Drake gives us 20 track effort which is melodically nuanced and well-seasoned with elements of other genres such as UK Garage and Dancehall. Drizzy is in melancholic mood for a large portion of this record but marries his despair with a hefty slices of witty humour. It’s the range of sounds on offer that really cooks up this lyrical feast. His ability to speak so candidly on relationships that makes Drake the current King of Pop.
When you’re at the top you often get knocked and Drake can certainly testify to that. The Hip Hop community have never been more divided about their current flagship star. Not street enough, questions of if he writes his own material after a recent uncovering of a prominent ghost writer. It’s damned if you, do damned don’t for Drake most times when he releases music.
“All my lets just be friends, are not friends anymore” Drake begins opening track “Keep the Family Close” it’s something you instantly feel if you’ve ever been in meaningful relationship that ended. Midway through the track Drake sings “How you supposed to know what I’m going through, you can’t even figure out what’s going on with you” It’s all about perspective as its just impossible to know the intricacies of the life the man lives with temptations at every corner, inevitably relationships are the victim. Carried by a sombre beat but atmospheric ambiance you conjure the thought of Drake producing this record whilst on a long flight to another continent in a moment of deep contemplation.
Track named “9” finds Drake in sincere form once again “Mumma always telling me that raps no good, better than her telling me the cheques no good”. It’s tough when mum is questioning what you do to make that money. Perhaps Drizzy’s mum isn’t fully up with the power of hip hop. Heavy 808’s lace this expressive, soulful cocktail. With long-time collaborator‘40’ on the boards this production is a golden mix of R’n’B and hip hop that’s quite a journey into the thoughts Drizzy has on the industry. You get the feel Drakes being honest to the bone on this, he may not speak on world events enough within his music like say a Kendrick Lamar or Jay Cole but he’s hyper sensitive to the way he’s viewed by the hip hop community “Can’t get me on the lines so they hang me out to dry for it, You know 40 wants peace, but I’m down to cut ties for it”. Definitely a 9 this one.
“U with Me” Finds Drake paying homage to rap legend DMX by lifting his famous hook from one of his lighter numbers “How’s it Going Down”. Drizzy attacks this track with a confident gusto of a seasoned vet as he takes subliminal shots at simultaneous foes. At the beginning of the second verse Drake drops instant quotable lines “ I want to know how much time you spent on them paragraphs, Where you’re getting at me, All that grey in our conversation history, you playin’ mind games, when you sayin’ things, Playin’ mime games, we both doin’ the same thing’’. Although drake conceals those folk he’s aiming at, they know.
“Feel No Ways” has Drake soulfully crooning with success to an 80’s flavoured hip hop sample that’s been successfully moulded into R’n’B number. Drizzy skilfully tells the story of simply growing apart from a lady in his life. In the first couple lines in the hook he illustrates this beautifully “I tried with you, there’s more to life than sleeping in and getting high with you, I had to let go of us to show myself what I could I could do, And that just don’t didn’t sit right with you”. This track I had on repeat such was the melodic brilliance of it. “Feel No Way” is destined for gold plaques in the Pop World.
“Hype” finds Drake putting on his hard face and rapping his backside off, he’s met halfway by a menacing authentic hip-hop beat. Midway through the second verse the 6God blacks out and delivers with raw precision when he spits: “Niggas done being silent, Don’t get along man, we tried it, Whats’s the point of even tryin’? I hate goofy especially, they always dyin’ to mention me” . . This track is a reminder that Drake can really rap and makes swift and brisk points along the way.
“Weston Road Flows” samples “Mary’s Joint.” from Mary J. Blige’s 1994 album My Life. The first-time they collaborated was on Mary’s “The One” track in 2009, from her Stronger With Each Year LP. The sample works as an absolute reference to back in the day as the OVO don gives us a glimpse of his childhood. Weston Road is where Drake grew up in Toronto a relatively deprived part of town. With Mary on the joint it’s got heart and soul and you feel the come up that Drizzy managed.
Sampling Ray J’s “One Wish.” “Redemption” is a song of conflicting emotions around Drakes romantic relationships. Stylistically this is slow jam that sits alongside So Far Gone’s “Bria’s Interlude.” Midway through the second verse Mr OVO sings: “I used to know you back when you was young, Your brother brought me through, you saw me, That made me think or you so differently, I miss the feeling of you missing me, But you say you’re over and done with me”. In the last verse Drizzy questions how women he broke up with would go about making decisions in shoes. Food for thought go get a plate.
“With You” Is a tempo dancehall influenced record which features vocals mainly from OVO’s Jerimih (PARTYNEXTDOOR). Drake opens up during his verse with lyrics “Mixing vodka and emotions, tapping into your emotions, dry cry cause I’m hopeless, choosy lover for the moment”. It’s refreshing to hear a perceived tough guy opening up, the hooks cement this feel good emotional letting down of the guard: “It’s about us right now, girl, where you going? Its about us right now, girl, where you going? I’m with you”.
“Faithful” is Drake showing love to the ladies in a sensitive way looking at the intricacies of what it may be like to be an independent woman trying to juggle a relationship. Featuring a verse from the late Southern hip hop legend Pimp C member of UGK. It also features Drake’s newest OVO signee, dvsn.
“Still Here” is a statement record which is all about Aubrey and his squad doin’ well, as per the hook. You can just see Drake smiling to himself as he nods away to the beat with his family. Rebelliously offering us a reminder of his list endeavours from starting from the bottom beautiful women, his acting past, and an excess of money. These are used to show how far he has come to be on top of the music game. This has a young money feel to it and is produced by 20 year old Daxz, of back to back fame, this is just his second solo production credit on a Drake track.
