It’s been an odd year for Drake. He’s achieved massive mainstream success with ‘God’s Plan’ and ‘Nice for What’ in the charts this year, whilst an ongoing feud with Pusha T – mainly in the form of awkward disstracks – reached a new low. ‘The Story of Addion’ is an expose on Drizzy and his up-until-now hidden offspring, and came at a time when the Canadian was in album mode. Could the drama surrounding this long-kept secret cast a shadow over an already lacking album?
This album is split into two, with the A side being mainly rap-focused whilst the B side channels R&B and pop. The A side uses minimal production on most tracks, featuring basic beats and little use of fancy production. This works best on the tracks where Drake has something to say, such as his intro ‘Survival’ where he sets out the issues he’s been battling with and what he will address in due course, whilst remaining as braggadocios as possible – “My Mount Rushmore is me with four different expressions” is hilariously egocentric.
Minimal production becomes an issue when Drake has little to say – which is sadly the case on many of these tracks.
This also works on ‘Emotionless’, where he provides intimate details of his personal life above Mariah Carey’s backing vocals, on ‘Sandra’s Rose’ which like the earlier song boasts a strong and successful rhyming scheme. Jay Z’s feature on ‘Talk Up’ leaves us with a chilling verse above a darker beat, especially at the mention of xxxTentacion and Florida high school student Trayvon Martin’s acquitted murderer George Zimmerman.
But minimal production becomes an issue when Drake has little to say – which is sadly the case on many of these tracks. This borders on embarrassing in ‘Nonstop’, an empty, lifeless brag where Drake sounds half asleep and on ‘Upset’, which sounds much like when someone moans about their life on Facebook with a beat attached. It would be silly, however, to claim that the whole album is awful; tracks like ‘God’s Plan’, ‘8 Out of 10 Cats’, ‘Mob Ties’ and ‘Elevate’ each have positive qualities.. But he appears to be responding to the drama with Pusha T mostly by pointing out his success and how he is the biggest artist in the game right now, which while hard to dispute doesn’t automatically disarm all criticism. This leaves a lot of these tracks with generic filler lyrics on Drake’s success in which Pusha T has already pulled the rug from under him making much of this album a bore to listen to. Whether it’s that he still sees “fear from the other side” or that he sees no challengers, his lyrical choices only deepen the problem.
In his latest record, Drake comes across as extremely clingy and controlling
Then there’s the B side of the album which, devoid of all this drama, seems to target a more mainstream audience. ‘Summer Games’ and ‘Peak’ are enjoyable listens, whilst the dance tracks on here, ‘Nice for What’ and ‘In my Feelings’ both use incredibly good mixing to create catchy hits, with beats and samples booming out of these tracks. ‘Blue Tint’ is a perfectly acceptable trap tune, but while I personally have taken a liking to ‘Ratchet Happy Birthday’ I can understand why it might be an acquired taste.
Most troubling is the point of view taken by the artist in many of these songs. In his latest record, Drake comes across as extremely clingy and controlling; ‘Summer Games’ is about how the subject moved on with someone else much like Drake, and by including petty details (“I follow one of your friends, you unfollow me/Then you block them so they can’t see you likin’ someone just like me”) glosses over his own pathetic heartbreak. Then there’s ‘Jaded’ where he says he himself could have shaped the subject (allegedly Jorja Smith), that she’s too opinionated and that should have stayed loyal. Such an attitude reoccurs repeatedly on this side of the album.
The large amount of filler on this record, the lack of a punch from Drake’s lyrics and a completely mixed bag on the B side, leaves me mostly disappointed
The songs left unmentioned thus far – apart from ‘After Dark’, a pretty smooth R&B track with Ty Dolla Sign – are forgettable on an already long album. ‘Finesse’ takes the minimal approach too far, ‘That’s How You Feel’ is only worth a listen for its Nicki Minaj sample and ‘Final Fantasy’ is a darker track which manages to render Drake’s bordering-on-BDSM fantasies dull. ‘Don’t Matter to Me’ suffers from the same issue as ‘That’s How You Feel’, with the Michael Jackson sample making the beginning, middle and end of the track. The album ends with ‘March 14’ where Drake reacts to the news of a child and how he’s dedicated to supporting it fully. Whether this is simply to uphold his public image or not, this song as the ending track is heart-warming to say the least.
Overall, I won’t say this album is terrible as I highlighted a fair number of songs I did enjoy. But amongst the large amount of filler on this record, the lack of a punch from Drake’s lyrics and a completely mixed bag on the B side, I am left mostly disappointed from this 25-track album that I doubt I will be returning to much over the summer.