In what feels like an ode to his fans, Drake teams up with his prominent collaborator, 21 Savage, for an hour long 808-filled flurry of non-stop trap.
Earlier this year, Drake did something that he doesn’t usually do. He changed his sound. “Honestly, Nevermind”, his previous album, featured Drake trying his usual R&B heartache anthems over deep house instrumentals, and whilst a lot of music lovers praised Drake for this unexpected switch up, a lot of his rap fan base were left scratching their heads.
Obviously, this didn’t sit well with the Canadian rapper. Drake is an artist who loves being “hot” and has stayed “hot” over the past ten years due to his constant strive for relevancy. The only song that really gained any mainstream attention from the album was “Jimmy Cooks”, featuring of course, 21 Savage. This was their fourth song together and the fourth time they created, what the rap community considered, a trap anthem. The success of “Jimmy Cooks” was the final example needed to prove that a Drake and 21 Savage LP had to happen.
Just like the album’s hilariously fun rollout, the album itself is just as entertaining and controversial. From the very start of the album, Drake sounds the most focused as he has been since “More Life”. His bars are sharp, and his punchlines are brilliant, especially in the intro “Rich Flex”. On the third beat specifically, Drake spits witty, smile-inducing one-liners within an infectious water-tight flow, with an attitude reminiscent of his “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” days.
Whilst Drake will get most of the spotlight in this review, being the larger-than-life superstar that he is, it has to be said that 21 held his own more than I thought he would on this album. The “Saint-Laurent Don” shines on “Rich Flex” also, maybe not quite to the calibre of Drake but still, his sly snake-like delivery fits the sinister trap beats perfectly.
“Major Distribution”, is also an occasion where the two thrive simultaneously. Drake lulls the listener in with a soft song intro that becomes quite funny when you actually realise what he’s singing about. The track then suddenly shifts from R&B parody to menacing Atlanta Trap, and Drake goes from singing blissfully to spitfire rapping. 21 gets in his bag and matches his energy, emulating his flow and adding his own humorous punchlines. My favourite is: “Make an IG model run my errands”.
“Broke Boys” however, is where I think the chemistry of the pair peaks. The two rappers literally bounce off each other, especially in the first half, where the pair feel like they’re unironically finishing each other’s sentences. Their energy surges through your headphones. The reversed beat, Drake’s instantly catchy chorus, and 21’s effortless flow make this their best collab to date.
Now the wins of the album have been praised, it’s, unfortunately, time to count the “losses”.
In terms of music, there are a few songs that sound like they’re dragging their feet on the floor. “BackOutsideBoyz” is boring in all its generic mediocrity. “Treacherous Twins” feels like a song meant for girls’ Instagram boomerangs. “On BS” is fun at moments, but musically there isn’t a lot going on.
Another problem I have with this album is some of the lyrical content. Drake desperately wants to exude a toxic, playboy persona on this album, however, it comes off more cringy than it does entertaining. Some of his and 21’s lines sound like they’ve been ripped straight from a “red-pill” influencer’s twitch stream. This line for example: “Hеr stomach is flat as fuck. She still fit that shit in her gut somehow, the fat musta went in her butt somehow” ……. I don’t think I need to explain why that line is awful. Also 21’s howler: “I know you’re on your period babe, can you suck it?”, my face went straight into my palms for that one.
There’s also Drake’s controversial lines about celebrities, all of which are female. In “Middle of the Ocean” Drake calls his ex, Serena Williams’ husband a groupie. On “Circo Loco” he seemingly takes shots at Meg Thee Stallion and mocks her accusations of being shot by Tory Lanez. He also seems to make fun of the new female rapper, Ice Spice, rapping: “She a ten tryna rap, it’s sounds good on mute”. All these disses and shots create their own advantages and disadvantages for the album.
Whilst I have to admit, it is entertaining to hear Drake go off on other celebrities, It also feels wrong for him to diss people that haven’t really done anything wrong, specifically Ice Spice and Meg. As a rapper himself shouldn’t he be uplifting female rappers rather than making fun of them? This controversy as well takes the shine away from 21 Savage and makes Drake the main focus. That also doesn’t feel fair and sometimes makes the album sound like Drake “featuring” 21 Savage instead of the true collaborative project we wanted it to be.
Score/Good: This album was close to getting a mediocre score, but a handful of songs and certain standout moments stopped me from committing the act. Drake was for the most part great on this album, despite his occasionally weak lyricism, his melodies and hooks swiftly come to the rescue. 21 was also great, but at times felt like an after-thought on some of the songs, and sometimes couldn’t quite stand tall to Drake’s calibre of songwriting.
[I rank albums on a scale of: Poor, Mediocre, Good, Excellent, and Outstanding.]
Written by Jake Campbell