Photo Credit: Image via YouTube/Drake
Drake’s latest release Certified Lover Boy starts with the five-and-a-half-minute “Champagne Problems”; which begins with a sample of Masego’s “Navajo” – which, itself, samples the Beatles’ “Michelle”. The LP opener sees Drake fully recharged since his last full-length record of new material – 2018’s Scorpion. Here, the Canadian rapper turns the dial all the way up on braggadocio (“I been hot since the birth of my son // I remain unphased”) and, in the song’s second half, Drake switches pace and – with help from gorgeous gospel choir backing vocals – delivers surprisingly insightful commentary on the state of the world, and in particular, the Black Lives Matter protests of last year (“The city’s on fire and people are in denial // Charges being laid, but we’ll see the what they do with trial”). The next track, “Papi’s Home” – featuring backing vocals from Nicki Minaj – offers continued inward reflection (“I was a child trying to be a man”) and cocky chest-pumping (“I’m standing at the top, that’s how I know you never seen the top”) in equal measure. These two tracks hint at an expectation-defying sixth studio album; perhaps even setting the stage for Drake’s strongest LP since 2013’s Nothing Was The Same.
Drake may seem unstoppable at this point in his career – with a whopping 100+ Top 40 hits to his name – but the stakes are high for his latest album. It comes after a handful of mixtapes and albums that were panned by critics and fans alike. It also comes amidst a highly publicized feud with Kanye West; who less than a week before this release, dropped his highly-anticipated tenth album; the bloated and uneven Donda – which contained a heady mixture of big misses and even bigger hits. While the “God’s Plan” rapper may claim to “remain unphased”, his recent actions suggest otherwise. On Certified Lover Boy, Drake has more to prove than ever.
Anticlimactically, the first two songs on Certified Lover Boy happen to be the best. The third track – the already infamous “Girls Want Girls”, featuring the cringe-worthy and borderline fetishistic line: “say that you a lesbian, girl, me too” – sees the album take a nose-dive from which it never recovers. The rest of Certified Lover Boy largely limps along at a disappointing, yawn-inducing, lifeless pace. While this LP was recorded over two years, listening to it, you feel as if Drake recorded this all in one sitting; getting gradually more bored and uninspired with each new track.
There are hints of a better album within Certified Lover Boy; the electrifying arrangements at the start of “N 2 Deep” hint at a more exciting record than what we eventually got and Yebba’s contribution on “Yebba’s Heartbreak” create the most affecting moments here (and prove the need for a greater female presence on this album). Meanwhile, the Right Said Fred sampling and interpolation on “Way 2 Sexy”, while somewhat ridiculous, is an example of a fun, left-field choice that this album could use more of. However, in its totality, Certified Lover Boy is something of a frustrating listen, and even more so, is a largely boring listen (especially in its final third). It’s the sound of an artist largely uninterested in growth; content knowing that doing the bare minimum is enough to sell-out shows and top the charts.