- Micheal La Shon III
Drizzy Is Back: Certified Lover Boy Review
"I'm standin' at the top, that's how I know you've never seen the top."
Drake finally released his highly anticipated album, Certified Lover Boy, but it didn't come without delays. The album was announced in Spring of 2020, shortly after the release of his Dark Lane Demo Tapes. We prepared for a 4th quarter release after Drizzy released "Laugh Now Cry Later" with Lil' Durk on August 14th, and the record would peak at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Hip-hop was anticipating Drake to be the first of the big three to release his album, but the album would get pushed back to January 2021 in an album trailer that Drake posted on October 24th, 2020. When January rolled around, still no album, and fans were getting restless. As more time passed, it seemed like there wasn't a true release date in sight, but fans had leaks of rumored CLB tracks all over social media. With songs being leaked for months, the album being pushed back seemed to make a lot more sense, as this really hurts artists if they don't officially release the record during its viral window, or have samples cleared, or in Drake's case, having the album done. Word would get out that the album was coming summer 2021, but nothing concrete. When Kanye West began his promotion run for his Donda album, the three year beef between the two juggernauts would become a part of it. Drake's album release date depended on Ye's, and the two artists were stalemating each other until Drake hacked into ESPN and announced the album was coming September 3rd.
Certified Lover Boy's release was different from most Drake releases in the sense that we haven't seen a pushback on an album from him like this since the Views era five years ago, and this album cover is by far his worst in my opinion. I see why he did it, the free promo from people not liking it, the companies able to use the emoji format for themselves gave Drake instant promotion all over the internet, but the cover wasn't very creative or artistic. It could've been worse, but the title and this cover of emojis of pregnant women of all races is more funny than anything else, it just seems so lazily produced. Lazy merchandise for the album (bland Air Force One collaboration, basic black and white tees) made me very disappointed as well, and I expected top tier music. The merch that came in 2020 was solid, as the hoodies and the Nike hat with the simple lipstick kiss on it were great concepts, but after seeing everything else my expectations were going to purely focus on music, as Drake has been able to deliver on that time and time again. This would be Drake's first official studio album of the new decade, and it was time to see if he was ready to deliver.
CLB's introduction was the perfect way to introduce us to this new era of Drake. The sample of Masego's "Navajo", which contains a beautiful sample of The Beatles' "Michelle". The Kanye-like chipmunk sample saying "I love you" over and over as Drake throws subtle shots at Kanye West and brags about his wealth is hip-hop personified. The bar that stood out to me in this record is "Under a picture lives some of the greatest quotes from me" as Drake fully recognized the cultural impact he's been making for the past decade, as his music has given people countless captions for social media over the years. The record flips and a new sample for the second half the 1976 record "Until I Found the Lord (My Soul Couldn't Rest)" by The Gabriel Hardeman Delegation, which just reminded me how good Drake can rap over a choir sample. The mixing of this sample and the Masego one as the track faded out is just more production prowess by 40.
I thought that direct sampling wouldn't be too prevalent on this album, but I was wrong, as "Papi's Home" was a perfect sample of Montell Jordan's 1995 "Daddy's Home". Drake speaks on his fathering of hip-hop in this era, and then we even got a vocal appearance by Nicki Minaj. I was really expecting a verse once Drake introduced her, but sadly we didn't get one. It was good to hear an appearance from her on a Drake album though, as this is the first time she's been on a Drake solo release since the Take Care era. The two have been working together a lot more in the past couple of years, as Drake has appeared on a few of Nicki's recent releases and they've appeared on social media together countless times in the past year. It's good to see our superstars continue to grow together in a new decade, and embrace their status as greats in their genre.
The next two records aren't necessarily bad songs in my opinion, but they could be left off of the project and I wouldn't be upset. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed "Girls Want Girls" and "In The Bible", but they aren't the strongest songs on the project by any means. Both Lil Baby and Lil Durk held their own on their respective features, with Durk giving a great shoutout to his girl's business in the middle of his verrse, and I enjoyed the joke about Drake saying he's a lesbian, as that's just such a middle school response to something so seriously taken today. I think that the records have replay value for kickbacks and things like that, but they aren't the heavy hitters on this project.
