The notion that Drake allegedly uses a ghostwriter to write his rhymes is a conspiracy that has haunted the rapper for years. He told Genius that he doesn’t lean on ghostwriters, saying, “Any song that really, really did damage for me, I wrote every single lyric.” The rumors were also the subject of his famous feud with rapper Meek Mill, spawning his pair of diss tracks, “Charged Up” and “Back to Back.” But now, a more ominous presence has appeared on social media platforms to actually ghostwrite a Drake song—sort of.
Last weekend a TikTok creator by the name of @ghostwriter977 uploaded a video in which they premiered an AI-generated “Drake” track titled “Heart on My Sleeve” with a faux-assist from a similarly AI-generated The Weeknd. The song garnered millions of streams in less than a week after the mystery artist released it on several major streaming platforms. In a TikTok comment under one of their videos, the creator said that they were “a ghostwriter for years and got paid close to nothing just for major labels to profit. The future is here.”
The short snippet is no longer available on TikTok (nor are any of the sounds to this creator’s videos, for that matter), but the song still lives on Twitter. It features a voice that sounds eerily similar to Drake’s over a menacing piano beat with producer Metro Boomin’s signature tagline and subwoofer-shattering 808s. The AI version of Drake delivers clever bars that sound like classic Drake-isms—a 21 Savage shoutout, along with lines like “I came in with my ex like Selena to flex/ bumpin’ Justin Bieber,” and “I got my heart on my sleeve with a knife in my back.” After the chorus, “The Weeknd” slides onto the track with his signature falsetto and also makes references to Selena Gomez (The Weeknd’s real-life ex).
Drake has yet to comment on “Heart on My Sleeve,” but he did upload a post from The Shade Room that mentioned someone used AI to generate a cover of Drake rapping “Munch” by Ice Spice to his Instagram story. He wrote, “This is the final straw AI.” Even if it is scrubbed from the Internet, the song raises important questions about where the music industry goes from here as this technology improves and proliferates.
A hugely popular dupe
According to Rob Abelow, whose “Where Music is Going” newsletter looks at the future of music, the song was streamed more than 20 million times on Apple Music, where it initially appeared, with 13 million views on TikTok (before it was taken down), and 84,000 plays on Soundcloud—which is now filled with multiple reuploads when you look up the original creator’s name on the platform. Across different platforms, the reactions were mixed, with some people calling the song “trash, but still better than Drake’s new single” and others, on the opposite end of the spectrum, asking, “how is this better than actual Drake tho?” Whatever listeners think about the song itself, there’s no doubt that its efforts to replicate the sound and feel of the artist are eerily accurate.
“Heart On My Sleeve” isn’t the only AI Drake song making the rounds on social media; there’s also a song called “Winter’s Cold” and a sexually explicit song, though neither has garnered the same level of attention as @ghostwriter977’s track.
AI platforms are trained “to spit out new creations by ingesting millions of existing works,” Billboard reports. This has significant legal implications. “From the point of view of many in the music industry, if that process is accomplished by feeding a platform copyrighted songs—in this case, presumably, recordings by Drake and The Weeknd—then those platforms and their owners are infringing copyrights on a mass scale.”
Beyond Drake and The Weeknd
For Universal Music Group, the music corporation that owns Republic—which Drake is signed to—and their industry competitors, combating the problem of AI dupes of its artists could prove to be like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole.
The examples go far beyond Drake. Take, for example, Ariana Grande (another Republic Records signee): an AI-generated version of the pop star singing “Paparazzi” by Lady Gaga currently has over one million views on TikTok, uploaded by a Brazilian content creator with the username @mucaolgd. The creator’s account is dedicated to uploading Grande AI covers, including audio that sounds like her voice singing Lana Del Rey’s “Brooklyn Baby” and “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne. There are also AI covers of the late rapper Juice WRLD singing “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye and the late rapper XXXTENTACION singing Akon’s “Lonely.”
Record labels and artists are scrambling to figure out how to fight back against these new computer-generated creations. AI covers only began popping up in recent months, but largely failed to inspire the kind of hand-wringing that “Heart on My Sleeve” has. Some artists, like Oasis’ Liam Gallagher, even praised the efforts, with Gallagher saying “I sound mega” on an AI production of a “lost” album. Another such cover featured “Rihanna” singing “Cuff It” by Beyoncé.
But on the heels of the popularity of ChatGPT, which has democratized access to AI tools, “Heart On My Sleeve” is raising alarm bells because of how popular the song became in such a short timeframe, on top of using copyrighted music for songs the mimicked artists never created.
The future of AI in music
The future of how AI-generated music will play out in the music industry is yet to be seen, but UMG recently asked major streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music not to allow artificial intelligence companies to input their music into the programs that “train” these AI tools. The Financial Times cited an anonymous source when reporting that the music corporation has been issuing takedown requests.
A spokesperson for Universal Music Group (or UMG) told CNN that they have a “moral and commercial responsibility to our artists to work to prevent the unauthorized use of their music and to stop platforms from ingesting content that violates the rights of artists and other creators.”
It would not be surprising to see more lawsuits like the one that Getty Images filed against the AI art generator Stable Diffusion, as well as a group of visual artists that sued the same AI company, and another called Midjourney. And the ethical questions around creativity, originality, and ownership are only beginning to be unpacked. In its statement, UMG added, “The training of generative AI using our artists’ music … begs the question as to which side of history all stakeholders in the music ecosystem want to be on.”
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