The AI Effect: From Black Cowgirls to Drake (and Everything In Between)

Nettrice Gaskins
5 min readApr 20, 2024
Coachella + Virtual Tupac

Coachella 2012 called it a “hologram” but in reality it was Pepper’s Ghost, a late 19th century illusion technique in which an image of an object off-stage is projected so that it appears to be in front of the audience. It wasn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last time someone used Tupac Shakur’s image and voice to boost their pop culture clout. Now it’s Drake, the Canadian rapper and singer who, for the past decade, has been an influential figure in contemporary popular music and hip-hop or what I call hip-hop pop. I started this article with the Pepper’s Ghost to show that, even after death, a public figure’s essence can be captured and used in various ways, especially in music and live performances.

Drake (Hip Hop Pop Art) + Midjourney v6

On Friday, April 19th Drake released a song on Instagram titled “Taylor Made Freestyle,” which uses AI-generated vocals from Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg in between diss records as he awaits a reply from Kendrick Lamar who handily won a rap battle between him and J Cole (who tapped out) last month. On the track, AI Shakur speaks directly to Lamar and addresses his silence since releasing the diss that started off the feud.

Kendrick + Midjourney & Deep Dream Generator

What is interesting to me about “Taylor Made” is how journalists are pinning the blame on AI and not the human(s) behind the project. AI wake up one day and decide to write a rap diss record. Just last year, rapper Bad Bunny posted an anti-AI rant on TikTok about the use of FlowGPT to replicate his voice as well as those of Justin Bieber and Daddy Yankee. Musician and filmmaker Taryn Southern used AI to create her 2018 record I Am AI. An artificial intelligence program wrote the music, with Southern contributing lyrics and melodies. And there was the AI-enhanced “Now and Then” song and video by The (remaining) Beatles.

Black Cowgirls or…?

Every other week someone posts an image claiming that the subjects are real people doing interesting things. This week it was ‘Black cowgirls’ and many shared the image as if it was an actual historical photo. However, the tell tale signs of AI was glaringly obvious to others. I responded by posting the image above that points out many of the signs or visual elements that point to the use of a generative AI tool. It’s almost as if the original poster is intentionally sharing or posting these GenAI ‘historical’ images to see who spots the signs/elements.

“I made this plastic plane from used bottles.”

Many people are falling for the AI fakes (see above) because they take in the totality of the image without paying attention to the details. However, the ‘devil is in the details’ and it is the intention of the original posters to see how far their images will go: to use generative AI and go viral or spread content quickly and widely through social media and the Web. I suspect this is the intention behind Drake’s “Taylor Made” song, as well as an AI-generated song by Sy the Rapper (not Kendrick Lamar at all). Sy says,

I thought people were going to know that it was AI. Although it did sound real, it sounded like an old version of Kendrick Lamar. It didn’t sound like his more up-to-date style, at least in my opinion. The style sounded kind of dated, so I just thought that would be a giveaway, but apparently it wasn’t. — Jordan Rose

Most people heard the totality of the song and did not pay attention to which version of Kendrick Lamar it was. Sy the Rapper almost got lost in his own scheme. Drake, being the so-called ‘king of hip hop pop’ decided to toss his AI-generated hat into the ring, leaving fans and detractors alike to ponder if it even counts as a true diss to Kendrick Lamar. Of course, before generative AI technology was a thing, people were using music and photography to dupe the masses.

This fake photo recently made the social media rounds

All photographs present a truth: their makers’. The issue is not whether or not that truth has any relation to the Truth. The issue is, instead, what photographs tell us about our own truths, about those beliefs that we take for so granted, that we stick to so obsessively, weighing what we see. — CPHMag

Picasso died in 1973 when Jean Michel Basquiat was 13 years old but many people thought the above photo was real and shared it with other people. A few people knew right away that it was a fake… and they were looking at the details and thinking about who and when. Even when the facts were pointed out to them some people said they didn’t care. They accepted that it was an objective depiction of whatever was in front of a camera lens. While many care that people use generative AI to create images (or songs) for clicks, likes, or shares, there are plenty others who do not, or at least they are willing to go along with the ruse.

To bring things back to the idea of responsibility, the photographer’s truth in part derives from her/his understanding of what the medium does and how it does it. — CPHMag

People at Coachella 2012 knew the Tupac on stage was a “hologram” but they accepted the ‘truth’ of the live performance that was taken from the past, but was not real. Tupac’s AI voice on Drake’s song is also taken from the past but whether or not it’s real or the truth is up to the listener (viewer). TikTok video and audio clips aren’t faithful depictions of people’s lives. They’re carefully curated. They’re propaganda (even though some propagandists are smarter than others).



Nettrice Gaskins

Nettrice is a digital artist, academic, cultural critic and advocate of STEAM education.