Canadian rapper and hitmaker Drake (real name Aubrey Graham) has been gifted with the key to Memphis by the Tennessee city’s mayor. While many have congratulated, some are outraged that a Toronto native has been chosen over the wealth of talent that the city has produced. Although the honour was declared as Memphis, Graham received the key to Shelby County.
The city’s Chairman and Mayor, Mickell Lowry, presented Graham with the key, declaring, “We love our own. Memphis music touches the world. You got a lot of Memphis blood in you, and you’re definitely touching the world.” He then thanked the Toronto artist for “putting Memphis all in your music on the map,” adding, “This one should be close to your heart because it’s from 901.”
Despite the criticism from fans, many didn’t consider that the musician’s father, Dennis Graham, was born and raised in Memphis and even performed alongside country musician Jerry Lee Lewis. The segregated South and ‘Dixie’ states have been responsible for some of the most impactful musical movements, and the region is culturally rich. As such, many believe Graham does not deserve a spot alongside figures such as Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole and Randy Brown.
Graham stayed with his father in Memphis during the summers as a child and, in an interview with local news, the rapper’s father disclosed that his favourite memories are from the summers they spent together on Appleville Street, located minutes from where the ceremony took place.
Although many criticised the honour, it is fair to say that Memphis has seen a shortage of successful rappers in recent times. GloRilla has been one of the first hip-hop artists to emerge from the city in over a decade, and the style of music in the town currently is more akin to drill and is highly violent.
Thereby it has yet to cross over into the mainstream. One artist that was making waves in Memphis hip-hop was Pooh Shiesty. However, he is now incarcerated.
When cultural commentator DJ Akademiks made a post concerning the honour, even acts such as Lil Yachty were commenting and mocking Graham, with the Atlanta emcee’s post reading, “Hahahahaha that shirt is hilarious what the f*ck!”
One rapper from Memphis who hasn’t been recognised is Moneybagg Yo. However, the city of Memphis, which is culturally rich and located in a state known for quality Country music, seems to be hesitant to attach itself to controversial, criminal artists who glorify crime and, as such, is unlikely to highlight the Tennessee musician (real name DeMario White Jr) as a role model and representative of the city. You can see Drake’s ceremony below.