With mere days before Drake drops “Certified Lover Boy,” excitement for a “straight rap album” from The Boy continues to grow.
When an artist has as much universal appeal as Drake, an interesting conundrum arises; how can the entirety of his fanbase be pleased? An effort to appease such a wide-ranging audience is a risky endeavor, as such albums tend to lack cohesion and consistency across the board. Look no further than Scorpion, his double album from 2018, which was met with mixed responses despite its wide array of different musical styles. Drake previously confirmed that CLB would be significantly shorter than Scorpion, teasing “something more concise.” But should that be the case, attempting to shoehorn in all of his styles runs the risk of derailing musical cohesion.
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The question then becomes — how much does Drake really care about that? As one of the biggest musical entities of all time, he’ll move units no matter what he does. All it takes is one of two singles to really take off, and we’re looking at another milestone for the 6ix God. He could easily coast off name recognition alone, provided he doesn’t actively stress about feedback and perception. But is that Drake’s style? History has proven him to be a fierce competitor when provoked, and rumblings against his character and reputation have provoked responses on wax. Though it’s likely he’ll be forever plagued by previously-leveled ghostwriting accusations, Drake has continuously attempted to shift the narrative back into his favor.
He doesn’t have to be, but it seems as if that at least on some level, he desires to be respected as an elite emcee. The asterisk around his name has made him a contentious selection in the best bars conversation, though loyal fans can and have made compelling cases in his honor. Therefore, when reports first surfaced that Drizzy was looking to take a more lyrically driven approach to his upcoming album, many were cautiously optimistic. The notion gained further momentum when Ebro Darden claimed to have heard that Certified Lover Boy was a “straight-up rap album.”
As so many of his biggest hits veer closer to melodic territory, the idea that Drake would deliver a full-blown rap album at this stage in his career felt unlikely. Not to mention unnecessary, to an extent. Few can dispute that Drake has solidified his place in the hip-hop pantheon, and his ardent defenders will contest that he has nothing to prove.
Be that as it may, it cannot be denied that a “straight rap album” would be a resounding statement, an emphatic reminder that his pen game should be respected. If not for anything, it would be a refreshing approach to his sixth studio album, a new coat of paint that might encourage people to look at Drizzy in a different light.
True, we might not have a spiritual successor to “In My Feelings” obliterating the airwaves, but were Drake to line Certified Lover Boy with songs similar to “Nonstop,” “Omerta,” “Lemon Pepper Freestyle,” and “Chicago Freestyle,” there’s a fair chance that many would praise the album among his best yet. But more importantly, it would allow Drake to directly combat his most frequent criticism head-on, especially in a climate where the majority of his closest competitors are lyrically elite emcees. He’s always been able to keep stride with the game’s heavy hitters (it will certainly be interesting to see how he sounds alongside Benny The Butcher), and it’s about time he harnessed that ability across one continuous album.
Let us hope that Ebro’s assessment holds true, and that Drake delivers his first “straight rap album” when Certified Lover Boy arrives this Friday. Be sure to add your own thoughts in the comments — is a more rap-driven project something you’d like to see from Drizzy at this stage of his career?