This is my review of Drake’s album Certified Lover Boy, which is his thirteenth album release. The album came out on September 3rd, 2021 amidst a lot of hype. It was competing with Kanye West’s album release, Donda, which came on August 29th, 2021. Two of the most celebrated rap artists of all time, Kanye West and Drake, wagered with each over who’s album would sell more records in their respective first weeks. Well, Drake won by a landslide, nearly doubling Kanye’s first week sales, moving 613,000 units to Ye’s 309,000. Popularity is one thing. But, what about CLB’s quality? I would argue that CLB is a great body of work when compared to other rap artists’ music, generally speaking. But, by Drake’s standard it is subpar and did not live up to the hype. But, let us explore the project.
Let us start with CLB’s album cover. It left a lot to be desired. The cover is a grid of 4 x 3 pregnant woman emojis of all races. While it seems as if the album cover was a ploy to go viral by encouraging influencers and fans to make their own versions of the album cover and post them on social media, I didn’t see that happen so much. The cover is kind of drab. I would have expected something more artistic, as opposed to commercial and robotic. It was too pragmatic.
Musically, the album starts off with a bang. The intro, “Champagne Poetry,” is a strong start to the album. Drake is known for great intros. The song starts with the beat chanting “I love you” and then it loops and chops up a vocal phrase. This is introspective Drake at his best. This is my favorite lyrical sequence of the song:
“Champagne poetry, these are the effortless flows
Supposedly something else is controlling me
Under a picture lives some of the greatest quotes from me
Under me, I see all the people that claim they over me
And above me, I see nobody
I’d have to be dead for them to say you took it from me
The 20 percent of you that we own is my tootsie’s money”
BARS. If we could quantify it, I’m almost certain Drake would be the most quoted rapper in the caption of Instagram posts. I have done it more than a few times myself. The aggression when he says you would have to be dead to take it from him is much appreciated. And the 20 percent Tootsie’s money line elicits a laugh. Ah, cocky diss lines, those are the best. Really, this song shines because of its overall feel and lyrical content. It’s emblematic of that dark Drake Toronto sound, like riding around in a blacked-out Benz on a cold rainy night in Toronto, complete with the “party next door” sound effect when the beat transitions to the second half of the song when the beat switches up.
The next highlight of the album is “Girls Want Girls” featuring Lil Baby. The hook “girls want girls where I’m from” is so relatable. This song is a commentary on the games girls sometimes play in socializing and hooking up. “Said that you’re a lesbian. Yea me too.” In describing his album on Apple Music, Drake said his album contained toxic masculinity. This is surely an example of that, but playfully so. Ironically, or perhaps not so, this is a lot of girls’ favorite song on the album, according to a poll on @theshaderoom on Instagram. It is most definitely a strip club jam.
The next highlight is the song “Love All” featuring the legendary MC, Jay-Z. A lot of people consider Jay-Z the G.O.A.T., Greatest of All Time. It’s always special when Jay and Drake come together on a track. There is always a lot of anticipation when Hov drops a new featured verse. He is selective about what he releases these days and it’s as if he always tops himself with each new verse. This one did not disappoint. Jay-Z poured out his heart about people hanging out with people who wanted to kill him and still expecting to be friends with him. He said he had the power to kill him and he knows where he lives. We assume he is talking about his estranged best friend and his business partner Dame Dash back when they were CEO of Roc-a-fella Records with Biggs. I guess Jay-Z’s version of “Love All” is exercising forgiveness and mercy but not forgetting. It was skillfully written and expertly delivered by Jay. And, Drake’s verse was dope as well.
Now, in one of the most quoted hooks under Instagram pictures and on Twitter on the album, let’s talk about the song, “Fair Trade,” featuring Travis Scott. The hook goes, “I’ve been losing friends and finding peace. Honestly that sounds like a fair trade to me.” Before you throw up pics on Insta cropping out friends, please understand that Karma works both ways. The beat by Travis Scott pretty melodic and intricate. It was rather beautiful. But his vocal contributions to the track seemed negligible. The record is mostly for the memories of all those friends we’ve lost. Adios. Good riddens. I’ve been losing friends and finding peace. Honestly that seems like a fair trade to me. You see what I did there.
