Nothing Was The Same
Nothing Was the Same is where Drake perfected the combination of singing and rapping, and delivered his most concise project. ‘Tuscan Leather’ stands as his greatest intro almost ten years later and ‘Started From the Bottom’ is the ultimate record to sing along with in the club. Jay-Z also beautifully passes the torch to Drake on ‘Pound Cake’ while the Toronto emcee solidifies his spot as the top rapper in the game in the introspective ‘Paris Morton Music II.’
This is the album where he defied the naysayers and went for the jugular. Kendrick Lamar was threatening Drake’s spot at the top and he answered by releasing his greatest work to date. You can tell that he had something to prove on this record. It also was the true beginning of his dominance over the game as he started releasing music more and more frequently in the next few years. This was an excellent strategy that allowed Drake to stay in the front of everyone’s minds while his peers like Cole and Kendrick went on 2-3 year hiatuses.
Scorpion is the most hated on, slept on, misjudged and under-appreciated Drake record in my opinion. For those that complained that Drake never raps enough, he pretty much gave them an entire Side A filled with traditional hip-hop cuts that even included the DJ Premier produced ‘Sandra’s Rose.’
His beef with Kanye and Pusha T was fresh and this inspired vicious songs like ‘Mob Ties,’ ‘8 out of 10,’ and ‘Survival.’ He also had the massive ‘God’s Plan’ on here along with the low key banger ‘Non Stop’ for the youngins.
Oh, and in case that wasn’t enough, Side B is full of what I believe are his greatest R&B songs, ‘Jaded’ and ‘Finesse.’ The posthumous features with Static Major and Michael Jackson, ‘After Dark’ and It ‘Don’t Matter’ also didn’t disappoint. The only songs that are completely irredeemable on this project are ‘I’m Upset’ and ‘Ratchet Happy Birthday.’ Besides those, the project is packed with something for every type of Drake fan.
If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
Drake, with the help of Quentin Miller, completely reinvented himself on this one by joining the emerging trap trend headed by Future in 2015, adapting different flows and experimenting in ways that would benefit him in the years to come on a project that he safely released as a mixtape.
After the opener ‘Legend,’ Drake goes on one of the strongest runs out of any of his albums with ‘Energy,’ ’10 Bands,’ ‘Know Yourself’ and ‘No Tellin.’ It also includes my favorite of his Lil Wayne collaborations with ‘Used 2.’ However, I have never been a huge fan of the second half of this project which is why it’s a little lower to me than Scorpion.
I also give Drake extra points for abandoning the formula which he had just perfected on Nothing Was the Same and delivering something new to his audience. At first, I was put off by this project due to the newly adopted sound, but I went on another run with it in 2020 and discovered that it’s aged really well. It’s too bad it was marred by the beef with Meek Mill which exposed some of the Quentin Miller reference tracks. Had that drama not occurred this project would be a lot more celebrated today.
Take Care is where Drake became Drake… with the help of the Weeknd. However, if you check the credits the Toronto crooner did not write the entire album, contrary to the popular media narrative. He actually only worked on 4 songs including ‘Shot For Me,’ ‘Crew Love,’ ‘Cameras/Good Ones Go’ and ‘The Ride.’
Aside from those songs, two of them being quintessential in Drake’s catalogue, there’s plenty of other bangers to enjoy. The Boi-1da assisted ‘Headlines’ is arguably one of Drake’s best singles ever and in-coincidentally sounds like a sped up version of his 2018 smash ‘God’s Plan.’ ‘Lord Knows’ with Rick Ross started the beginning of a collaborative run we’re still enjoying in 2021. ‘HYFR’ with Lil Wayne still rings off to this day and ‘Over My Dead Body’ is Drake’s only intro that gives ‘Tuscan Leather’ a run for its money.
Take Care is where Drake took his victory lap for creating a sound that took the music industry into the next decade. This is where he became a trendsetter. It’s hard to argue at this album not being number one, but some songs just don’t hit for me on there. I still felt like his R&B cuts were amateur, even with the Weeknd’s help. There were some cuts that felt like predecessors for superior future Drake records like ‘Look at What You’ve Done’ which preceded ‘Too Much.’ Both were songs about family and friends, but the latter record just hit more clearly and concisely. ‘The Real Her’ always sounded like a Craig David knockoff, a singer who undeniably influenced Drake’s sound. Sure, there’s Marvin’s Room, the ultimate simp anthem that feels more like modern pop than R&B, that certainly stands as some of Drake’s best work, but a lot of the other singing didn’t hit for me like it does for many of Drake’s reddit stans.
Take off the UK grime stuff and replace it with some classic hip-hop Drake and More Life might be Drake’s best album. It certainly includes some of his greatest songs like the pop-perfect ‘Passionfruit,’ the beloved ‘Do Not Disturb’ closer, and dancehall summer bangers, ‘Blem’ and ‘Maddiba Riddim.’
There’s also some nice collabs on here like ‘Portland’ with Travis Scott and Quavo, ‘Ice Melts’ with Young Thug, and ‘Sacrifices’ with 2 Chains and Young Thug. ‘Glow’ happens to be one of the most slept on Drake songs with Kanye delivering verses with a hunger that was absent from his own projects during that period. More Life seems to be aging a lot better than I thought it would in 2017. Sure, Drake was busy in a literal U.K. love affair with Jorja Smith and the nation’s drill scene, but he still managed to take it to the trap with his great use of features on the project.
