Drake’s ‘Hotline Bling’ Video Accused of Plagiarism, Again
Just a few days after the release of Drake's meme-inspiring music video for "Hotline Bling," a subset of the Internet is calling plagiarism on the Canadian rapper, saying the video's bright, colorful backdrops show a remarkable similarity to 72-year-old artist James Turrell's light installations, and the visuals are too identical to qualify as mere inspiration.
Anyone who's seen stills from "Hotline Bling" and any photos of Turrell's work can attest to the comparison: Though not identical, the video's neon color gradients are an obvious (though uncredited) reference. You can see one particularly similar side-by-side image — a still from the video and Turrell's original work underneath — below, via art site Hyperallergic. And it should be noted: Drake is a known fan of the artist.
In a profile with Rolling Stone, Drake admitted, "I f---k with Turrell. He was a big influence on the visuals for my last tour."
And back in 2014, the "Take Care" rapper posted a few images to Instagram of himself deep in contemplative thought while viewing Turrell's light installation exhibits when he dropped by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (or LACMA for short).
Drake has yet to address the accusations of plagiarism or whether the visuals merely qualify as heavy-handed inspiration, but Turrell issued a statement about the video via his lawyer Donn Zartesky. Posted to Zartesky's Art Law Blog, the statement says, "While I am truly flattered to learn that Drake f---ks with me, I nevertheless wish to make clear that neither I nor any of my woes was involved in any way in the making of the 'Hotline Bling' video.”
The controversy comes on the heels of another "Hotline Bling" dust-up -- upon the track's initial premiere, it drew sonic comparisons to D.R.A.M.'s "Cha Cha," noting an obvious parallel to the vocal melody, intonations and the samples used (Drake sampled Timmy Thomas’s "Why Can't We Live Together," while D.R.A.M. incorporates elements of the Super Mario theme song).
Drake copped to that one, though -- sort of. Speaking with Fader, he gave the following paltry reasoning: "You know, like in Jamaica, you’ll have a riddim and it’s like, everyone has to do a song on that. Imagine that in rap, or imagine that in R&B. Imagine if we got one beat and every single person—me, this guy, this guy, all these guys—had to do a song on that one beat. So sometimes I’ll pick a beat that’s a bit, like, sunnier, I guess is the word you used, than usual, and I just try my hand at it. And that’s kind of what ‘Hotline Bling’ was. And I loved it. It’s cool. I’ve been excited by that sort of creative process.”
Months after the comparisons first broke, D.R.A.M. addressed them, recently tweeting, “Sweet cus I’m out here sharing my music, my sound with the people..Bitter though, cus after my performance all I’m seeing is Cha Cha/Hotline Bling comparisons on my timeline. I feel like I got jacked for my record…But I’m GOOD."
At what point does inspiration become plagiarism? Do you think Drake owes Turrell an apology, or was his video just an heavy-handed homage to his work? What about the track itself? Is Drake's explanation weak, or is it sufficient? Let us know in the comments.
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