"Love All" with Jay-Z was originally called "Lotta 42" when it leaked a while back, and listeners can understand exactly why by listening to Drake's lyrics. However, what we all didn't have when this song leaked was the feature from Jay. His feature was crazy to me given the context of it, as it made me ask myself "Who's out here trying to kill Hov?". I can figure this isn't about something recent if its not a concept verse, but I do understand that he's speaking on fake ass friends that you come across in life, and how people decide to react on you like you're not the one dealing with bad people, as Drake doubles down on that with the phrase "...niggas turned the back on me for no good reason, loyalty is priceless and that's all I need..." This was a great listen and definitely hits even better late night on drives or just late night in general. I believe that "Fair Trade" with Tracvis Scott is the B-side to "Love All", as Drake speaks on how he's moved on from fake friends and found peace in his life. This song has plenty of quotables for your captions as well, but this isn't a song that needs any type of deep psychological analysis to understand. I feel like everyone that's at least out of high school has experienced some level of fake friends or family members, and everything Drake is saying lines up with that. So all the people online acting like this is a revelation are either just trying to go viral or are young and things are just starting to come together for them in their young adult lives. Travis Scott's feature on this track was solid, as the beat went well with his cadence, and he stayed on topic with Drake, keeping the record cohesive.
The next 4 records are the super run on the album, as "Way 2 Sexy", "TSU", "N 2 Deep", and "Pipe Down" are hit after hit. The trio of Drake, Future and Young Thug did a modern version of Right Said Fred's classic "I'm Too Sexy", sampling the song and turning it into an anthem for everyone to act a fool to. I've seen people take this record way too seriously, as it's supposed to be a fun anthem for guys, this isn't for heavy hitting bars, this is for the club or in the car during the day. The music video was also hilarious, with a cameo from Kawhi Leonard and countless pop culture references.
Everyone had the song "TSU" as a leak titled "Not Around" as far back as last year, but this version of the record not only has a second half, but an introduction from DJ OG Ron C. Drake did great on the record, speaking about a stripper and her hard lifestyle given that her parents were "not around". People have taken this introduction entirely out of context due to the fact that R. Kelly is in the credits of the song, but here's why: HIS SONG IS IN THE BACKGROUND OF THE INTRODUCTION. That's the only reason the credit is there. Also, very important information about this is not only do you not hear any vocals from Kelly, but this is a song by him that isn't something that most people that are angered by the credit don't even know that song. I know that I didn't and I love music, but that's not one of R. Kelly's famous records to my generation (I was born in '97 for reference). I'm not defending R. Kelly in any way shape or form, he deserves to be under the jail when this trial is over with, but we're not about to drag an artist down for a sample within a sample, that's just ignorant. The countless people that have said "Just use a different sample" are sending me because that's showing what these people know about how crediting works. And on top of all that, R. Kelly doesn't own his masters or anything of that nature, so I can safely assume he's not even benefitting from having his name on anything. People need to direct their anger towards things that are going to make a true difference instead of being angry seeing someone's name. 40 explained the reason the credit was there in the middle of the outrage this week.
Future joins Drake for his second feature on the album on "N 2 Deep", as he gives us misogynistic bars over the second half of the record. The first half of "N 2 Deep" is solid, but the second half shines.
I believe that "Pipe Down" can be in the conversation as one of Drake's best records. The hard hitting bass, the sing-rap, and the emotionally driven lyrics are perfect. I don't know who Drake was speaking to on this song (streets are saying this is indirectly towards Rihanna, which makes sense), but goodness gracious this song hits hard. I'm in a loving relationship and this song makes me think about how much pain it is to be broken by someone you cared for, music is crazy like that. This record will definitely stand the test of time as one of Drake's signature songs in my opinion. Also a shoutout to Leon Thomas for being a contributor on this amazing record.
This interlude record is "Yebba's Heartbreak". Yebba is a singer from Arkansas with a stong and sultry voice, but on this interlude she takes a much softer route. This song sounds like something that would play in an upscale ball or big event full of rich people. Drake giving a slot to a relatively unknown R&B artist was great to see, as Yebba has become a lot more known in the past week, wishing her the best as she continues her career.
The next three records that we get after such a soft interlude are all hard hitting, as "No Friends In The Industry", "Knife Talk" and "7am On Bridle Path" are bangers. The former is a very direct diss to Kanye West, as he addresses the beef between the two of them. He addresses not meeting with West to end the beef when the two were in LA, as well as all the social media antics that have been happening on West's side of the beef. "7am On Bridle Path" is a more calm record, but its still a diss to West, sort of the way "Charged Up" was during the beef Drake had with Meek Mill. He spoke to West using writers for a long time, though people drag Drake for the same thing for certain records, he also says that West has fallen off and they aren't in competition, as well as wanting his respect as an artist from that side. Drake even spoke on the "leak" of his address online and told Kanye to drive to his house, a hard bar from someone we don't always see this side of.
Between the two diss tracks though, we received another solid collaboration between Drake and 21 Savage. Project Pat's feature was great to hear, as a southern hip-hop legend got to make his mark on the younger generation with a strong introduction to the record. 21 Savage coming in after Project Pat just made this record so dark, I loved it. Drake even changed his flow up for the street record, and I thoroughly enjoyed the dark ambience the record had about it. I see why this song was put right in between the two diss tracks.
