Drake Is Relaunching in the Best Possible Way

It’s hard to debate that the last decade didn’t belong to Drake. The former Degrassi star was without a doubt the most successful popstar, let alone rapper, of the 2010s, with never more than a year between projects debuting at #1 on Billboard.

That being said, if we’re all being honest, on a quality level Drizzy just hasn’t been great in years. His second studio album, 2011’s Take Care, was a certifiable classic, and launched him as music’s newest superstar. Since then, though, Aubrey Graham has been on a consistently downwards slope.

Nothing Was The Same (2013) and If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late (2015) are both decently well-regarded; however, later projects have not been met so kindly. 2016’s Views, 2017’s More Life, and 2018’s Scorpion all demonstrate how lazy Champagne Papi has been in recent years.

Each new album (or ‘playlist,’ in the case of More Life) is lazier than the last. Gone now are the days of the concise, streamlined 13-song tracklist found on Nothing Was The Same. In its place are 24-track behemoths, over an hour and a half of mediocre pop bangers with zero lyrical depth and nothing remotely interesting to speak of.

Basically, Drake traded in quality for quantity. Where once we got fifteen certifiable classics from the 6 God each year, now we got thirty to forty flavorless pop songs, bringing in the styles of other regions and countries and taking any sort of originality out of them.

Worse yet, Drake’s character has shown itself to be consistently weak, as we saw in 2018. He was going to reveal his child to the world with an Adidas press run, plans that were ruined by Pusha T’s controversial “The Story of Adidon” diss track.

Instead of replying, as is customary in rap circles, Drake pulled back, putting out a well-produced interview on The Shop with LeBron James where he implied Pusha T had gone too far. Since then, every interview has featured Drake revising history, claiming he wrote a phenomenal response but just chose to never put it out. He also had that weird two-hour interview with Tidal’s Rap Radar where he expressed that he felt he hadn’t lost in the original barb.

All of this is just hip hop controversy, of course, with little stakes. But it goes to show how, in the past few years, Drake has become both an increasingly boring artist and a crybaby with a crown, claiming he’s the king but taking all criticism as heresy. 

Quite simply, the 6 God of Toronto is just not what he used to be.

Which brings us to 2020. This has been a whirlwind of a year, for a variety of reasons that include a pandemic and a presidential election, but it’s been a change of pace for Drake. And in this author’s humble opinion, this has the potential to be Drizzy’s year.

Why? Well, it’s simple, really. Drake finally got a sense of humor.

Let’s start with “Life is Good,” the Future collab that dropped in early January. This ominous song, which blends Drake’s traditional style with Future’s southern trap leanings, was accompanied by a fun video, in which the two rappers work menial jobs – garbage men, chefs, mechanics, fast food workers, tech support.

Is it an amazing song? No. Is it a bit disjointed, seeming more like two separate demos that were thrown together rather than the unavoidable chemistry seen on their joint 2015 project What a Time To Be Alive? Definitely.

However, the sheer fun of the song carries it. Watching Drake dance while filling up a McDonald’s customer’s drink is so absurd that you find yourself returning time and time again, which explains the video racking up over a billion views on YouTube this year alone.

Drake followed this up by dropping Dark Lane Demo Tapes in March, a care package for quarantined America of loose singles that had been floating around on the Internet previously. “Toosie Slide,” the Tik Tok sensation that had shown Aubrey’s staying power in the meme world, while “Chicago Freestyle” was a welcome throwback to the brooding 2011 Drizzy that most fans missed.

He followed up his release of the project with the announcement that his sixth studio album would be arriving before the end of the year. With the horrid aftertaste of Scorpion still in my mouth, you’ll understand how little I cared about that bit of news. I mean, twenty-five tracks, stretched out for over an hour? Two years later, I’m still disgusted by that.

Then came mid-July, which brought us two surprise singles from – well, from DJ Khaled, but featuring Drake, which basically makes them Drake songs that just happen to include Khaled’s trademark yelling at the beginning of the tracks. The two tracks were changes in pace, and served to accomplish different gains.

“Greece” sounded like Drake’s best impression of The Weeknd. It’s a sultry track, luxurious and buttery smooth, most of all tailor-made for a very specific crowd who knows what evening summer parties off the Mediterranean coast.

And then there’s “Popstar,” the classic club banger we’ve all come to expect from Drake, boasting about the rooms he’s in with the women while the other dudes are out in the cold. This song was largely unremarkable, if perhaps catchier than its sibling song, until the music video came out.

The video features DJ Khaled spamming Drizzy with phone calls, desperate to get the music video made. Drake, still in lockdown due to COVID-19, finally snaps, and calls in a favor from none other than fellow Canadian superstar, Justin Bieber (an allusion to a Drake line in the song’s second verse).

The video is infectious, much like the one to “Life is Good,” and boosts the playability of the song. Bieber spends the whole video dressed and acting like Drake, in the process turning the whole experience fun for fans of both artists. He even has Scooter Braun make a cameo appearance, before the end of the video, where we learn that the whole thing was a nightmare by the now-retired Bieber.

This comedic turn by Drake, an artist who usually takes himself oh-so-seriously, has even translated to the album he’s been working on, which we even see in the title. The upcoming album’s title, Certified Lover Boy, is dripping with irony and self-awareness, as Aubrey has been the certified lover boy of hip hop for over a decade now.

Where once Drake was trying to sell himself as hard (in his Pusha T feud days) or overly pained (see: any songs he put out in 2011), now he’s more willing to crack jokes, take the piss out of himself. It’s a frankly ridiculous title to what will hopefully be an equally-ridiculous album, and it shows strong growth for Toronto’s biggest popstar, which we can see in the lead single.

“Laugh Now Cry Later,” the first song to drop from Certified Lover Boy, is a Lil Durk-assisted banger that features a chilled Drake throwing shots, crooning about love in his position, and harmonizing the word ‘baby’ on every line in the chorus.

Both Drake and Durk throw minor shots – to Kanye West and 6ix9ine, respectively – but overall the song is a self-aware ode to being on top of the game.

The accompanying music video, which feels like a glorified Nike ad (I mean, it was filmed in the Nike headquarters, after all), is at once fun and refreshing and somewhat absurd, featuring a plethora of cameos from Nike-sponsored athletes.

Drake splits his time between shopping with an Instagram influencer who has him buy the whole warehouse of shoes, being shown up on the court and on the field by the likes of Kevin Durant and Marshawn Lynch, and crying alone to himself, before trying to save face when Odell Beckham Jr. questions him on it.

It’s all in such tongue-in-cheek, like the video to “Popstar,” frankly like everything Drizzy’s put out this year. Instead of telling us for the billionth time he’s great, he’s roasting himself along with the rest of us, in the process making his music all the more appealing.

The end result? I’m actually excited for this new Drake album, and that’s not something I’ve been able to say in almost ten years.

No, 2020 has been a nightmare year, but it’s also the year Drake developed a sense of humor about himself. And I for one am looking forward to Certified Lover Boy.

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