After a nine-month wait from its original announcement, Toronto’s own, Drake, has finally released Certified Lover Boy. This album has been teased for months but it wasn’t till a week later after Kanye released Donda that Drake would finally publish the album. This conspiracy bounced around on the internet for weeks that either did not want to drop first and that’s why both albums were delayed. Eventually, that rumor was twisted into both wanting to release on the same date similar to when Kanye and 50 Cent released their album on the same day back in 2007. Nonetheless, neither of those came true as Certified Lover Boy was released last Friday, three years since Drake’s last album, Scorpion. Between the two albums, Drake also released some albums supplied with filler tracks and no real conception to a real album. Care Package and Dark Lane Demo Tapes were loaded with already released tracks where the low quality and effort are apparent. These albums almost seem like placeholders just to keep fans entertained. Though, there are some quality tracks between the two. I personally enjoyed 5 am in “Toronto”, “War”, and “Demons” but everything outside of those tracks is mainly rudimentary and underwhelming.
Certified Lover Boy held a significant spot in Drake’s musical career even before it was actually released. Drake has yet to release an above-average album with significant quality since If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late was an album where Drake let it all out, including verse after verse where he really shares a piece of his mind with confidence and character. It was also backed with great production from major producers such as PartyNextDoor, Boi-1da, and 40. But since then, the pedigree from Drake’s more recent records has been declining. What a Time To Be Alive and Views are average at best. Future and Drake seem like a great duo on paper, but their execution was lackluster. While some bangers like “Digital Dash”, “Jumpman”, and “Big Rings” reach expectations for the duo, the rest of the album is fairly forgettable. Views follows a similar path in that Drake starts to do more pop rap vocals and production and moves away from his more lyrical rap background. There’s still plenty of decent flow throughout the album. But it starts to become more cheesy and corny rather than a concept that can actually be related to listeners. “With You”, “Controlla”, and “Grammys” are still solid tracks but the album doesn’t elevate his discography in any way. More Life offered an opportunity for Drake to redeem himself after two very average projects.While More Life did include more elements of trap and R&B while also sticking with his guns having pop rap and dancehall. But just like the others, More Life is underwhelming. He includes a lot of weak British rap aspects that simply miss the mark for what British rap actually is. Scorpion isn’t any better. It’s easily the worst of the four with messy production and extremely basic lyricism and flows. The bottom line is that this is an important mark in Drake’s career and it’s crucial this album doesn’t miss the target.
With over an hour and a half of music, Drake provides fans with a ton of music after the three-year layoff of original album content. On paper, as always, Drake does an excellent job assembling great artists to be featured on Certified Lover Boy. Popular names in today’s rap industry like Lil Baby, Lil Durk, Travis Scott, Future, Young Thug, and 21 Savage all have their own appearances. But Drake also brings one some new people he doesn’t work with that often. Kid Cudi, Project Pat, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, and Ty Dolla $ign are all different artists that Drake hasn’t worked with nearly as often, if at all. Especially with the Kid Cudi feature, this is a sign that they have seemed to squash their beef that’s been going on for years now. Drake also brings the legendary Jay-Z for a feature as well. This could become a rare fantastic duo with two of the biggest artists in rap right now. Also, Drake assembled his usual crew of producers including 40, Metro Boomin, TM88, PartyNextDoor, OZ, and many others. So on the surface, it looks like Drake did a great job assembling people who he and others felt would bring the highest degree out of this album as possible.
However, that’s not entirely true once the final product is promulgated. The first two tracks are enjoyable. Both “Champagne Poetry” and “Papi’s Home” are filled with a ton of soul features on top of Drake sharing a piece of his thoughts. Drake on “Champagne Poetry” shares how he is unfazed and unbothered by all the drama that’s been surrounding him for the last handful of years. While “Papi’s Home” includes a lot of self-boasting about how he’s at the top of the rap game. However, the Nicki Minaj appearance, not feature, is completely unnecessary and adds nothing to the track. “Girls want Girls” brings the most strange line to the album with “Yeah, say that you a lesbian, Girl, me too.” But his vocals throughout the entire song are dull. Lil Baby does save the track with some serious rapping on his feature. The same can be said with Lil Durk on “In the Bible” where Durk basically carries the track once his verse starts. “On Love All” , neither Drake nor Jay-Z live up to the hype that his song had on paper before coming in. Travis Scott’s feature on “Fair Trade” is probably the least impressive as he stays on a slow progression until the very end where he drops a few solid bars.
“U 2 Sexy” is catchy at the least but it adds legitimately nothing to the overall theme of the album. This track would have been much better left off to be its own individual single for dancing videos rather than waste a spot on the album. Future on the chorus and Young Thug’s little contribution don’t add much either. The only real highlight is that Drake was somehow able to bring Kawhi Leonard onto the music video to make an internet meme at best. “TSU” takes a different twist when Drake chooses to start rapping more. But the track brings nothing significant as it’s just Drake rapping about his support for a struggling stripper. It causes more controversy than positivity as not only was R. Kelly credited as a writer but Drake’s whole past with the narration of this song makes little sense. It’s not until “Pipe Down” where Drake finally shows some passion in his verses discussing a weird relationship with another woman.
