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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Drake Dances Farther Away from Hip Hop on ‘Honestly, Nevermind.’

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”Should Drake take a break?” this question was posited by tweeps in 2019 right after Drake released yet another project, this time a compilation of old records, signs took it as a signal of burnout, Drake even reiterated their point on 2021’s ‘Certified Lover Boy.’ Nevertheless, Drake’s commercial success has never dipped throughout the decade-long dynasty of pop supremacy for the Canadian, one cannot say the same for Champagne Papi’s critical performance.

‘CLB,’ by a landslide Drake’s least focused and most fleeting effort, led to backlash from both ends of the ”Drake fans spectrum;” the ‘rap Drake fans’ and the ‘R&B Drake fans, this must-have touched home as Drake released a heartfelt statement ostensibly ‘choosing himself’ just as the new album dropped.

Honestly, Nevermind” seems to be the most PG way for Aubrey to say to critics ”sK my dk,” as he abandons rap and R&B for Jersey Club, Baltimore club, Caribbean Dance, and South African house music on 13 of 14 tracks on the album. Drake tries to track a return to his authentic self as that kid that made ‘So Far Gone’ in Canada and almost got a Grammy off a mixtape, most importantly letting his melodic moans bare his truth to the ears of the world.

So many of the melodies on ‘Honestly, Nevermind’ either mirror that vulnerability, or try to cheaply imitate ‘Take Care era Drake.’

Drake in many ways can be alluded to as the LeBron of hip hop, deified juggernauts like Jay Z and Kanye had already explored the length and width of rap-to-pop superstardom, Drake has mirrored their success, going on to unify R&B and Rap and opening doors for the new generation of rapper-singers.

Drizzy took it a step forward trying to break out of any existing geographical and demographic barriers by ditching the Urban soundscape for more subjected and regional genres like Soca, Afrobeats, and his first experimentation with House music on 2017’s ‘More Life,’ always taking it a step further LeBron to Jordan style.

Drake’s melodies when singing is characterized by meandering, sometimes lazy, slurry cadences and pockets that make one think he’s making them up as he goes along, not the typical R&B melodies.

These are very present on this album, laden with random Instagram caption one-liners that sometimes blur the line between cheeky and cheesy. Very ‘Drake-Esque.’

Although Aubrey’s ‘passive-aggressive 35-year-old-playboy-nice-life-problems-and-fame-induced-paranoia-complaints’ get redundant and stale at several points.

Production is the biggest strength of this project, apart from the usual suspects Noah ’40’ Shebib and Tay Keith, Aubrey enlists the help of Dance music pioneer Gordo and South African House music DJ and producer Black Coffee as executive producers to oversee the project.

The album douses in four-to-the-floor rhythms, cha-cha shakers, and songs like the beatless, kalimba-driven ‘Down Hill’ which is only a kick drum away from House – and songs segue into each other as if part of a DJ mix.

The album begins with debatably the recognizable element of this album; a Kalimba and kick drum-driven loop that uncannily resembles an interpolation of the beat bridge on Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video, the soft falsetto coos us in an infinite loop of ”falling back on me,” A purely Kalimba drum bridge without the kicks segue into ‘Texts Go Green.’

On this second track, tries so hard to bare his island vibrations, even barking ‘ruff’ a couple of times.

“Currents” features both the squeaky-bed sample that’s a staple of Jersey club and a familiar vocal ad-lib that’s a staple of Baltimore club. Channeling melodies that mirror The Weeknd on ‘Take Care’ gems like ‘Crew Love.’ This is a ”house party slow whyne” anthem waiting to happen.

The next song ‘A Keeper’ is an epitome of lazy song titling, off-the-jump over-repetitiveness, and redundant whining, trying to flex on an ex with lyrics like ” I found a new muse, that’s bad news for you, why would I keep you around,” ” bought you Mercedes but that don’t keep you driven.”

Aubrey enters his element in ‘Calling My Name,’ playing a singing hypeman in the second part of the song. Drake sounds his most alive on so far, R&B Drake crooning segues into reverbed ”your p***y is calling my name” drowning in a Drum solo that bears a semblance to Mindless Behavior’s 2014 hit, ‘Girls Talkin Bout,’ before segueing to roadman Drake delivering the first of only two rap verses on the whole project.

‘Sticky’ shows that ”going dance” is not just an attempt to hide the fact that Drake forgot how to rap. Sexual innuendo and ”’Free YSL” quotes glide on the uptempo beat. Won’t be a Drake verse without cheeky Instagram one-liners. Definitely a stand-out track.

‘Massive’ is an old Drake R&B song somewhere from between ‘Take Care’ and ‘Views’ photoshopped onto a Baltimore Club beat. ‘Flights Booked’ is a text-book Rudimental song with Drake vocals on it.

The song features a sample of Floetry’s ‘Getting Late.’ By ‘Overdrive’ and ‘Downhill’ the ”kalimba, shakers, kick drum, and Drake crooning about yet another toxic relationship, then an instrumental bridge” formula becomes too redundant.

‘Tie That Binds’ sees a return of Falsetto Drake, probably the most experimental production on the album, lo-fi ‘oontz oontz’ rhythms, and a Spanish guitar that all combine to make you forget that there are wors on this song. I guess it served its purpose.

The chopped and screwed and reverbed ‘Liability’ follows. ‘Jimmy Cooks’ doesn’t belong on this album, and that’s not even the worse thing about it, it sounds like a remix of CLB’s ‘Knife Talk’ by the same duo, namedropping J.Cole, Afrobeats, Lil Keed, and Will Smith.

Although this is a bold step in experimentation, Drake falls short on some parts of this holistic grand scheme, this is more of derivation than innovation, Frank Ocean’s experimentation with dance music on ‘Nostalgia, Ultra‘, and a decade-long The Weeknd influence play a part, Abel’s latest flirtations being with 80s Dance/Synth Pop.

Drake nailed his ‘Bounce music‘ ventures better, spawning classics like ‘In My Feelings‘ and ‘Nice For What’ in 2018. ‘Honestly, Nevermind’ is no ‘808s’ and Heartbreaks’ but it’s a pretty more than decent attempt.

In Aubrey’s defence ‘808s’ was also panned by critics and then a decade later it spawned a new wave of artists that make up the ’emo rap’ genre today.

‘Honestly, Nevermind’ is best enjoyed at a dark room house party, elevator rides, fashion house fitting rooms, and a make-out session in the car, especially solid cuts like ‘Falling Back,’ ‘Sticky,’ ‘Currents’ and ‘Tie that Binds.’

If only he could find a way to sound half as alive as Beyonce was on the same genre on her new ”Break My Soul’ single, on the other songs, then we’d have a more solid project.

Drake always finds a way to settle into a new genre and take it to a new level of commercial success, but once again since ‘Views,’ Drake fails to hit the level of maturity that earned ‘Tyler, the Creator’ two Best Rap Album Grammys and thrusted Abel Tesfaye into the pantheons of legendary juggernauts like Marvin Gaye and Prince. Aubrey being a 35-year-old with teenage boy whining for half a decade is a little too unsettling.

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