Release Date: March 18, 2017
Label: OVO Sound / Young Money / Cash Money / Republic
Genres: Contemporary R&B / Dancehall / Grime (debatable) / Pop Rap
Here’s an artist that does not really need any introduction, but for the sake of new listeners and my conscience, I will go into a brief history of Drake. The Canadian former actor of Degrassi fame became a rapper/singer in about 2006 and pretty much took the world by storm. With hit singles like “HYFR” and “The Motto” from his 2011 album Take Care, Drake pretty much cemented his name in the mainstream hip hop game with his sing-type rap and personal, introspective lyrical content. In recent releases, he has come to acquire a more Jamaican and Dancehall feel to his music, and that pretty much assured me that I would not be an all-out Drake fan. Despite this, however, after much hesitation and thinking, I decided to review this “playlist” to see what he could do for me.
Well, let me just say this first: twenty-two tracks, eighty-one minutes. That’s…well, that’s simply too much. There are very few artists who can release an album (or a “playlist” in this case) with twenty tracks, Eminem being the most prominent example, though he has strayed from that in recent releases. If Drake just reduced his twenty-two track, eighty-one-minute album (I am going to call it an album from this point because that’s exactly what it is) to about fifteen tracks and the running time of about fifty-one minutes, this album would 1) not seem like a George R.R. Martin novel and not make the listener feel as though they’re taking on some big task; and 2) have rated a little bit higher than what I gave it.
Along with the Dancehall and Jamaican influences that Drake has incorporated since his last album Views – which was, in my opinion, a musical atrocity – Drake seems to have also incorporated a bit of a Grime sound as well, going so far as to mimic how some of the more prominent Grime acts sound on tracks like “No Long Talk,” which features Giggs, one of the more prominent British Hip Hop acts. To me, this was a very bad move on Drake’s part. I mean, I can understand incorporating some sounds from your contemporaries, but going fully like Drake did on this track is a bit too much for me. The Giggs feature was pretty good, though.
One of the main things that I honestly like about Drake is his introspective material. When a rapper or singer can feel comfortable enough to rap or sing about the many instances in his life, I can definitely get behind them. He does that for the most part on the album, but there are times when it gets to be too much. With twenty-two tracks, that might be a very big flaw. Another good aspect of the album is the instrumentation and the production (though it was a bit less on par than Views, which I actually praise for the overall production of). I can pretty much always count on Drake to give quality instrumentation on his tracks, and that’s one of the biggest reasons why I do not fully say that I do not listen to his music.
Honestly, Drake hasn’t made an album that I have been fully able to listen to since Nothing Was the Same, and I am not even entirely sure if I fully like that album, to begin with. He just seems to all over the place all the time with his music, and when done right, that can be one of the best things about a musician and his music. Drake honestly really hasn’t done a good job of that with his last two releases. I also did not care for his collaborative mixtape with Future, either. Despite almost top quality production and instrumentation as well as his introspective material that I find myself liking every now and then, Drake just doesn’t give the right amount of umph to make me say that I fully enjoy Drake’s music and Drake as an artist. For this, I give the album/playlist/lengthy monstrosity a 73 / C-. If he reduced the twenty-two tracks down to fifteen tracks, the fifteen that I seemed to enjoy the most out of all of them, the album would have been four points higher. But no, Drake can do whatever he pleases because he’s Drake, and that’s perfectly all right, because it’s certainly working for him.
I still won’t give up on him though. On this album, he shows very promising signs of something. I’m just not sure of what it is yet.
Favorite tracks: “Passion Fruit,” “Jorja Interlude,” “4422,” “Skepta Interlude,” “Sacrifices,” “Glow,” and “Do Not Disturb.”
Meh tracks: “Free Smoke,” “No Long Talk,” “Get it Together,” “Gyalchester,” “Portland,” “Lose You,” “Can’t Have Everything,” and “Since Way Back.”
Least favorite tracks: “Madiba Riddim,” “Blem,” “Nothings Into Somethings,” “Teenage Fever,” “KMT,” “Fake Love,” and “Ice Melts.”