News Americas, Toronto, Canada, Weds. Dec. 13, 2023: Dr. Amara Pope, a second-generation Canadian-Trinidadian scholar, has achieved remarkable academic success, earning her PhD, MA, and Joint Honors BA while working multiple jobs to fund her education. Her latest achievement, a PhD dissertation titled “Canadians Redefining R&B: The Online Marketing of Drake, Justin Bieber, and Jessie Reyez,” sheds light on the impact of music on her life and the previously overlooked history of Canadian R&B.

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Dr. Amara Pope is a second generation Canadian-Trinidadian woman. Under thirty, Pope has completed her PhD., MA and Joint Honors BA all while working at several jobs to pay for her education.

Growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood, music played a significant role in Pope’s life. Her research explores the missing history of Canadian R&B, which was often excluded from Canadian media. Pope’s dissertation features stories of artists like Crack of Dawn, Oscar Peterson, Jackie Shane, and Eleanor Collins. Through interviews with music professionals and marketing executives, she critiques how music has been organized along racial and national lines.

Pope argues that R&B exemplifies a multicultural Canadian identity. She examines how artists like Drake, Justin Bieber, and Jessie Reyez broke into the music industry, representing a diverse range of Canadian R&B artists. Her research also delves into the growing popularity of Canadian R&B in the digital era, analyzing these artists’ performances during the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Furthermore, Pope explores the rise of Canadian hip-hop and R&B, focusing on the struggles of racialized and immigrant Canadian artists. She highlights their collaborations with U.S. artists, creating what she terms “Canadian R&B music,” a fusion of R&B, hip-hop, pop, soca, reggae, and various immigrant influences.

The dissertation examines how Drake, Justin Bieber, and Jessie Reyez reinforce, complicate, or challenge prevailing notions of “Canadian-ness” and “R&B-ness.”

Pope’s journey began in Scarborough, ON, where she experienced diversity, but she later moved to Elmira, ON, where her family was the only “brown” family in the neighborhood. Pope’s Trinidadian heritage became a source of strength and empowerment. Canadian media, however, predominantly reflected a “white” Canada. It was during her post-secondary studies that she questioned this representation.

Her research showed how artists like Bieber, Drake, and Reyez resonated with her, allowing her to embrace different facets of her identity. The project became deeply personal, as Pope realized its impact on her and others. It revealed her profound interest in how musical artists create experiences that connect with listeners, fostering a sense of being “Canadian” and providing a space for self-reflection on identity.

Pope’s research ultimately showcases her pride in her complex Canadian-Trini identity, shaped in part by Canadian R&B. Follow Dr. Amara Pope: Instagram

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