As mentioned at the beginning of this review this album is influenced heavily by the dancehall scene. “Controlla” is Drake pledging his commitment to a woman, it features a similar vibe to Drake’s collaboration with Rihanna ‘”Work” the track recently featured dancehall artist Popcaan. Drizzy then decided to take him off the record and add a sample of Beenie Man’s “Tear off Mi Garment” . His admiration for the woman in question is encapsulated with his hook “Knowing I’d lie for you, thinking I’d die for you, Jodeci “Cry for you”, Do things when you want me to”.
“One Dance” features a slowed down sample of the vocals and chord stabs from 2008’s Kyla’s “Do You Mind” which was produced by London collective Crazy Cousinz. This is impressively cajoled into being an afrobeat song with dancehall nuances. It’s a summer stunner that simply going to sizzle. Also featuring Nigerian singer Wizkid—he and Drake teamed up in 2015 to remix his track “Ojuelegba” pleasingly for Drake this managed to be his first number 1#.
“40” Produces an 808 heavy banger “Grammys” featuring Future in the first time they’ve collaborated since 2015’s highly rated mixtape What a Time to Be Alive . This track again finds Drake flaring up and switching up flows throughout his verse, from references to Hype Williams, Jay Z and Canadian rapper Top5 Future, on the other hands, blasts the Grammys and takes a subtle at rapper Desiigner, whose hit song “Panda” has been labelled as a Future rip-off. A great work out tune which gets the pulse racing.
“Childs Play” finds drake in great narrative form as he describes taking a lady out to well name restaurant only for her to act up. He labels her demands of new outfit as mere “Childs Play”, it’s clear that sexual favours sways Drake to meet the fashion demands of the female. The hook paints a clear picture of this scenario: “Right,right, yeah, I say bounce that shit like woah, Yeah, bounce that shit like woah, This is not fairytale, I already know how you like it, Take you to the mall and get you a new outfit, Girl, that’s just some child’s play”.
“Pop Style” a Jamaican term for “balin” or “showing off” if you like is a gregarious number that finds Drake at his most expansive dropping verse after verse declaring his ownership of the top spot. Lines such as “They still out to get me, I don’t get it, I cannot be got, and that a given, Give a real nigga the number one, Even though I got like twenty one, cannot be me I’m a one-of –one, schooling your ass like a 101”. The original track featured Kanye West and a two line verse from Jay Z. Drizzy seemed to feel some sort of way as he reverted to a different version that does not include Jigga or West. This feels like a darker Kanye inspired production with its melancholy feel assisted by a haunted house like chimes. This is however a Noah “40” Shebib & Boi 1da invention.
“Too Good” featuring Rhianna hot off the brilliant “Work,” collaboration that they managed earlier in the year. This one is story of a couple who go out of their respected partners well, while they feel like their love is taken for granted. The fourth collaboration of the two carries the same dancehall-calypso sound but the lyrics carry a much more heart rendering feel. It’s the penny dropping hook that carries the emotion on this one “I’m too good to you, I’m way too good to you, you take me love for granted, I just don’t understand it”. In his interview with Zane Lowe Drake spoke about the energy and understanding that exists with Rhianna which led to this collaboration. You get the feeling through their music that there is a genuine energy between them.
Drake gives us a slice of that classic 60’s soul as he repackages the melody and vocals of Smokey Robinson single “Ooo Baby Baby.” The lyrics come curtesy of Majid Maskati, the vocalist half of Majid Jordan. This superb interlude enters towards the end of this album, as Drake modelled this album around Toronto’s seasons. “Summers Over” Interlude reveals itself as a sombre return to a colder climate. Frankly this is such cracker that you hope for a full feature from Majid on this track.
“Fire & Desire” has Drizzy in dedication mode as he expresses his appreciation for a woman who’s already committed to another man. It’s an endless love story that’s been told many times. Drake makes it fresh with his infectious vocals and thoughtful delivery. If you wanted to create headlines you could speculate that this is about former label mate Nicki Minaj. Since her engagement to rival Meek Mill there has been some very clear tension. A definite slow jam that has us reminiscent of the 90s golden period when the likes of R Kelly was revered by the whole industry.
Drake gets back into T-Shirt mode as the summer feel is very much displayed in track ‘Views’. Samples from The Winans’ “The Question Is”—a song about faith in God. Faith in self is what Drizzy gives us this as he spits: “my exes made some of my favourite music, I dated women from my favourite movies, Karma’s such a thing of beauty, I’d share of my story but you wouldn’t believe it, Its farfetched like I threw that shit hundred meters, I keep it 100 like I’m running a fever”. The title track gives us a snap shot of Drakes road to success warts and all. Subliminal jabs at opponents throughout has Drizzy closing this album on the offensive. Soft rapper I’m just not buying that.
I’m not sure why Drake closed “Views” with “Hotline Bling” nothing against this tracks catchy and contagious hook. It just seems a little out of place with the groove of the album up till this point. My first time criticised Drake on this project. You get the feeling that this track is directed Drizzy’s towards his old flame Nebby who he’s had an on off relationship with over the last 5 years. In his verse Drizzy sings “Ever since I left the city,you,you got exactly what you asked for, running out pages in your passport, hanging out with some girls I’ve never seen before”. Drake could easily have conjured this song up after scrolling through her Instagram page. Nebzilla seems to have got under Drakes skin? Feels as if she’s the one who got away. By reaching #2 on the Billboard hot 100, its one of his hottest singles in a while.
All in all this Album is an absolute smash – Arguably in the running for album of the year thus far.
Editor: @agethemc (Adrian Richard)
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