Album Review: Drake’s ‘Honestly, Nevermind’
Nine months after the release of Certified Lover Boy — an album that featured pregnant woman emojis in its artwork — Drake is back with another album. Because Aubrey Graham is a comedian at heart.
Honestly, Nevermind — officially his seventh studio album — was executive-produced by the rapper/singer himself along with usual suspects Noah “40” Shebib and Oliver El-Khatib. And a fourth executive producer: South African DJ Black Coffee. Before the album arrived, fans pointed this out as evidence that it would have some House influences. Let’s find out, shall we?
The album opens with a jazzy intro, and then without warning, we’re thrown into the second track, “Falling Back,” a synth-driven track underpinned with a pulsing beat. Drake sings about a failing relationship on the track, which bears similarities feel to 2017’s “Passion Fruit.” It is a strong opener that could’ve been stronger if it was shortened by a minute or so.
“Falling Back” is followed by “Texts Go Green,” another synth-y, sung track. Much like its predecessor, Drake laments about a soured relationship, but this time, he’s handing a pink slip and running down a list of all the things his ex-lover did wrong. “You’re dealing with me rough,” he sings, over the dancehall-ish beat. The song’s title is sure to be a favorite among iPhone users.
We hear more about troubled relationships on “Currents,” which has a squeaking bed sound on loop throughout the track. My ear tells me that it samples House classic “Coffee Pot (It’s Time for the Percolator),” but the credits don’t mention it, so Green Velvet may or may not have a bag to collect in the near future.
“I found a new muse, that’s bad news for you. Why would I keep you around?” We’ve had lots of caption-able lyrics so far, but “A Keeper” — another House track — brings them by the boatload.
“Calling My Name” is a two-minute song that comes in two drastically different halves. I vote for the latter (more danceable) half, where Drake sings, “Your pussy is calling my name, so come on, baby, let’s stop playing games.” This is clearly one for the fuckboys. Also, by the time we get to the end of this track, it becomes abundantly clear: Honestly, Nevermind is a House album.
On “Sticky,” we finally get to hear Drake rap. On this track, Drake talks about his mom wanting him to have a regular degular corporate career and how he became a CEO anyway despite going a different route. He also speaks a little French, calls for the release of Young Thug, and lets us know why he has never attended the Met Gala: “They only giving niggas plus-ones,” he raps, adding that has to “bring the set.” Production-wise, “Sticky” is the most “hip-hop” track so far, but it definitely draws from the Baltimore House sound. The song also includes a clip from a 2017 lecture delivered by Virgil Abloh at Columbia University. Drake was friends with the fashion designer, who passed away this past November.
We’re back to singing on “Massive,” where Drake tries to rekindle a relationship — and he does so on a production that would make Calvin Harris proud. In-between his pleading, Drake sings, “I know my funeral gon’ be lit ’cause [of] how I treated people.” May we all be able to say the same. “Massive” is another track that would benefit from being a minute shorter.
Drake tries to talk a girl named Lila out of her pants on “Flight’s Booked,” which samples Floetry’s “Getting Late.” It is a welcome break from the relationship woes. On “Overdrive,” which sounds like something off a Weeknd album, Drake tries to salvage a relationship, asking his lover to not give up on their “divine bond.”
“Down Hill” is another one song about — wait for it — a failing relationship. “When last did we feel familiar?” Drake sings over the percussive track which may remind you of a Lionel Richie classic. The song strays from the album’s House motif, but somehow, it fits in perfectly. Lyrically, vocally and production-wise, “Down Hill” is a clear highlight on Honestly, Nevermind.
“I never felt so alive,” Drake sings on ‘Tie That Binds.” On this track, Champagne Papi lives up to his Certified Lover Boy moniker, telling his lady that he’ll take her to his family and change her name. The track is followed by “Liability,” where we’re back on the topic of heartbreak, with Drake accusing his lover of “drinking her weight in champagne” and playing with his emotions. Recorded with a vocoder, the track can be decidedly categorized as alternative R&B.
The album ends with “Jimmy Cooks,” the second song where Drake raps and the only track with feature — 21 Savage contributes a verse. Unlike “Sticky,” this track is hip-hop through and through, and it almost sounds like something from the Certified Lover Boy sessions. The track — which samples Playa Fly’s “Just Shaken Awaken” and Brook Benton’s “You Were Gone” — is not the easiest listen, but it is saved by its many quotable lines, including its closer: “If you don’t like the way I talk, nigga, say something.”
In the nearly four days since its release, Honestly, Nevermind has proven to the most polarizing release yet from the most polarizing man in hip-hop. Amidst the debate about the quality of the music, the album has also — perhaps inadvertently — facilitated online discussion about the Black origins of House music, which makes its existence useful if not enjoyable. Honestly, Nevermind is by no means Drake’s best work, but it is an objectively bold artistic endeavor for a hip-hop artist whose standing in the genre is routinely challenged.
Album rating: 6.5 out of 10 stars.