As a DJ, this next song is the most requested song I get at the club. I’m conflicted. I’m not sure I want to write about it. I’m sick of playing it. But, here goes… The next highlight (or lowlight) of the album is “Way 2 Sexy” featuring Future and Young Thug. I do NOT like this song but somehow EVERYONE else does, drunk partygoers, especially. I appreciate their spirit. But, I’m too sexy for this song.
Skip a track and play “N 2 Deep” and it’s like a sigh of relief. The screwed up sample gives Pimp C vibes (RIP). H-Town was in full effect on this record. Drake starts off the song saying he kept the Galleria open until 10 p.m. for her and her friends. Major flex. We’re already drawn in. Ballers and models. The stuff hip-hop is made of. She’s special and he made a connection with her. It feels like an inside view into his world and celebrity. Then beat switches up into an aggressive darker tone. He tells her to “pop that sh*t” and repeats he’s in too deep into that you know what.
“Yebba’s Heartbreak” was a beautifully melancholy number by Yebba the artist. It offered a brief respite from the aggressive overtones of the album and offered a moment of sincere introspection. It starts, “How much better can I show my love for you?” Her skillfully played piano chords are haunting and seem to echo the chambers of the heart. Drake is known for selecting beautiful interludes for his albums. He certainly lived up to that reputation with this selection. On a side note he has raised Yebba’s profile as an artist by placing her on the album. I overheard Charlemagne tha God hyping up Yebba’s own album on his show The Breakfast Club, the number one FM radio hip-hop show in the country.
Finally, I get to talk about my favorite song on the album, “No Friends In The Industry.” I really enjoy this record because I am a DJ and a producer and I am in the music industry so I can relate. I used to DJ for Grammy-nominated rapper Logic for a few years and I currently DJ for a rapper named Born I and I co-executive produced his recent album release, In This Moment. The entertainment industry and Hollywood are shady places. You have to watch out for the snakes. People want to use you and abuse you. People will stab you in the back when there’s the first opportunity. People will literally use violence to get on. They’re that thirsty for it. I have experienced this first-hand. No joke. It’s not a game. As soon as you get some hype, the hangers on show up. You have to keep your circle tight and keep infiltrators out. I understand completely why Drake says “no friends in the industry” because you have to draw boundaries between friends and business associates and keep people at arm’s length. When lines get blurred, that opens the door for attacks and conflict. Stay in your lane. The beat is hard and I love getting hype to it. It’s great to play in the car.
The gangster vibes of “No Friends In The Industry” are a great transition into the song “Knife Talk.” Bringing back the rap legend Project Pat to start the song was a genius move. Back when I was in high school, we used to ride around to his music all day. The major highlight of this record was the rapper 21 Savage. He bodied his verses like a real gangsta rapper is supposed to. Then, he repeated in the hook, “gang sh*t is all I’m on” and created the refrain for the rest of the year. Everyone can feel like that’s all they’re on too. And, doesn’t everyone want to be a gangster? Isn’t that what this is all based on?
Overall, Drake’s album Certified Lover Boy is enjoyable. It is a good quality album. Drake always puts out good albums with great singles, but, he has yet to put out a classic hip-hop album. He has come close to that a few times, but he has never reached that bar. I suggest he reduces the number of tracks on his next album to a solid 10-12 with no songs we feel like skipping over so we can play it straight through like classic albums back in the day so we can truly appreciate the body of work. Even amongst Drake’s own collection of albums, CLB is nowhere near the top. Compared to the hype, it was a disappointment, but so was Kanye West’s. And, Drake’s was better than his. I guess that counts for something. Or does it? Someone needs to bring real music back.