album is but the only person they ever listened to is Kaytranada in passing,” added @Ngamahle.

These Twitter users point out DJs, specifically black DJs, who consistently use house music as their sound. Black DJs like Kaytranada, HoneyLuv, Chanel Tres, and Azealia Banks have gained a large following through their house music. They show larger depth and complexity in the genre compared to Drake and Beyonce, as well as, shaping what modern house music looks like.

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