On ‘Certified Lover Boy,’ Drake Seeks an Enemy Besides Himself

At this level in Drake’s profession, there are songs concerning the throne, and songs concerning the mattress. Each milieu comes with a worth. The first is about onerous energy: Remaining on the prime means outmaneuvering enemies, increase an invulnerable enterprise. The different, in Drake’s palms not less than, is about comfortable energy — most frequently, the trail to conquest is thru humility, and typically awe. Rarely do the 2 modes meet.

Which is what makes the concluding verse of “Race My Mind,” from Drake’s new album “Certified Lover Boy,” such a jolt. In the primary half of the music, he’s singing, however his affection is beginning to curdle; it’s a serenade to a lady who’s listening to different issues. Midway by means of, the music shifts away from candy plea to indignation, and Drake turns to rapping.

He sounds annoyed, dismissive, somewhat anxious: “Don’t you dare hit me back with no ‘k, sure’/Soon as I tell you that you the one I would wait for/You too saucy, too flossy, you moved in and moved off me.” The lady he’s craving is spending time with lesser rivals, and it’s scrambling Drake’s two vectors of management: “Know who you be around, I know that they teaming up/Telling you you better off leaving me in the dust.”

It’s a fevered rush of affront, and by far essentially the most alert Drake sounds on “Certified Lover Boy,” his sixth studio album, and first in three years. Historically, his approaches have been onerous to argue with — he has essentially rewritten the template for pop music during the last decade. But on “Certified Lover Boy” they’ve been polished clean, grow to be perhaps somewhat shopworn. This album is healthier in the dead of night. Better within the automotive. It demonstrates how sonically rigorous even essentially the most informal, tossed-off Drake songs are. But its storytelling doesn’t at all times maintain as much as strict scrutiny.

This is especially true within the songs about girls: the foolish “Girls Want Girls” with Lil Baby, “Get Along Better” with Ty Dolla Sign, the evenly grim “___ Fans.” Rather, what actually will get Drake steaming on this album are naysayers and adversaries, particularly evident within the 11th-hour rhymes about Kanye West, with whom Drake has been these days — and traditionally, and forevermore — locked in a tangle. (More on these Oedipal shenanigans later.) “Certified Lover Boy” will make its debut at No. 1 subsequent week with the largest opening-week numbers for any album this 12 months, changing West’s “Donda,” which simply did the identical.

Throughout his profession, Drake’s nimbleness has made him one in every of pop’s most constantly creative stars, keen to soak up and reinterpret any variety of regional and international kinds. There are sonic shiny spots when he nods to Houston (the OG Ron C intro on “TSU” and the pattern of Bun B’s “Get Throwed” on “N 2 Deep”) and Memphis (the sampled Project Pat verse on “Knife Talk,” its elastically chewy circulation sample ably mimicked by 21 Savage), each long-running fonts of inspiration. And typically Drake calls again to older variations of himself — the piano motifs in the beginning and finish of “The Remorse,” the album nearer, instantly nod to “Marvin’s Room,” the ne plus extremely of Drake’s magnetic toxicity.

But “Certified Lover Boy” is his least musically imaginative album, the one the place he pushes himself the least when it comes to technique and sample. Apart from the lite Afrobeats quantity “Fountains,” with the feathery Nigerian singer Tems, most songs right here hew to the acquainted narcotic synths and claustrophobic samples that underlie a lot of his music. This album may mark one thing like the start of the top of the Drake period, besides that the Drake period is just all of pop music now, and his improvements have grow to be the work of, properly, everybody else.

Drake is conscious of this, in fact — nobody each performs, and watches himself carry out, with the identical depth. Some of this album’s sharpest strains are about how Drake, the entity, capabilities out in the remainder of the world. “Under a picture lives some of the greatest quotes from me,” he raps on “Champagne Poetry,” about your Instagram captions. “I apologize for my absence, I know I left you without a name to drop/I don’t know how I expected you to get your clout up and get your money up,” he taunts on “Papi’s Home.”

But additionally Drake is the first engineer — his picture isn’t happenstance. Which is why the video for “Way 2 Sexy” (which samples Right Said Fred) is designed for memes, although it feels halfhearted. And his deep-sigh line about being a lesbian on “Girls Want Girls” is aimed not on the progressives who’ve lambasted it, however these seeking an inexpensive wink.

The method Drake steadily manicures his public picture couldn’t stand in additional stark distinction to how West manages his, and that’s the first motive the present rigidity between them feels so uneven. West’s lashings — together with leaking Drake’s alleged residence deal with — have been primal, broadsides in opposition to an impertinent youngster. But Drake is a father, too, and there’s been one thing chillier and extra strategic about how he’s dealt with the current backwards and forwards. “Give that address to your driver, make it your destination/’Stead of just a post out of desperation,” he raps on “7am on Bridle Path,” a evenly deflated however acutely barbed accounting of studying to fall out of affection along with your mentor.

The day after “Certified Lover Boy” was launched, Drake leaked “Life of the Party,” an unheard music by West that included some ranting strains geared toward Drake. But the music, which includes a majestic verse from the not often heard Andre 3000, was one thing approaching spectacular, and likewise profoundly emotional — in attempting to color his nemesis as hubristic, Drake as an alternative painted him as weak, the great type.

The reality is that this isn’t actually a battle, not less than not one fellow artists really feel compelled to take sides in — a number of seem on each “Donda” and “Certified Lover Boy.” And that’s not the one factor these two albums have in widespread: they’re abstract statements of a as soon as forward-thinking however now broadly accepted worldview, not wild reinventions. Perhaps uninterested in battling themselves, the 2 superstars have turned to battling one another. But that gained’t heal what’s inside.

Drake
“Certified Lover Boy”
(Republic)