[ALBUM REVIEW] Drake – Certified Lover Boy

Drake – Certified Lover Boy
Release: 3rd September 2021
Label: OVO, Republic
Producers: 40, Metro Boomin, PartyNextDoor, Arsenault, OZ and more
Features: Jay Z, Travis Scott, Future, Young Thug, Kid Cudi and more

It’s been near impossible to ignore the release of Certified Lover Boy, Drake’s long-awaited sixth studio album. And by Drake’s standards it’s actually been relatively reserved, with the promo primarily fuelled by an ongoing Cold War with Kanye. But with the typically meme-ready artwork, a stacked out list of features and producers, and some controversy thrown in for good measure, would Drake end up on top?

The teaser trailer referencing past albums is an accurate representation of Certified Lover Boy, whose quality comes from a tried and tested formula, one that Drake continues to package and present in ways with just enough variation.

And that’s perhaps its strongest attribute. Certified Lover Boy isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, it’s not meant to be this historic, monumental release like Donda has tried oh so hard to be. It’s on the most part, Drake as we all know and love him.

The glaring flipside, for the majority of fans it seems, is much of CLB has been done before and offers little in the way of innovation or progress. There’s the forgettable dancehall-leaning Fountains, the Future-featuring club banger, a completely uninteresting outro, and a token solo interlude for a fresh-faced vocalist. And at 21 tracks long Drake still doesn’t know how to moderate, and package a product worth hanging on until the end of.

Lyrically and thematically Drake treads on familiar ground with the usual relationship reflecting, some questionable references and bars, and as many petty pops and shots as you could ask for. The power dynamic between Drake and women is an ongoing theme as per usual, one that’s beginning to lose its charm.

There’s some notable tracks nestled amongst the more forgettable flubber, many of which act as not-so-subtle part twos. N 2 Deep is a worthy continuation of 2020’s Life is Good, complete with Future feature and midway beat change. Love All looks to Drake’s prior Pound Cake collab with Jay Z, and You Only Live Twice sees Drake reunite with Rick Ross in much the same way as on Take Care.

The Kid Cudi-featuring IMY2 is a notable takeaway and deserved to end the album on a high, alongside the glistening grandeur of Pipe Down and the reflective Race My Mind. The pick of the bunch however is the undisputed hip-hop highlight 7am On Bridle Path, which sees Drake fire shot after shot at Kanye West: ‘That’s why you buyin’ into the hype that the press feedin’ ya / You know the fourth level of jealousy is called media / Isn’t that an ironic revelation?’

Depending on your level of Drizzy-based devotion, Certified Lover Boy walks a very thin line, one teetering on the edge of both mediocrity and brilliance. There’s a number of duds that threaten to plague the project as is often the case with Drake LPs (Knife Talk, Fucking Fans), and there’s also the downright bizarre (Way 2 Sexy, Girls Want Girls). But there’s also some inoffensive, near-brilliant bangers.

It’s easy to see why many consider CLB a disappointment, with the current reception seemingly moving beyond that. It may have been an opportunity for Drake to oust Kanye for good, and deliver a knockout blow to a damaged star he already had on the ropes. Instead Certified Lover Boy does little to show Drake at his creative peak, instead relying on a handful of respectable tracks that we may have already seen too much of.

Verdict – 6.5/10

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