Did Drake live up to the hype with CERTIFIED LOVER BOY?

Written by Matt Slocum

Finally, the wait is over. After its announcement last October and a prolonged delay, Drake finally dropped his sixth studio album entitled Certified Lover Boy on Friday. We hadn’t heard from Drake in a while, but in early March he dropped a three song EP entitled Scary Hours 2, which was completely rap focused and featured some great songs. Given we hadn’t got any new Drake since August, I thought this would be an indication of the direction this album was going. This was fueled by his features over the last few months, which were all rap focused. 

Drake is synonymous for delivering incredible intros for his projects. He didn’t disappoint on Certified Lover Boy with ‘Champagne Poetry’, where he talks about the pressure being put on him by his hometown Toronto. This led into ‘Papi’s home’, which was another solid track with some typical Drake quotables and a punchy beat. ‘Fair Trade’, was another good song and featured a great Travis Scott verse. There were some other cool songs like ‘N 2 Deep’ featuring Future and ‘Pipe Down’. I also really loved the interlude ‘Yeba’s Heartbreak’.  

‘No Friends In The Industry’ is one of the highlights of this album. He comes with that aggressive flow that I’m a huge fan of and talked his shit while responding to Kanye amid their ongoing beef. I was a huge fan of this, as Drake is known to be subliminal instead of being direct. As we move through the album, we get ‘7am On Bridle Path’. A time and location is Drake’s formula for an amazing song and this is easily the best on the album. He went at Kanye once again and it was exactly what I wanted to hear from Drake. ‘Race My Mind’ is also enjoyable. ‘Fountains’ was good, which featured Nigerian artist ‘Tems ‘who is still high off her success from Wizkid’s ‘Essence’. ‘Get Along Better’ featuring Ty Dolla $ign was one of my favourites on this album. We finally got to see Drizzy and Lil Wayne link up on a Drake album again on ‘You Only Live Twice’, which also featured Rick Ross. It was a follow up from Drake’s 2013 hit ‘The Motto’ featuring Lil Wayne, where he made the phrase ‘YOLO’ popular, however, as Rick Ross is the one who said it first, it made sense for him to be on the song too. Kid Cudi featured on ‘IMY2’ which was a big deal as Cudi is a close collaborator with Kanye and Drake previously dissed him back in 2016. The song isn’t great, but Drake and Cudi reconciling was the highlight. The second last track is ‘Fucking Fans’ which is another solid RnB cut off this album. The outro, entitled ‘The Remorse’ is another memorable track and has the same introspective Drake as he was on ‘Lemon Pepper Freestyle’ from Scary Hours 2. 

He’s been hyping Certified Lover Boy for just about a year and said that this album would be a side of him we’ve never seen before. But to me, this album was the same Drake we’ve consistently received for the last five years. His albums are usually updates on his life and him addressing anything going on around him. This usually makes for some relatable music, but it felt like I’d already heard a lot of these songs from Drake on previous albums. Drake is one of the most diverse artists out there and he’s clearly not afraid of trying new things. He can make a dancehall, drill, pop, RnB or a hip hop hit with ease, but it seems despite this, he hasn’t really tried to take his sound to the next level or switch up his subject matter for a while now. 

Drake almost always delivers great album artwork along with his projects, but this cover was awful. He’s unironically played into the ‘Lover Boy’ persona for a large part of his career and it’s become part of his image and a large part of his music. For years he’s been called corny for expressing emotion and vulnerability alongside and doing RnB and pop records and this project was Drake showing he’s very self-aware of the talk around him. Because of this, I was hoping Drake would spaz on this album. I wanted him to deliver what I have recently missed from him because let’s face it, he’s clearly one of the best rappers out there. We didn’t really get enough of that. I was confused with the direction he was going for with Certified Lover Boy. He didn’t give me what I hoped but he also didn’t go too deep into what ‘Certified Lover Boy’ implies either. On some tracks, he wouldn’t really play into it and they felt like a recycled version of another Drake song. But then on other tracks, he would overpower it, a good example being ‘Way 2 Sexy’. I thought the entire song was cringey and to me, it’s one of the worst songs Drake has ever made. He felt out of place and I think ‘Fair Trade’ would have been a much better choice as a single. 

Too many of the subject matters of this album sound generic and Drake seemed like he was stuck in second gear most of the first half. ‘Love All’ is good, but it felt like JAY Z’s feature didn’t really fit the vibe, even though it was easily the best part of the song. ‘TSU’ was good, but the placement was off. The album was already lacking energy and placing a 5-minute RnB track at that point wasn’t engaging. I enjoyed the second half of ‘N 2 Deep’, but the first half was unnecessary, as the second half with the beat switch and Future’s verse is much better. The first 11 songs on the album moved too slowly and it felt empty. I thought the second half was much better and one of the only forgettable songs was ‘Knife Talk’ featuring 21 Savage and Project Pat. This song did nothing for me and the best part was Project Pat’s verse at the start.  

Drake is one of my favourite artists, but I was extremely underwhelmed and disappointed after my first listen. But after hearing it more, it quickly grew on me and the album got so much better. Aspects of this project are perfect and exactly what I want Drake to give me. I think he’s at his best when he’s braggadocios, being the self-proclaimed GOAT and I wish I got more of that on Certified Lover Boy. Drake showed maturity in his pen on songs like ‘Champagne Poetry’ and it was a quick reminder he’s up there with the best rappers in the game. Certified Lover Boy is doing insane numbers on the charts. It became the biggest first day debut on Spotify history, breaking his own record set by Scorpion in 2018 and it’s also projected to sell about 625,000 units in its first week. Drake doesn’t get enough credit for the numbers he pulls; nobody can compete with him on this front. He’s the artist of the decade for a reason and has constantly broken history with almost everything he’s put out spanning over about a decade now. In terms of bodies of work, this album is nothing crazy, it’s just classic Drake at this stage of his career and this is probably what the rest of the projects he releases will be like. It will go down as another good Drake album, but it certainly isn’t a true reflection of Drizzy’s capabilities as an artist. I still enjoyed this album as a whole and I think it will age well, as it has a lot of replay value. He gives us some solid RnB cuts, a few vibey tracks and some introspective Drizzy alongside a few with that aggressive flow that I love. Drake deserves a lot of credit for willingly showing vulnerability, but he hasn’t ‘wowed’ me with a project for quite some time. My own expectations and hopes clouded my judgement for this album and after relistening, it’s a solid project. I’ve already moved on and I’m looking forward to what comes next. 

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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