After a chaotic eight months which included two separate delays of his album and getting his address leaked as a result of re-sparking beef with Kanye West, Drake has finally dropped his long-awaited project, “Certified Lover Boy,” (CLB) pregnant emoji cover and all. While initially marketed and touted as a summer album, it ended up being more of a back-to-school mixtape, accompanying the start of the new semester.
It is impossible to discuss this album and avoid comparisons to Kanye West’s most recent release, “Donda,” the Star Wars to CLB’s Star Trek. However, considering the individual merits of both albums allows one to appreciate their most impressive elements. Kanye will Kanye, but Drake will Drake. On a general level, CLB is projected to have the highest first-week sales of any album this year. On a more technical level, it is filled with Drake’s characteristically smooth flow, excellent production and bars both whimsical and cutting.
The intro, “Champagne Poetry,” sets a strong precedent for the rest of the album. Drake expertly samples Masego’s “Navajo” to provide the subtle backing vocals over which he can get some things off his chest: “Under me I see all the people that claim they over me/ And above me I see nobody.” Drake is commanding, confident and decisive, so it’s no surprise that the next track is titled “Papi’s Home.” Drake revels in his own success, recounting and taking pride in the totality of his career and the amount of work he put in to get to this point. Sometimes this boastfulness takes a comedic turn, like in “Way 2 Sexy,” whose Right Said Fred sample repeating “I’m too sexy for my shirt” clues the listener into this sentiment. In the song, Drake, Future and Young Thug effortlessly hand the mic off to one another, each detailing how they are too sexy for a variety of things, including accepting requests, this world, this ice and your gang. “Way 2 Sexy” represents Drake’s unique ability to not take himself too seriously and have the confidence to be self-deprecating at times.
However, Drake also describes the negative effects of his rise to fame, notably alienating him from many whom he once considered close. Because, as he describes on “No Friends in the Industry,” he “Stood on everything and never took it back,” Drake had to “draw the line between [his] brothers and [his] enemies.” On “N 2 Deep,” Drake details how he often does not feel like people truly know him outside of his fame. He often resorts to external methods to feel like himself: “Outside of the Club/ Show you just who I was.” Being able to both whimsically detail the opulence that comes with fame while also pointing out its detrimental, often overlooked impacts demonstrates Drake’s incredible versatility. I believe that few artists have the desire, or even the astuteness, to recognize such patterns and discrepancies within the industry.
Given the breadth and immense success of Drake’s career, he has had an extraordinary amount of time to polish and perfect his craft. With each project, Drake has fine-tuned his singing, sample selection, flow and collaborative ability. The project features guest verses from the likes of Lil Durk, Future and Jay-Z. However, the true culmination of Drake’s growth lies in “Fair Trade,” the sixth track on CLB, featuring Travis Scott. “Fair Trade” features an incredible backing sample from Charlotte Day Wilson, excellent flow from Drake throughout (with great wordplay) and a hype verse from Travis Scott. While boasting bars such as “Mama used to be on disability but gave me this ability” or “And the dirt that they threw on my name/ Turned to soil and I grew up out it,” the crux of the song is in the chorus, as Drake sings, “I’ve been losin’ friends and findin’ peace/ But honestly that sound like a fair trade to me.” Drake has not only honed his craft, he has also grown in a more personal way, coming to peace with the ills that accompany fame. It is no exaggeration to say “Fair Trade” is the pinnacle of his work up to this point and one of his best songs of all time.
However, CLB is a long album, and there are lulls. The last five or so tracks drag and could have probably been left off the album. For such a long album, though, it is remarkably consistent and boasts excellent highs. It represents exactly what has made Drake into the artist he is today, namely an uncanny ability to fit any type of beat perfectly and utter profundities while he does it. If CLB is an album about the immense fame of an artist nearly bigger than the genre itself, Drake makes sure that listeners get the whole picture.
Album Rating: 8.4 / 10
Best Songs: Fair Trade, Champagne Poetry, N 2 Deep, Pipe Down
Best Feature: Lil Durk (In the Bible)