Photo Credit: OVO/Republic
It’s not uncommon for an artist to lose their passion – their fire, their spark – as they move up the echelons of stardom. That doesn’t make it any less disappointing to watch it happen in real-time. Case in point: Drake. After releasing three successive career-bests in the form of Take Care, Nothing Was The Same and If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, the Canadian rapper dulled his most interesting edges on the hit machine that was 2016’s Views and then did so further on its follow-up Scorpion – an album filled with music as colorless as its black-and-white cover art. 2021’s painfully bad Certified Lover Boy represented the nadir of Drake’s output thus far, while the only occasionally better Honestly, Nevermind did little to turn around his terrific artistic decline. Drake’s third LP in less than two years – and his first collaborative project since 2015 – sees him team up with 21 Savage. While given equal billing, 21 is mostly sidelined across Her Loss’s hour-long runtime. On the opener “Rich Flex,” Drake asks “21, can you do somethin’ for me?” but seemingly answers this question himself with a definitive “no.”
Her Loss is rife with issues – not least the unfortunate sidelining of 21 Savage – but before exploring those, it should be noted that the LP contains some of Drake’s best work in years (an admittedly low bar). In the album’s best moments, Drake sounds looser, more incisive, and like he’s having more fun than he has in a long time. “Major Distribution” showcases some of Drake’s most technically proficient rapping, while on the following “On BS,” he loosens up without losing his sense of urgency.
Now, for the problems. As many have noted, Her Loss is absolutely rife with misogyny – making the album’s title sadly fitting. It’s misogynistic both in the ways one would expect (Drake’s lexicon for describing women is largely limited to “h*es” and “b*tches” and the rapper sings of 51% of the world’s population as if their importance only extends to the extent that he can sexualize them). But in its worst moments, Her Loss sinks far further beyond the pale than Drake usually dares. On “Rich Flex,” Drake and 21 Savage interpolate Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage.” Eight songs later, Drake disses her in what is surely the album’s most disgusting moment: “That b*tch lie ‘bout gettin’ shots, but she still a stallion.” The line may supposedly be about butt injections, but the implication is obvious – as Drake joins the obnoxious hordes seeking to cast doubt on Megan Thee Stallion’s highly credible shooting allegations against Tory Lanez.
As aforementioned, the rest of Her Loss contains some of Drake’s best work in years, but it’s still unmistakably a Drake album in 2022; which means it overlong, self-pitying, often tedious, and wildly inconsistent. The quality of Drake’s performances vary drastically not just from one song to the next, but within each song. The chart-topper sounds asleep at the wheel at the start of “Broke Boys” but re-emerges in the second half sounding better than ever. He spends much of “Rich Flex” attempting an awkward and unfortunate half-sing-half-rap performance, but reignites his old charm on the following “Major Distribution.” “Middle Of The Ocean” features some of Drake’s most technically impressive rapping, but the song’s lyrics – effectively a stream of consciousness – are too outlandish to be truly captivating (within the first 90 seconds or so, Drake raps about Aaliyah, rigatoni, manifestos, sex, espresso martinis, techno music, life insurance, and spiderman).
Given Drake’s comically outsized ego, it’s perhaps no surprise that the Canadian rapper can’t help but sideline his collaborator 21 Savage to featured artist status on most of Her Loss. But he shouldn’t have. On the penultimate “3AM on Glenwood”, Drake exits stage left and gives 21 three uninterrupted minutes in the spotlight. The result is the most moving, captivating, and authentic moment of the LP’s hour-long runtime. It offers a brief, tantalizing glimpse into what could have been if Drake had been able to reign in his worst egotistical tendencies across more of Her Loss. *Sighs*