Three years after his fifth album Scorpion and after eight months of delay, Drake finally makes his return on Certified Lover Boy. Consisting of 21 songs, the Canadian rapper understood the assignment on his 6th studio album. Drake has always been a machine for hit songs, and Certified Lover Boy is no exception. Scattered throughout the album, Drake delivers songs that showcase his versatility, dabbling in R&B tones while maintaining an established “rap” presence. While it does not serve as a cohesive album, as many of the songs on Certified Lover Boy have varied production and writing, the common thread throughout is the lens he puts on himself. In “Champagne Poetry,” the first track of the album, when he raps, “This is the part where I’ma find a new part of me to explore,” he starts the album with a focus on himself. He concludes the album with the same narrative, when on “The Remorse,” he vocalizes, “I know that when it’s done, I’m going wherever God’s from.” The “6-God” keeps the focus on himself throughout the album, which holds it together as one body of work and keeps you pulled in.
Perhaps the best songs on the album are the ones that showcase reflection, emotion, experimentation, and relatability. One of the most reflective, and arguably the best song on the album, “Champagne Poetry” starts with a repetitive “I love you, I love you, I love you,” that echoes the start of “Nice For What” on Scorpion, and samples the Beatles’ song “Michelle.” Drake starts his verse on the track with “I been hot since the birth of my son,” and continues for the rest of the song to focus on various problems of his own, including the struggles he faced in the spotlight, and in his personal life. Another song, possibly the second-best song on the album, “7 am On Bridle Path,” named after the neighborhood where his Toronto home is located, is a continuation of his am/pm series of songs, and supposedly addresses his relationship with Kanye West. There has been an ongoing feud between Drake and West for years. Most recently, West surprise-released his album Donda only a few days before Certified Lover Boy was released. On “7 am On Bridle Path,” Drake remains cool and confident in front of intense background vocals and lyrics. Those are two very common themes throughout the album, but especially noticeable on the 14th track. A surprise track on the album, “Fountains (feat. Tems),” is perhaps the greatest deep cut. It’s slow, calm, and intimate, which serves as a good break as the last quarter of the album begins. Tems’ performance is beautiful, as usual, and Drake’s is mellow and controlled.
The features on Certified Lover Boy, for the most part, fit in perfectly with the narrative of each song. Fans were quick to notice how many of the features on Drake’s record are consistent with those on Kanye West’s Donda, an interesting observation given the long-lasting drama between the two. The best features on the record include, “Love All (feat. JAY-Z)”, “Fair Trade (feat. Travis Scott)”, and “Yebba’s Heartbreak”, another experimental track on the record. “Love All (feat. Jay-Z)” starts with the surprising, yet telling line, “Previously on Ready To Die.” It is an ode to the rest of the song, which focuses on the struggle that comes with fame, hurt, and pulling back anger. JAY-Z’s part on the song is short-lived, but blends in perfectly to the story Drake tells, bringing nuance to the track, and in turn making the song one of the best on the album. On “Fair Trade (feat. Travis Scott),” the line “I’ve been losin’ friends and findin’ peace, But honestly that sound like a fair trade to me,” encapsulates the song: ruling out toxic people to find resolution and to live happier. On Yebba’s Heartbreak, the artist Yebba is the solo singer, and the piano in the background showcases an experiment on a vastly quick-paced album. Yebba’s vocals on the track sound raw and coexist pleasantly with the piano instrumental.
Songs that suffer on the record are the ones that lack the emotion and thoughtfulness Drake usually excels in through writing and rapping. “Girls Want Girls (feat. Lil Baby)” and “Way 2 Sexy (feat. Future & Young Thug)” are the two songs that suffer the most from this on the album. “Girls Want Girls (feat. Lil Baby)” lacks emotion and a story that Drake is so good at telling in his other works, and Lil Baby’s performance is nothing noteworthy. The song is somewhat controversial too, drawing backlash over lyrics like, “Yeah, say that you a lesbian, girl, me too.” “Way 2 Sexy (feat. Future & Young Thug),” just doesn’t hit the spot. It’s repetitive, and lacks any true meaning, other than, “I’m sexy”. The production of both these songs is also boring and basic compared to the more experimental or intriguing sounds that exist on the other tracks.
In the end, Drake reclaimed his spot on the throne with Certified Lover Boy. He is undoubtedly one of the best artists in the last ten years and never ceases to impress. He has mastered his lyrical craft and continues his streak of great albums that show us the authentic version of himself.
Album Rating: 8/10