It’s been decades since we’ve seen an artist as universal as Aubrey Drake Graham. Pun intended.
Whether it's the self-proclaimed Pop Star's intention or not, he has brought to the table a product that transcends age, race, and genre. With a catalog that can move seamlessly from the clubs to wedding receptions and from TikTok trends to sold-out arenas, Drake has cemented himself as the most recognizable face in Hip Hop. But while Drake’s ability to live in different spaces stylistically has made him the biggest artist of the decade, it hasn’t come without cost.
By leaning into melody-driven content, the Toronto-native has risked alienating the hardcore rap fans. By getting into his lyrical bag, he leaves his R&B-leaning listeners craving the sentimental anthems that became time capsules for pivotal moments of the past. Nonetheless, he has juggled both elements in every album since his debut. From the outside looking in, one might wonder if Drake has become a slave to his own mass appeal.
Look at Scorpion, a double-disc album that went above and beyond to serve both audiences. Despite enhancing upon the award-winning ingredients from his early classics and littering the Hot 100 with widely-renowned smashes, the two-headed body of work is pushed down the list when the subject of Drake’s best projects is discussed. (Granted, Pusha's scathing diss track had its undeniable impact on Scorpion's reception at the time, but I digress.)
As time goes on, the straddling of the line between melodic and lyrical becomes more polarizing to fans who know specifically what they wish from the 6God. So following what some might consider being his most thematically confusing project to date, Drake surprised the world with what might be his most risky move yet.
Giving fans—and critics—less than 24 hours’ notice, Drake announced Honestly, Nevermind. The 7th studio album flies in the face of expectations.
This isn't the shapeshifting, dialect-dabbling man of many faces we've grown to love, hate, and laugh with (and at, let's keep it a buck). This isn't the guy who comes with the most versatile, all-audience-pleasing album of our time. This is something different. And I love that.
If projects like Scorpion and C.L.B. were fusion restaurants, Drake's latest album is a carefully curated experience with a specific vibe and audience in mind. It isn't all-encompassing, it's focused. From start to finish, Drake puts his best foot forward in an all Dance/Electronic album (with the exception of a great, but thematically inconsistent Jimmy Cooks).
We don't need to get into how smart it is to provide an entire project of songs that can easily serve as the theme music to study sessions, workouts, and laundry days across the world. The point here is the gesture of decisiveness and specificity from an artist who has amassed the greatest level of success the genre has seen by having all ends covered.
The album isn't a buffet, it's a high-quality sushi spot. And it took alienating the taco lovers and pizza enthusiasts to establish it.
It's as if "honestly, nevermind" is Drake's attitude toward the notion of pleasing all audiences simultaneously. Whether it aligns with my musical preferences or not, that's exactly what I'd like to see from my favorite artists.
Time will tell if Drake takes this path of specificity with different genres in future projects. Until then, you know where to stream it... Right?
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