Move over, Mona Haydar — there’s a new Muslim rapper in town, a Nike hijab-donning Toronto native that goes by Drake. On April 2, Drake released the highly anticipated music video for his latest single “Toosie Slide” named after a social media influencer who popularized the song.
The music video shows Drake quarantined at his house, an enormous and seemingly never-ending work of architecture that appears to be made almost entirely of marble. As part of his quarantine get-up, he wears a black face mask and, wrapped around his head for some unfathomable reason, what many Muslims on the Internet believe to be a Nike Women’s Pro hijab.
Muslim fans and viewers took to social media and voiced their confusion, with many playfully congratulating the rapper for embracing Islam. Others have jokingly praised him for showing support for hijabi women, lauding him as a Muslim ally. A simple search on Twitter’s search bar using the phrase “drake hijab toosie slide,” for example, will display hundreds of Tweets expressing similar sentiments and jokes playing on the theme of Drake’s supposed identity as a Muslim or Muslim ally.
Of course, if Drake’s questionable headpiece really had been a hijab, this should not come as a surprise to anyone even remotely familiar with the rapper and his affinity for incorporating slang and imagery from other cultures into his music, a habit that some find amusing but others have criticized as a form of cultural appropriation.
In 2015, when Drake was featured on Meek Mill’s single “R.I.C.O.” he rapped the line “[t]hey told me to tell you you mans are some wastemans.” Wasteman, which refers to an idle person with no ambition or prospects, is slang that traces its origins to Londoners of Jamaican descent, a demographic that the Canadian rapper clearly does not belong to. Indeed, Drake has a long and well-documented history of borrowing from Caribbean culture, ranging from his occasional use of a Caribbean accent and slang to the adoption of dancehall moves that he performed most famously in the “Hotline Bling” music video.
Regardless of one’s take on Drake’s tendency to adopt features of other cultures into his music and social media presence, the Tweets and memes that have circulated following the release of his latest video represent a continuation of the Muslim Internet’s long tradition of jokingly transforming Drake into a Muslim, a phenomenon that WIRED even dedicated an article to in 2016. Various pictures of Drake have been edited where it looks like the rapper is wearing a hijab or taqiyah (the skullcap worn by many Muslim men) and used in familiar meme formats to create relatable content for Muslim consumers. Even if he had not worn the hijab-resembling headpiece in his music video, Drake has somehow become cemented as fodder for Muslim memes and Nike hijab or not, Drake will likely continue to be a fixed presence in Muslim-created online content.
The question that this trend begs, however, is why? Why has Drake become a feature of Muslim memes? Born to a Catholic father and a Jewish mother, the irony of the rapper becoming a “Muslim” icon likely contributes to the humor behind the memes. Sporting a black beard like many Muslim men, Drake certainly looks the part too. At their most effective, many “Muslim Drake” memes also implicitly make fun of Drake’s “culture vulture” tendencies, playing on his habit of experimenting with different cultures to cultivate a more unique identity for himself despite having no connection to the cultures in question.
Drake’s music, social media activity, style, and behavior have consistently offered material for Muslims to generate memes transforming the rapper into a pious Muslim, so fans of this niche meme need not despair as “Toosie Slide” is not the last of Muslim Drake.