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Album Review: Drake – ‘Certified Lover Boy’

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Get ready for your social media pages to be filled with new captions and quotes: its officially Drake season! With an intention to drop a new album last year, Aubrey released the Lil Durk-assisted “Laugh Now Cry Later,” which reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100. Then, the rapper/singer announced plans for the delayed album would be pushed back a little further until January 2021 after tearing his ACL and requiring weeks of recovery – an injury that’s not new to him after having surgery for the same thing in 2009. Making sure to keep his legion of fans appetites satisfied, Drake dropped the three-song EP Scary Hours 2, which included a historic feat of all three songs – “What’s Next,” “Wants and Needs” with Lil Baby and “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” with Rick Ross – debuting in the top three on the Billboard Hot 100 at numbers one, two and three, respectively. Now, the recently crowned “Artist of the Decade” at this year’s Billboard Music Awards is ready to close out summer just right with the release of his sixth studio album Certified Lover Boy.

Champagne Papi himself has described this album as “a combination of toxic masculinity and acceptance of truth which is inevitably heartbreaking.” CLB kicks off with the extensive opener “Champagne Poetry,” which sounds like a familiar 40-produced cut from he and Drake’s longtime history of working together with samples from Masego’s 2017 cut “Navajo” and The Beatles’ 1965 track “Michelle.” If Drake had a “all these b**ches is my sons” moment, it’s really on full display on the next track “Papi’s Home,” which in a comedic way samples Montell Jordan’s 1995 This Is How We Do It album closer “Daddy’s Home” with Nicki Minaj in the background hyping up her Young Money brother. Drizzy continues his mark of rapping over R&B sounds with dark undertones on majority of the album, which is highlighted at best on the Giveon and Lil Durk-featured “In The Bible,” where he talks about bringing up his sexual past with girls while being somewhat judged.

An unexpected 90s dance-pop classic gets the revamp treatment on “Way 2 Sexy” featuring Future and Young Thug, sampling Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy.” This time, Pluto declares he’s too sexy for “this syrup,” “this ice” and “fame” among a whole list of other things on the hook. While Thugger adds something to the song, it could’ve used another sassy feature from someone like Lil Uzi Vert while excluding Future. Drake’s brother-in-collaboration also pops up on “N 2 Deep,” which he could’ve honestly been left off of this one as well. While they have created plenty of projects and records together, it might be time for Aubrey and Nayvadius to take some much needed time apart from each other. 

Remember the Drake “You don’t have to do this” memes from the Black Twitter greatest hits? That seems to be the tone on “TSU,” a song about a Texas Southern University student by day-stripper by night getting her life together to become legit and could be looked at as a companion piece to both his previous songs “Houstatlantavegas” and ”The Real Her.” Another thing the song may have people giving Aubrey the side eye is a co-writer credit by the jailed Pied Piper, R. Kelly. In true sample credits fashion, the song contains a bit of Robert Sylvester’s “Half On A Baby” faintly playing in the background of a sample of OG Ron C talking in addition to Justin Timberlake and Beyoncé’s “Until the End of Time.”

One topic of conversation listeners are looking forward to is if there is any mention of the ongoing feud between Drake and former inspiration and friend, Kanye West. We’ll always have the Kanye-directed video for Drizzy’s breakout hit “Best I Ever Had” and the collaborations from the early days. But for now, it’s straight war between the two rappers. Ye made some mentions of their brewing beef on his latest album DONDA, so now it’s time for Drake to do the same. 

“Give that address to your driver, make it your destination/‘Stead of just a post out of desperation/This me reachin’ the deepest state of my meditation/While you over there tryna impress the nation” he raps on “7AM On Bridle Path” in regards to the recent leak of his home address by Kanye on Instagram. But could Mr. Graham be out for petty blood? It almost seems that way with him teaming up with some of Kanye’s other collaborators such as Kid Cudi (“IMY2”) and Travis Scott (“Fair Trade”). Then there’s the Jay-Z feature on standout track “Love All,” which samples The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Life After Death Intro.” We all know the complicated brotherhood between Ye and Hov, where they are back cool now with the return of The Throne on DONDA track “Jail.” However, Drake has been working with the Brooklyn GOAT on a number of projects since 2009 on The Blueprint 3 track “Off That.” Aside from Drake just leaking an unreleased DONDA track “Life of the Party” featuring Andre 3000 (a move the ATLien legend wants no parts of), how far is this Kanye and Drake feud going to go?

To keep the vibes mellow, “R&B Drake” makes a full-out return about a past love on the Ty Dolla $ign-featured “Get Along Better” but in savage mode by letting it be known “trust me this ain’t ‘bout revenge, but now I get along better with your friend.” “Race My Mind” is another R&B moment over harps and a beat reminiscent of his earlier works, which may also sound familiar – the song leaked online as “Intoxicated” last year. It wouldn’t be Drake album without him reaching into his reggae, Caribbean or Afro-beats bag along with the dialect to match. But this time around, it doesn’t sound forced and actually complimentary to the breezy Afro-beats production on “Fountains” featuring Nigerian singer Tems, who is riding high on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with this summer’s breakout hit “Essence” with Wiz Kid.

CLB overall has Drake keeping it safe in his pocket that he has successfully captured to make him the top streaming artists of all time. The safety is pretty evident even on the basic album cover featuring emojis of all shades of pregnant women. There’s moments that keep true to his discography that fans expect, including having underrated R&B singer-songwriter Yebba on the interlude “Yebba’s Heartbreak,” a move he has done on pretty much all of his albums with artists like Skepta, Jorja Smith and Omarion. Then of course, there had to be a feature with Rick Ross and Lil Wayne both appearing on “You Only Live Twice,” which in turn is like a sequel to 2011’s Take Care bonus track-turned-hit “The Motto” that universally coined everyone’s favorite catchphrase “YOLO.” One thing that Drake has yet to truly do on his studio albums is to really have a cohesive moment where the album tells the complete story, sort of like Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. A long way from playing “Jimmy” on Degrassi and 15 years since the release of his debut mixtape Room For Improvement, there’s still time for Aubrey to grow more into another phase of his artistry, whatever that may be. But for now, Drake does his best to keep up with what the people want – more captions from lyrics to post under their IG pictures and countless album cover memes.

Certified Lover Boy is now available on all streaming platforms and digital music retailers via OVO Sound and Republic.

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