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Review: On “Certified Lover Boy,” Drake sounds bored with himself

Drake’s “Certified Lover Boy” released Sept. 3. (Pitchfork)

My first true experience with Drake’s music was “Nothing Was the Same.” A high school freshman at the time, I illegally downloaded the album onto my laptop and spent the next hour in my homeroom listening to the best hour of music Drake had released up until that point. 

It was obvious from the opening track that he felt the need to prove something. He had heard the praise lauded upon his peers, mainly Kendrick Lamar, and wanted to provide a hard-hitting classic of his own. Although “Take Care” would be considered a classic years later, “Nothing Was the Same” wouldn’t receive the type of praise that Drake was looking for, akin to Lamar’s critically acclaimed “good kid, m.A.A.d city.” 

Despite many considering it a very good album, it was never thought of as a classic, much to Drake’s displeasure. It was something he spoke on in his Rap Radar interview in 2019, when he dismissed the notion that he only possessed one classic in his discography. 

Somewhere between then and 2016, Drake came to the realization that he didn’t possess the capability of making classic albums anymore, so he went with a blueprint he could control: go bigger and more commercial. That worked well during his exceptional 2015 run that brought us the commercial mixtape, “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” and the collaborative project with Future “What a Time to be Alive.” 

However, cracks in that formula begin to show in his fourth studio album “Views,” which in my opinion is better than most people give it credit for, but still could have done with six fewer tracks. The album was bloated and featured one of Drake’s worst singles in his career in “One Dance.” But what can you say when it sells over one million copies in the first week and the lead single is at least 13x platinum.

Welcome to The Drake Show.

Only here can you experience an hour and thirty minutes of Bored Drake, Petty Drake, Tough Guy Drake and “I’m Happy to be a Dad” Drake while feeling like you’re the one who misunderstood the assignment. It’s like living in a narcissist’s version of a WandaVision episode. 

The “Nice For What” rapper begins his sixth studio album, “Certified Lover Boy,” with a rather nice song in “Champagne Poetry,” which samples a cover of the Beatles’ song “Michelle.” On this track, Drake shows that his pen is good (when he decides to try) and refers to the many Instagram captions he inspires, as well as his dominance in rap.

“Under a picture live some of the greatest quotes from me / Under me I see all the people that claim they over me.”

On “Papi’s Home,” Drake offers nothing that we haven’t heard before, with even less exciting production than before. On a sample of Montell Jordan’s “Daddy’s Home,” he mentions that he’s running out of ops, which makes you think he would stop bringing them up, until he does forty seconds later. He also mentions his philandering exploits with women, but it fails to register any excitement over a bland sample and subpar lyrics.

“Girls Want Girls,” shows Drake at his most heartless. Not heartless as in unloving, but instead deciding to put no emotion whatsoever in the song. In the midpoint of the song, he literally mumbles the chorus because it’s so uninspired. This is something I expect from Gunna, not a guy who considers himself all four expressions of Mount Rushmore.

“In The Bible” and “Love All” fail to bring anything of substance either, save for a nice JAY-Z verse.

The obvious highlight of the album is “Fair Trade.” The song provides one of Drake’s catchier flows on this project and a pretty good chorus that transitions beautifully into an exceptional Travis Scott verse, which arguably steals the show.

“Way 2 Sexy” is a song you’ll either hate or love. It samples Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy,” and transitions into a thumping trap beat with a catchy Future chorus that I admittedly enjoyed upon first listening, despite some cringy Drake lines. However, a few days have passed and I’m already getting tired of the song, which makes me suspect that it won’t have great replay value. This happens to be a reoccurring theme with many of Drake’s recent hits.

Future also features on “N 2 Deep,” but neither him nor a beat change can save this song from being bad. The first half of the song sounds like a Walmart version of a Yeezus throwaway track, and transitions to even more bland production and an uninspired Future verse.

“Pipe Down” isn’t a perfect song, especially when Drake is chastising women for not being the way that he envisions in his mind. However, I love the sample of Lil Wayne’s “P—y Money Weed,” and it makes for one of the better tracks on this album. 

On “No Friends In The Industry,” we get Tough Guy Drake, who claims to have no friends in the industry but literally had Justin Bieber rap his lyrics on an official DJ Khaled music video. Not to mention that infamous streaming rollout which had his face plastered on every Spotify playlist. Meanwhile, “Knife Talk,” is terrible in every facet, but 21 Savage truly tanks this track with his contributions.

“Race My Mind” sounds like a leftover from his “Scorpion” studio sessions. “Fountains” is so painstakingly boring that not even Tems is able to provide a meaningful contribution. “TSU,” which leaked months ago, is a track I like, but I prefer the original leak over this track.

The Kid Cudi-featured track, “IMY2,” fails to live up to the hype because neither Cudi nor Drake display any chemistry whatsoever, and Cudi’s style does not fit on this beat. “F—–g Fans” could’ve stayed in the desktop trash bin, and “7am On Bridle Path” is the worst out of his AM/PM series of songs. Even his barbs at Kanye West fail to be interesting anymore. Rap beef is only fun when both artists are releasing great music at a consistent level.

The only reprieve on the back half of this album is “You Only Live Twice,” which features great verses from Rick Ross and Lil Wayne. Drake also shows up with one of his better verses on this album.

“I gotta dead a lot of s–t just to live like this,” he raps. “I had to f–k a lot of girls to get a kid like this / I had to get a lot of cribs to get a crib like this.”

I predict that this album will have the worst replay value of all the albums in his catalog, but when a guy goes 10 months wearing a heart shaped cutout in his hairline, I don’t really think he cares.

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