After the trio of passive aggressive records, Drake gives us yet another record that will stand the test of time when people look back on his career with "Race My Mind". The way that he interpolates Rick James' timeless "Give It To Me Baby" is amazing, and the bass is strong throughout the record. This song reminds me of how Drake turned a much faster "Back That Ass Up" into "Practice" 10 years ago. The song even has a second half where he stops singing and raps to the woman about her lifestyle choices, the epitome of a Drake record.
On "Fountains", Drake decided to slide in an afrobeats/reggae influenced record because that's a sound that has been good to him over the course of his career, and I'm not mad at it. He even gave another fairly unknown artist, Tems, a feature. It's always fun to hear new artists on a superstar's album. I honestly believe that WizKid would've been great on this song as well. However, the fact that we got this record and didn't get the official version of "Like I'm Supposed To (Do Things)" sucks a little bit, as it would've fit perfectly next to this record.
I think that "Get Along Better" would be the B-side to "Pipe Down" if the record was released as a single, as Drake gets an assist from Ty Dolla Sign while singing to an ex about how he gets along better with her friends now that everything is over. The record speaks for itself, and Drake's singing hasn't lost a step as his career enters its second decade.
This album definitely knows how to switch up the tone, as after a crooning record, a hard hitting sample comes in on "You Only Live Twice". The trio of Rick Ross, Drake and Lil' Wayne all deliver hard hitting verses over the sample of 1968's "Can't Get You Off My Mind" by The Brothers Of Soul. Drake also slides in a slight diss to Swizz Beatz in his verse as well. I love to hear Drake and Wayne on records together, as neither of them have backed down and give us strong bars time after time. This was also Wayne's first true feature on a Drake solo release since If You're Reading This It's Too Late, if you don't count the sample of Lil' Wayne that was present on the Scorpion album.
The final three records of the album, "IMY2", "Fucking Fans" and "The Remorse" are all smooth records to calm the ambience after such a strong sample in the last record. Kid Cudi surprisingly made an appearance on this album, despite the diss from 2016-17 from Drake toward him never being addressed much further after it happened. Seems like the two are on good terms despite that and despite the friction between GOOD Music and OVO Sound overall. It wasn't a favorite from the album, the way I spoke on "Girls Want Girls" and "In The Bible", but it's not a bad song. "Fucking Fans" seems to be another cry out for an ex (streets also assumed this was indirectly toward Rihanna) as he speaks on his recklessness throughout his career as far as relationships and sex go, given the obvious title. The outro is where Drake usually shines, and on "The Remorse" he raps in a similar cadence that he rapped on "Do Not Disturb", or on "30 For 30 Freestyle". This record sounds like how people describe Drake's music, as the production and soft vocals in the background make for a great way to close out the album.
Certified Lover Boy took a really long time to release, but when we got the album, Drake delivered a strong project. The album isn't perfect, nor is it what we as fans expected given what Drake had said leading up to release, but its still a great album in my opinion. Drake said during his interview with Rap Radar that the album would be more concise, in contrast with Scorpion's 24 song trackless, but we ended up with 21 records instead. alPart of me wants to say that we got this long album because Kanye dropped a 27 track album the week before, but that's just me. I know Drake is capable of making a concise album, but given where he is as an artist and the way streaming is set up, I don't know if he'll truly choose to do it, which I understand.
I also want to give 40 Shebib all of his flowers. That man delivered flawless production on this album. The samples used were in the perfect places, beats flipped when you least expected them to, and vocal layering was top tier as well. Producers are given the credit they deserve in this era, but when it comes to the heavy hitters I don't see 40 get brought up by more than OVO superfans. He is definitely one of the greatest producers of this era and needs to be in the conversation and respected as such.
People have said that the album is boring or "sounds like everything else", but honestly, when is the last time that Drake has been an experimental artist? He's experimented with sounds like acrobats, he's been a pioneer in the "sing rap" genre, and he's also given younger artists his platform to help them grow. None of those things changed on this album due to the fact that he's found his formula. Another point to make about this is the fact that we as consumers have had countless leaks of this album, where some became official, and no one had this stuff to say until the album actually released. I get what they're saying about growth, but when you're not that type of artist/rapper, why would you try to change everything you do for people to shit on it for being too different anyway (Views)? Drake is not Kanye West, and Kanye West is not Drake, that's why Donda and Certified Lover Boy sound the ways that they do. Kanye is the artist that is "ahead of his time", while Drake capitalized on the era that he helped begin. There's nothing wrong with either side of the spectrum.
I feel that this album obviously isn't Drake's best release of his career, but it's definitely a strong project and will stand up to time as one over the next few years, just like Views did, as it used a similar formula to that project. Drake proved that he isn't going anywhere this next decade with Certified Lover Boy, and I look forward to more music from an artist that I've gotten to see grow since I was 10 years old. Congratulations on another solid album.
Final Verdict: 8.7/10