Our Take: 2 Stars
After an initial introduction in April 2019, “Certified Lover Boy,” Drake’s sixth studio album, was finally released on Sept. 3. After the title of the album was released last August, the release date was postponed to January and then pushed further due to Drake’s medical issues.
Since 2020’s “Dark Lane Demo Tapes,” Drake has kept his community active and invested, dropping snippets from over six songs along with several singles.
Many fans hoped that the Canadian artist understood how he has presented himself in the past, and based on the title and cover of the album and Drake’s “loverboy” persona was expecting a self-parody. “This is the part where Imma find a new part of me to explore,” Drake says in “Champagne Poetry.”
But after priming listeners for what should have been an exciting new side of himself, Drake had nothing new to offer. The 21-song tracklist on “Certified Lover Boy” lacks a narrative arc and feels like Drake has copied and pasted his old songs minus the emotion. The album features Drake unironically hyping himself up for 90 minutes.
Drake has described his album as “a combination of toxic masculinity and acceptance of truth which is inevitably heartbreaking,” but it is far from that. From self-pity to the effects of fame to predatory relationships, Drake checks all the boxes for the Drake album ‘BINGO’ — a card that doesn’t have room for self-reflection.
Drake still has something to prove, but he presents music like he just no longer cares.
He has not changed for anyone: same flows, same topics and still the same amount of streams. As a cultural phenomenon, he does not feel a need to grow, and as a result “Certified Lover Boy” suffers.
Drake’s last three projects have been either bloated or forgettable, but by the numbers all of them performed phenomenally for any artist. The Drake effect allows him to produce subpar albums with unprecedented success. “Certified Lover Boy” is no different — setting a new largest week for a rap album since his own “Scorpion,” which set the record three years back.
A Drake drop would not be complete without some drama surrounding it. “TSU” samples “Half on A Baby” and presents a co-lyricist credit to R. Kelly, who is currently on trial for sex trafficking and racketeering charges.
Chief collaborator Shebib spoke out about the R. Kelly credit, saying that it “doesn’t sit well with me … I’m not here to defend Drake’s lyrics, but I thought I would clear up that there is no actual R. Kelly present and it’s a bit misleading to call him a co-lyricist.” Nevertheless, many listeners dislike the exposure the song gives R. Kelly.
The album release also includes a low-effort album cover from Damien Hirst with rows of pregnant women, and a Nike drop that looks like it was made with WordArt. The album is intended to present in an ironic manner, but without any self-reflection coming from Drake himself, everything feels off. The album cover looks more like visual vomit than a clever homage to his “playboy” persona; the merch looks like basic phrases in bad fonts on the back of a good Nike tee.
Furthermore, with constantly shifting drop dates and given past history, it is impossible to mention “Certified Lover Boy” without also mentioning “Donda,” Kanye West’s recent album.
Starting from a long winded messy history with rapper Pusha T, both West and Drake have only added to the fire. During the promotion of “Donda,” West posted an Instagram story with Drake’s address along with screenshots of direct messages where West says “You will never recover. I promise you” to what seems to be Drake. However, “Donda” lacked drama and stuck to West’s themes of faith and family.
On the other hand, Drake built his promotion around the beef with West and leaned on it on the album. He dismissed West’s attempts at fashion, rapping a dismissal at West’s brand Yeezy, “Have somebody put you on a Gildan, you play with my seed” on “7AM On Bridle Path.” Drake also includes track names like “Knife Talk” and “No Friends in The Industry,” hinting at his ongoing issues with the other rapper.
Ultimately, “Certified Lover Boy” lacks any growth for Drake in terms of sound and the only accomplishment it achieves is that it is an improvement on 2018’s flopped project, “Scorpion.”
“Certified Lover Boy” had potential that was stifled by Drake’s lack of interest in growth, causing the album to fall into mediocrity.