After a year of sporting a heart etched into his hairline and three years without an album, the world’s biggest heartbreaker is back. Drake released his sixth studio album, "Certified Lover Boy," on Sept. 3, and for better or worse, it's exactly what you would expect from him.
Drake has fundamentally set the course for what has been popular over the last decade. Trends in music, fashion and culture have been led by the 34-year-old Canadian actor-turned-rapper. This album is no different, but instead of trailblazing the next path, he stuck to what he thought Drake should do, in a comfortable expression that stuck to his own trends and didn’t test the limits.
In the album’s description, Drake calls the record a “combination of toxic masculinity and acceptance of truth which is inevitably heartbreaking.” This theme is evident throughout "Certified Lover Boy" as he seems to battle with himself with each track between being the soft, emotional man looking for love and the tougher, heartless man who can’t trust anyone.
The album is created with a powerhouse list of features, including JAY-Z, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Kid Cudi, Travis Scott, 21 Savage, Future, Young Thug, Lil Baby, Lil Durk, Giveon, Yebba, Ty Dolla $ign, Tems and Project Pat.
Drake’s bars are as impressive as ever, with a stream-of-consciousness flow that creates the feeling of reflection and introspection as if he’s attempting to get to the bottom of something. His fondness for lavish, spacious production makes room for some of the most compelling, reflective bars to have their moment and build a sense of nostalgia that is a trademark of Drake.
Drake’s best performances are on tracks where he bridges the gap between the past and present, combining his various eras. “In the Bible" with Lil Durk and Giveon, “Pipe Down” and “Get Along Better" with Ty Dolla $ign are reminiscent of some of the highlights of his career, all the while emerging into his newest evolution.
“You Only Live Twice" with Lil Wayne & Rick Ross is definitely one of the strongest tracks on the album. With a perfect presentation of Rick Ross, along with Drake’s chemistry integrated with one of Lil Wayne’s most impressive verses in years, this track is a standout.
In addition to the aforementioned tracks, some of the album’s highlights include “N 2 Deep" with Future, “Love All" with JAY-Z, “Knife Talk" with 21 Savage, “Race My Mind,” “The Remorse” and “7 am On Bridle Path.”
Although not every song is the best Drake track of all time, there aren’t really any misses. There are few disappointing, mediocre tracks like “IMY2” with Kid Cudi and “Champagne Poetry, " but even so, these tracks are still beautiful listens.
And while “Way 2 Sexy” featuring Future and Young Thug has become the biggest hit since the album’s release, it's the closest thing to a miss on the album for me. It feels tacky and forced, like it was created just to become popular on TikTok. Despite this, Young Thug carried this song with an irresistible verse and a fresh flow, saving the track in its last drive.
The two-song stretch between “Race My Mind" and “Fountains” featuring the Nigerian singer Tems provides a much-needed sense of variety and a breath of fresh air to break through the somber energy of the rest of the album. On “Race My Mind,” Drake and producer 40's lifelong chemistry synthesizes a presence as powerful as the subject of the song itself, masterfully practicing their signature tempo shift in the latter half of the track.
“Yebba’s Heartbreak,” a beautiful ballad of an interlude sang by West Memphis singer and songwriter, Yebba, slows down the album and gives “Certified Lover Boy” a new meaning.
"Certified Lover Boy" is sonically strong, with layered textures and luxurious vocals washing over like midnight showers. It's technically impressive, with remarkable production and skillful flows. Every sound is polished, and every feature is accomplished.
Yet, it feels predictable. Even with all the technical mastery present on the album, "Certified Lover Boy" is Drake’s least imaginative album. He positions himself within the boundaries of what's trending, with the outcome being an album that's beautifully engineered but undoubtedly comfortable and safe.