The Aubrey Graham project formula is obnoxiously predictable in 2020. Mixtape, album, EP, “curated playlist;” nothing Drake does surprises me at this point in his sumptuous career. His perpetual fusion of R&B and rap hardly mirrors any semblance of topical versatility. No matter what sub-genre or culture he proudly appropriates, Drake always appears jaded. Not from circumstances you and I are familiar with though, but from someone who lives a first class lifestyle filled with champagne toasts and $400,000 mattresses (unless whoever’s reading this owns a presidential suite and has trouble getting to it from the underground garage).
No, when Drake busts out a project nowadays, it’s usually drenched in atmospheric bitterness over a girl who didn’t understand him, or a friend who asked for too many favors. When a Drake album arrives at the top of Spotify’s algorithmic playlist, you bet your ass there will be some type of trendy shit from a specific section of the world. Sometimes it’s not terrible; other times it’s just fucking stupid.
The most tedious aspects of Drake’s post-2015 output are a mixture of prolonged track-lists and petty self-indulgence. The latter is particularly aggravating on his newest endeavor Dark Lane Demo Tapes. It’s difficult to care about his trust issues on the Chris Brown-assisted “Not You,” or how unconventional his lifestyle is during quarantine on “Time Flies” (“Way I’ve been living unconventional/I’m just trying to make it to the end, ya know/Certain things just started getting tenser”) because let’s be honest, there’s bigger fish to fry right now.
A major issue with Scorpion (aside from the ridiculous double album format) was Drake’s rhetoric towards women, particularly his fetishizing of women who are barely 18-“You had potential, I coulda shaped it/You went and caved in/We coulda waited, I wasn’t rushing, difference in ages.” He treats them as science experiments and sounds more controlling than most fans would imagine. That 2010 concert video doesn’t sit well when considering his recent lyrics either.
The same kind of cringe-worthy sentiment is found on Dark Lane. “When You Say When” turns a thoughtful Jay-Z song into a weird platform for Drake’s eye-rolling banter. “Desires” lacks any bone marrow thanks to a short-lived Future verse and more Drake bewilderment. Describing your loft as “Michael Jackson shit” without the kids probably doesn’t look good when your known for seducing younger women. Saying your going to put a person somewhere where they (whoever “they” is) can’t find them looks really bad when considering the implications surrounding his kid (I still want to hear a response to Pusha, ’cause he said he had one). And the reasons for why it’s bad to make a song with Chris Brown should be self-explanatory at this point.
Aside from these senseless proclamations, Drake sounds more unenthused than ever before (dropping a care package project should’ve been an indicator). You can bluntly see this on songs like “Demons” and “War.” Drizzy’s empty renditions of Brooklyn and UK drill are pointless undertakings. Why would I waste my time with a flavorless Fivio verse and a bland JB instrumental when I can just listen to actual innovators of the sub-genre like Smoove L, Sheff G, or the late Pop Smoke? Why would I entertain the idea of Drake with a New York accent when I can listen to any other New York rapper? How can anyone claim the 6 God is back in his creative pocket when he’s just doing what others have already accomplished? Does it make sense to you? Because it doesn’t to me.
I’m tired of excusing Drake’s mediocrity and tireless pursuit of tasteless promo (“Toosie Slide”). His music in the past sounded more urgent and life-altering. Aubrey Graham used to have a twinkle in his eye when serenading a girl. His heartbreak songs used to carry emotional (and human) undertones. Now he’s just stuck in a laundromat machine as 40 inserts quarters for the was/dry cycle. Don’t trust anyone but yourself. “Deep Pockets” is a pleasant intro I suppose, and D4L is a surprisingly enjoyable posse cut with Future and Young Thug. Playboi Carti’s baby-faced alter ego probably has the best verse of them all on “Pain 1993.”
But at the end of the day, who really cares? If I wanted to listen to Southside production, I’ll visit my favorite Atlanta rappers. If I want to hear Carti vocally riff over Pierre production, I”ll look to his first couple mixtapes. Drake used to be a pioneer of sound and style, but now I wonder if there’s even a place for him creatively anymore.