“No Friends in the Industry” is another rap-oriented track where he includes a lot of disses directed towards Pusha T and Kanye West. Although the context seems fabricated as he actually does have friends in the industry. One being Future at the very least when they came together to make What a Time to be Alive and many other singles. But I’ll pretend that this is just for show from Aubrey since it does actually bring some first-class production. “Knife Talk” with 21 Savage and Project Pat also has its positives. 21 on the chorus and in the intro is dark and fits the role well. Project Pat’s verse is high quality. “Get Along Better” has a solid blend of rap and R&B sounds but stays one-dimensional for the rest of the way. Lil Wayne and Rick Ross bring a banger track with heavy drums on “You Only Live Twice” that make a rare appearance, but are a highlight on the album. The track almost gives the same vibe and motivation as from “Take Care”. My favorite track is easily “IMY2” with Kid Cudi. The chemistry instantly hits from the start and Drake and Cudi do a great job bouncing off each other. Cudi’s vocals are also fantastic. It’s cool in general to see these two squash their beef and finally make a track together that’s of high quality.
Overall, I would give this album a 3.8/10 with my favorite tracks being “Papi’s Home”, “No Friends In The Industry”, “You Only Live Twice”, and “IMY2”. As of now, this is currently one of the most underwhelming albums of 2021, along with Culture III. The production on most of these tracks sounds like it was made on GarageBand. And while there is nothing wrong with that, Drake, OVO, and Young Money Entertainment have their connections to some of the best producers and engineers in the world. Yet somehow this is the final product they create? Something is missing with that. It is baffling that some of these tracks with extremely weak and cheap elements yet still end up being approved by builders at the top of the industry. It seriously seems that Drake is simply uninspired to make a conceptually thoughtful album. Not only that it’s shown everywhere on the album but even in the cheesy and corny cover art. Drake’s lyricism doesn’t add much to the album either as he still continues to share his average singing melodies with a lot of different emotions. A handful of these tracks don’t really improve until the feature eventually comes on. In fact, almost all of these features are better than the vocals Drake brings to the table. So at least some credit has to be given to Drake and his team to assemble these verses from well-known artists. When it comes to Drake’s own work scattered throughout Certified Lover Boy, it especially starts to die out quickly. I’ll also give credit to the beat switches on Certified Lover Boy as I enjoyed how they at least brought new life to the tracks they were included on. Sadly, at the end of the day, a lot of these tracks don’t add much when looking at the grand scheme of things.
It also seems like Drake is still unable to let go of the beef between him and Kanye West/Pusha T. He even added an entire track dedicated to hoping he could finally get his revenge after Pusha T severely exposed him with “The Story of Adidon”. The tracks, which are “No Friends in the Industry” and “7am on Bridle Path”, don’t nearly bring that same kind of punch and it seems like Drake is too focused on this issue rather than on his own life. The only worthy wild bar is Drake responding to Kanye dropping his address when he says “Give that address to your drive, make it your destination. Instead of just a post out of desperation.” Is exposing someone for having an unplanned kid and choosing to hide him going to sting? Absolutely. But there are way better ways to handle it rather than trying to rehash the past on his own albums. He only digs the hole deeper for himself as he continues to draw attention away from his own creation and continues to take shots at the drama that is now over three years old to this day. While all this drama might not be the exact reason for Certified Lover Boy’s flaws, it can definitely be seen as an influence.
Drake’s goals have audibly changed since his peak after he released If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Specifically, as of late, releases like “U 2 Sexy” and “Tootsie Slide” show his intentions for making a mainstream song with low production and lyricism. Songs like these end up becoming common sounds on Tik Tok where they recently integrated a way to include streaming sales and numbers to those songs being used. This creates another form of revenue with the app blowing up in popularity. Albums like So Far Gone, Thank Me Later, Take Care, and even Nothing Was the Same distinctly project the hustle and motivation in Drake’s race to the top through his clean, flexible, and genuine art. But since reaching the top, Drake seems well aware he can make any kind of song for his fans and they’ll still stream the life out of it to reach No. 1 on the charts. It’s as if Drake’s motivation and inspiration to make higher quality albums as he did earlier in his career is dead. The chances have been given plenty of times and it has now been five straight albums where the effort is clear to be inefficient.
Drake is an important reminder that numbers only go so far at the end of the day. While Certified Lover Boy will continue to shatter Drake’s own streaming and sales records set by Scorpion, that is no mask for the true objective quality of music across all genres. Popularity doesn’t equal quality. There are plenty of popular artists reaching No. 1 on the charts but, their music may not even stand to some of the less commercial artists never even reaching the charts once in their careers. It is important that this concept is known because it has led to a major disparity between high-level and low-level quality artists due to the explosion of streaming and chart numbers. Fans are often misunderstood that these high-ranking songs and albums automatically mean they’re fantastic albums. That isn’t always the case and Certified Lover Boy is a prime example. Drake’s next move is unclear as ever after a long wait for another underwhelming album like Certified Lover Boy. But it is very likely from this point forward that this is the kind of music we will see Drake be publishing for the rest of his musical career.