Drake’s Hotline Bling will forever go down in history as one of the biggest records of 2015. The reason being—if you put aside the Toronto emcee’s stellar vocals; you will be left with Nineteen85’s hypnotizing track, which heavily contains a soulful/disco/funk sample from Timmy Thomas’s 1972 hit song, ‘Why Can’t We Live Together’, which has sold more than two million copies worldwide, and reached number one on the US R&B singles chart and number three on Billboard Pop Singles—eventually elevating the album, ‘Why Can’t We Live Together’, to number ten on the US R&B chart.
But Drake isn’t the first artist to try his hand at Thomas’ hit. Mike Anthony, Sade, Joan Osborne, Steve Winwood, Maria Muldaur, and Santana have all covered ‘Why Can’t We Live Together’. The reason being—if Thomas’ song was a hit back then, probably means that it will be meaningful to the people now; which is true because ‘HotLine Bling’ debuted at number two on the Billboard Hot 100, and it has been covered by Disclosure, Sam Smith, Alessia Cara, Rita Ora, and Kehlani and Charlie Puth; expect more covers in the near future.
Drake recently released the visuals for ‘Hotline Bling’, produced by Director X and inspired by James Turrell; and so far the music video has become an Internet phenomenon, resulting in an onslaught of funny memes. But another one of Hotline Bling’s inspiration, aside from Thomas’ influence, came from Virginia-based rapper, D.R.A.M., who tweeted, “I feel like I got jacked for my record,” which Drake addressed in his interview with The Fader.
“You know, like in Jamaica, you’ll have a riddim and it’s like, everyone has to do a song on that,” Drake said. “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,” Drake said about the connection between ‘Hotline Bling’ and D.R.A.M.’s ‘Cha Cha’ song. “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.”
Therefore, it’s safe to say that the inspiration for Drake’s ‘HotLine Bling’ came from a multitude of people, including Thomas, D.R.A.M., Nineteen85, etc.; but one thing that spiritually connects the above-mentioned names and Drake is Thomas’ conscious lyrics on ‘Why Can’t We Live Together’; which states: “…No more war | Just a little peace | No more war, no more war | All we want is some peace in this world | Everybody wants to live together, why can’t we be together (and inspire one another)?”