Dr. Amara Pope:  “The Missing History of Canadian R&B”  


Toronto, On – 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. Nothing was given. The onus was on her to succeed.  She does.  Pope brings laser focus and personal clarity to her PhD dissertation, Canadians  Redefining R&B: The Online Marketing of Drake, Justin Bieber, and Jessie Reyez.” 

 The topic stems from the impact music had/ has (although not fully realized at the time) on this little girl growing up in a predominantly white place. Today, Dr. Amara Pope is a passionate and confident marketing manager, the first in a loving working-class family to graduate with a PhD.  Music became an important part of her life growing up, the understanding of why and how significant came later in the journey, with Pope’s insightful PhD dissertation.

Dr. Amara Pope

Pope’s well researched work uncovers the missing history of Canadian R&B which had been excluded from Canadian media in the past.  Pope features stories with Crack of Dawn, Oscar Peterson, Jackie Shane, Eleanor Collins & others. The paper critiques the organization of music through racial and national divides with insights from interviews conducted with music professionals and marketing executives. 

Pope explores how Canadian music was exclusively represented by white rock and folk artists & R&B music was exclusively used to group Black U.S. artists.  The extensive dissertation argues that R&B exemplifies a multicultural Canadian identity by investigating how Drake, Justin Bieber, and Jessie Reyez broke into the music industry to represent multiple yet equally Canadian R&B artists.

Pope analyzes the growing popularity of contemporary Canadian R&B in the digital era by examining Drake’s, Bieber’s, and Reyez’s performances during BLM and the COVID-19 pandemic when they all released new music. The researcher takes an in depth look at the rise of Canadian hip hop and R&B music, specifically through the struggles of many racialized and immigrant Canadian artists who work together in the periphery of Canadian society to break into mainstream media.

 Pope explores how these Canadian artists collaborated with many U.S. artists to establish what she calls “Canadian R&B music”, a mixture of R&B, hip-hop, pop, soca, reggae, and many immigrants sounds, styles, and cultures.  The dissertation looks at how Drake, Justin Bieber, and Jessie Reyez reinforce, complicate, and or challenge dominant beliefs of “Canadian-ness” and “R&B-ness.”

At a young age Pope relocated from Scarborough, On. with its diverse ethnicities to a small town in Elmira, On. where hers was the only “brown family.”  They were known as the “brown” family in the corner house. Pope embraced her Trinidadian culture with strength, understanding and a sense of empowerment.  She grew up watching Canadian media reflect a predominately “white” Canada but didn’t question it until her post-secondary studies.  She realized after her dissertation that musical artists like Bieber, Drake, and Reyez resonated with her younger self and allowed her to embrace different parts of her identity in ways that her immediate environments did not permit.  While writing her paper it became apparent just how personal it had become.

The full impact of her research was only uncovered when the project was completed.  Pope uncovered a deep interest in exploring the ability of musical artists to create experiences that she can enjoy along with other listeners.  These experiences champion a sense of being distinctly “Canadian” and create a space that allows herself and others to better understand and reflect on their own identity where they feel heard, seen, and embraced. The biggest takeaway at the end of the Project…Dr. Amara Pope is truly a proud Canadian-Trini from Elmira, ON.  who can confidently embrace all intersecting, complicated and challenging aspects of her complex identity, in no small part because of Canadian R&B.

“I have often heard that it is not until you are done a project that you truly understand its purpose, and now I understand why that is so. “Dr. Amara Pope

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