Thank Me Later
Drake took a wrong turn after So Far Gone and it shows on Thank Me Later. This is the major label treatment a la 2010. The album boasts appearances from superstars like Jay-Z, Alicia Keys and T.I., but Drizzy is taken more into their world, and fails to continue building on his own sound established in So Far Gone. We also are still left with the overconfident Drake that has not yet eclipsed his mentor Lil Wayne, and is trying too hard to fit into the Young Money fold by using a more mainstream sound found on Weezy’s albums.
There’s some more crooning about women that either broke up with him and a lot of bragging, but again, this greatest ever proclamation by him early in his career was not something I appreciated even if it did come to pass just a few years later. Stand-out tracks include: ‘Miss Me,’ ‘The Resistance,’ ‘Over,’ ‘Fancy’ and ‘Find Your Love.’ ‘Fireworks’ is probably his worst intro.
Views has Drake’s biggest and greatest pop songs of his career. ‘One Dance’ and ‘Controlla’ are undeniable smashes and put him on the map as a global pop star that could not be contended with. This makes the album legendary in its own right.
However, for longtime fans of The Boy, it just didn’t live up to the hype which he had been building up for the 2 years leading up to its release.
Unlike IYRITL, Views has one of the weakest run of songs at its start. I consider ‘Keep the Family Close,’ ‘9,’ ‘U With Me,’ ‘Feel No Ways’ some of the biggest duds of Drake’s career. (Sorry Drizzy stans.)
The record really doesn’t pick up for me until ‘Still Here.’
I have to admit that my wife started to make me think a little higher of this project and got me into tracks like ‘Child’s Play’ and ‘Fire & Desire’ a few years later, but still, it’s not enough to save the uneventful beginning of it. Overall, it’s a solid effort that is badly sequenced.
Certified Lover Boy
Certified Lover Boy is like Views Part 2. The backend of the project is good, but the front features some of Drizzy’s most cringeworthy songs like the Lil Baby assisted ‘Girls Want Girls,’ and the ultra-campy remake of Right Said Fred’s ‘Too Sexy.’ He also wastes a Jay-Z feature on ‘Love All’ which includes one of his laziest hooks ever.
The first few listens for me, some critics, and even Joe Budden were extremely boring. There’s just too much of the same on this project. Drake fails to break any new ground for his fanbase. Fortunately, there are a few gems here like ‘Get Along Better,’ which seems like a spiritual successor to the Jorja Smith tale told on the Ty Dolla Sign assisted ‘Jaded’ from Scorpion. This is probably another one of his greatest R&B songs.
‘Fountains’ is a nice bop reminiscent of the afro-beat Drizzy from More Life and ‘Knife Talk’ with 21 Savage is a certified trap banger. ‘7 am on the Bridle Path’ continues the timestamp tradition nicely by documenting the latest in his tired beef with Kanye West. Even though I can care less about the battle of the nerd rappers, the song still slaps.
‘Champagne Poetry’ seems like Drake trying to recreate ‘Tuscan Leather’ and falls short.
Drake is at his most complacent on this project and that’s what brings it down for me. Joe Budden should have yelled about this one being uninspired. At least with Views, Drake tried a lot of new things even if they all didn’t result in making classic music.
CLB is reminiscent of Encore for Eminem as it seems like a forced, uninspired swan song for the top artist in the game.
So Far Gone
I don’t know about you, but going back to Drake’s early stuff is painful for me. His unexplained confidence is more irritating than reassuring, and most of his attempts at crafting true R&B hits come off as amateur until his 3rd or 4th album.
There are a few classic tracks on here like ‘Best I Ever Had,’ ‘Successful,’ ‘Uptown’ and a few more that I enjoyed on a recent listen like ‘Houstatlantavegas,’ ‘November 18th’ and ‘The Calm.’
His R&B bag wasn’t developed enough here for me as most of Drake’s fans are hip-hop fans who got put on to R&B through him. I was an actual R&B fan before this project dropped so I could see the cracks in his attempts.
For mixtape-style songs like ‘Say What’s Real’ and ‘Ignant Sh*t,’ I prefer the originals, and Drake missed capturing the depressing and heartbroken vibe in Kanye’s ‘Say You Will.’ All in all, So Far Gone is where the Drake we know and love was born, but he really didn’t hit his stride until Take Care.
Dark Lane Demo Tapes
The most forgotten, but not forgettable project by Drizzy. It just dropped at a time when people weren’t outside to enjoy some of the tunes. I wasn’t even keen on listening to music at that point thanks to the pandemic separating us all.
Going back to it in 2021, I found the tape to include a lot of fire and a bit more risk-taking than CLB. Had he held these songs and combined with CLB we might have gotten a much better album this year, but it looks like leaks forced Drizzy’s hand, and why not stream to generate that money. This is easily his most cohesive sounding effort since IYRITL and includes “Toosie Slide” which I consider the best Covid-19 lockdown jam. The project also includes the introspective ‘Losses,’ the drill banger ‘Demons’ and the ode to Eminem’s “Superman” with ‘Chicago Freestyle.’ After revisiting this tape in 2021, I’m looking forward to going back to it even more. This might rise on my list with more listens.