Drake rebuilt hip-hop in his image. Now he wants you to dance

For more than a decade, the Drake Factory has been operating at full capacity — to reset the relationship between hip-hop, R&B, and Pop; Balancing grand ambition with granular experiences; Embrace a celebrity meme. But in recent years, for the first time, it has looked as if the machines might be on pause. Maintaining the throne is hard work, and the wear and tear is starting to show.

what or what Drake An opportunity to modernize, an opportunity to get rid of old assumptions. It’s the kind of renovation you really only find after hours.

“Honestly, Nevermind,” Drake’s seventh solo album, which was released Friday a few hours after it was announced, is a small marvel of physical exuberance — appealingly weightless, runaway and fervent. A captivating club music album, it’s a new era-oriented evolution of one of music’s most influential stars. It’s also a Drake album made up almost entirely of parts from Drake’s albums that send hip-hop fundamentalists into delusions.

However, the expectations that Drake seeks to raise here are his own. Throughout roughly the 2000s, hip hop—and most of the rest of popular music—has molded itself around its innovations. Blending singing and rapping together, creating unconscious pop music without bowing to the old way of making pop, Drake has long known that he can build a new kind of global consensus because he understands the limitations of old styles and because the globe is changing.

However, the bloated ‘Certified Lover Boy’ album, released last year, was his least focused album and also his least creative – he looked weary and tired of his own thoughts. Furthermore, the people behind him might have tired them out as well.

However, these circumstances dictate innovation, and “Honestly, Nevermind” is a definite centerpiece, which is increasingly rare for a pop icon. Drake fully embraces the dance floor here, making house music also touching on Jersey Club, Baltimore Club, Ballroom, and Amapiano. Each of these methods has gone from a regional phenomenon to the interest of the tastemaker in recent years, and like the skilled scavenger that he is, Drake has harvested bits and pieces for his own constructions.

Part of the reason this is so surprising is that Drake made his career out of foreplay. His products—always led by his longtime aide, Noah Shebib, aka 40—were extremely soothing. But the tones here have sharp corners; They kick and punch. The song “Currents” features both the sharp bed model that’s a staple of a Jersey club and the familiar soundtrack that’s a staple of a Baltimore club. “Texts Go Green” is driven by a tense rhythm, and the lively, piano-filled house building at the end of “A Keeper” is a call to liberation.

This approach turned out to be well suited to Drake’s lyrical style, which is graceful and not overtly pressured. It’s conspiratorial, romantic, sexy at times – it never sings to you as much as it sings about you, in your ear.

Most of the songs revolve around romantic plots, and a lot of times Drake She is the victim. In some places, this is a return to the Drake era of Instagram. “I know my funeral will light up because of the way you treated people,” he said aloud, “huge.” About “responsibility,” he groans, “You’re too busy dancing in the cabaret to our songs.”

But part of this album’s trade-off is lyrical—in most songs, Drake hints at more things than describes it. The words are light incentives, suggestions, and abstractions intended to simulate the mood of production. (Also, social media is moving too fast now and doesn’t reward the same kinds of emotional pain that he excels at.)

There’s one final precedent for Drake’s picks here: Kanye West’s “808s & Heartbreak” and other fleet parts from “Yeezus”; And Frank Ocean’s flirtation with dance music.

But music like this has always been part of Drake’s rules: Think “Take Care of Yourself” with Rihanna from 2011, with the Gil Scott-Heron/Jamie xx split. or the serene sunrise anthem “Passionfruit” from 2017 (which also features a Moodymann sample); Certified Lover Boy’s “Fountains,” a cheerful duet with Nigerian superstar Tems, was in that vein as well, but seems to foreshadow that Drake’s next strong focus will be toward Afrobeats, with whom he has long been involved, including a collaboration with Wizkid.

But Drake chose club music—the average beats per minute here is over 100—to build a clear musical bridge to black and queer musical subcultures. However, the race-laden and counter-cultural house music that has taken its toll has also in recent years become the model for franchise music – it’s the soundtrack of the world’s wealthy elite, as in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, and Ibiza, Spain, as in Miami and Mykonos, Greece. It is attractive music but also harmless; It is full of meaning and reference but also smooth to touch.

Drake is in an unenviable position, there have only been a few pop stars before – he’s one of the most famous musicians on the planet, and his fame is built on being a chameleon. But it is difficult for a juggernaut to be clever. However, “Honestly, Never Mind” is the work of someone unfazed by the prospect of alienating old allies. The past two years have been unrelated, and the pandemic has freed artists from doing the unexpected simply by removing old reward structures. (Structurally, “Honestly, Nevermind” is a similar twist on The Weeknd’s electro-pop experience “Dawn FM,” which was released in January.)

The age of the coronavirus has also fueled the emergence of hip-hop scenes thriving in the virtual chaos of social media. That was most evident in Rise Workouts, which refocused hip-hop music in grit and nerves. Although Drake has played with the drill before, collaborating with Fvio Foreign and Lil Durk, among others, “Honestly, Nevermind” is an anti-drill record. Drake is now 35 years old and is undoubtedly thinking about how to live alongside his children’s kids.

Drake only really sings about two songs here: “Sticky,” which transcends hip-house (“Two Runners to Quebec/Cherry, Aust Moon Peak?”), and “Jimmy Cooks,” the final song, featuring 21 Savage, sampling Playa Fly and feel like a cuddle of hype after 45 minutes of absolute orgasm release.

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This is the kind of inner winking of hip-hop that Drake’s albums have long boasted about, but as he gets older and his fans, they may not be the stuff of his future. Whether “Honestly, Never Mind” proves to be a fake head or always a new trend, this is probably an indication that he left the old Drake—and everyone who followed him—in the rear view. Like a great midfielder, he throws the ball where his receivers are actually heading, not where they were.

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