On the night between 16 and 17 June 2022, Drake released her seventh studio album Honestly, Nevermindafter a surprising announcement an hour earlier on his instagram and a full nine months after posting Certified Lover Boy.
Drake’s new album shocks fans with a radical change of musical direction, the 14 tracks have almost all purely dance influences, which are very reminiscent of the house style of New Jersey, Chicago and Baltimore. Surely it is a very different style from the usual for Drizzy, but this is also one of the most accentuated qualities that we love from the Toronto rapper: a precursor of sounds and genres, a musical trend setter and above all an artist with perfect foresight as regards the modern scene.
Drake’s lyrics offer a constant rain of angry discontent, of wrong and poignant stories, where the artist constantly shows his perennially hurt feelings, everything is always everyone else’s fault and everything is so unfair, a typical feature of the texts of R&B inspiration:
“What would you do without me?”,
“You lie and a piece of me dies”,
“If I were in your place, I would hate myself”
Yet despite the sad lyrics, the main differentiation between Honestly, Nevermind and most of Drake’s other projects are a sense of joy. The album collects Drake’s hallmarks, which are reflected in his lyrics, always concerning relationships that blossom or dissolve, mostly – and reformulates them through the prism of house music.
These are structured like club songs, so even when the main feelings are Drake’s typical melancholy, they get twisted with vivacity. Thanks to the dance and cheerful sound, the often sad and paranoid narrative typical of Drake’s R&B side, lights up with lightness and lightheartedness, as in Massivewhere the rapper reflects on his funeral which will surely be “cool” as he has always treated everyone well, making the mood more ironic and playful.
I was alone, I was alone in this world
And I needed people
I know my funeral is going to be a bomb in the way I’ve treated people
I don’t want to go, I don’t want –
The Instrumentals in the new Drake album
The most marked style, the one you immediately notice, is the old school deep house, just like the 80’s New Jersey house, a style of deep and garage house with an emphasis on soul vocals, influenced by Newark’s gospel heritage.
Rhythms snort for a long time, just under 120 bpm, covered in misty and forgotten synthesizers. It’s a subgenre that tastes of melancholy and morning reflection, rather than frantic action on the dance floor, which makes it appropriate for Drake.
The bases are all built by his regular production collaborators, rather than by specialized in-house producers, with tracks always produced at high levels. The sweet heartbeat of Falling Back is layered with a hiss, as if it was discovered on a decades-old tape and there is a wonderfully melancholy piano line appearing in the middle of To Keeper. Drake just returns to something close to “Drakenian” rap on its final track Jimmy Cooks with 21 Savage: the only guest artist on this album. Here he lets the trap rhythms move freely, reminding us of his usual sound.
The album was produced by longtime Drake collaborators including Noah “40” Shebib, the manager Oliver El-Khatibhis engineer Noel Cadastre and the South African Afro-house DJ and producer Black Coffee. Drake and Black Coffee have collaborated previously. Their styles proved naturally compatible; here, they refine their collaboration by further exploring that rhythmic wavelength, for new dimensions, such as the welcoming synthesizers of Texts Go Green and the bouncing and coarse bounce of Currents.
Drake maneuvers them skillfully; he arrives as a novice in these genres, but glides through time and tone evolutions without breaking a sweat, like when Tie That Binds turns into a guitar work typical of the sound of Santana or when Calling My Name changes shape in its second half.
It is a musical style, which has a long tradition of house tunes featuring improvised voices, which fits perfectly with Drake’s approach and mood, with his particular voice presenting a tortuous and improvised quality, suggesting that he is inventing while Go on.
Drake’s chameleon style has always been one of his greatest strengths and has proven he can make any type of music (drill, dancehall, Memphis rap, etc.) in small doses. We’ve never seen him focus on one sound for an entire project, just like he does here. It seems that the Canadian rapper has finally realized that he no longer needs to make bloated albums to try to please everyone, like CLB And Scorpionand he will certainly be more relaxed if he keeps each project focused on a specific sound.
He just announced another project Scary Hours will come very soon and presumably will please the rap fans who disappointed on this album. Does this kick start a new strategy, in which Drake often releases concise albums, focusing on singular sounds, instead of trying to squeeze all his styles into each project? Anything is possible with Drake, we just have to wait and see what happens. In any case, his artistic vein always remains proliferating and he is well accepted in any form that is given to us.